The recipe in the Joy of Cooking for tomato ketchup calls for an initial mixture of tomatoes pulp with "bell red peppers".

Recipe is here

At least in my area bell red peppers have very little taste and are mostly used just as a flavorless substrate for ranch dips and things like that.

Why would the recipe be calling for this item? Do they actually mean a cayenne pepper?

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    Red bell peppers have a distinctive taste, and no heat. Cayenne peppers have their own flavor, plus some heat. The Joy of Cooking is a classic text that has been updated and reprinted many times. I doubt their recipe would call for one thing and mean something else. – moscafj Jun 24 '18 at 20:31
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    Red bell peppers should be bursting with flavor, you need to hunt for good ones. – GdD Jun 24 '18 at 21:51
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    Sorry, there is no way to know why a recipe author decided that a particular item will go well in a recipe. A question which invites random guesses is not a good fit for the site. If you tried the recipe and don't like it, it should be easy to find another one to try. – rumtscho Jun 25 '18 at 7:51
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    @rumtscho That statement is totally wrong. First of all, the author of the recipe might have written elsewhere, possibly in the same book, an explanation of why a particular ingredient is important. Secondly, there is a theory of cooking taught in culinary institutes that includes reasons why certain combinations of food are mixed together. Finally, there might be some traditional explanation. For all you know, Rombauer gave a newspaper interview in 1955 explaining exactly why bell peppers are used in catsup. Saying "there is no way to know" is just wrong. – Drisheen Colcannon Jun 25 '18 at 12:31
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    @rumtscho I would agree that this can be opened and edited. Why is a small amount of bell pepper used? This is a theory question that can have a home here... – MarsJarsGuitars-n-Chars Jun 25 '18 at 12:59

I did some further research on this question and what I found is that originally (more than 100 years ago), there were a lot of different types of "catsup", grape catsup, tomato catsup, mushroom catsup, cucumber catsup, etc. The two most common types were tomato and red pepper catsup, where tomato catsup was made with tomatoes and pepper catsup was made from bell peppers. Tomato catsup was normally a spicy catsup and bell pepper catsup was a "sweet pickle". So, for example, here are typical early recipes:

enter image description here

So, in the above recipe we can see it is designed to be strong with cayenne pepper, black pepper, mustard, onions etc. Now compare to the bell pepper catsup:

enter image description here

So, we can see the bell pepper catsup is designed to be mild. Naturally, the inevitable happened: somebody just conflated the two recipes, mixing ingredients from both. The first example of this I could find was by one "Mrs. Scattergood" in an 1897 ladies journal:

enter image description here

We can see this recipe has the same weird combination of a huge amount of tomatoes with 2 small red bell peppers found in the Joy of Cooking. This recipe seems to be the origin of what ended up in the Joy of Cooking.

So, ultimately there is no logic to it, it is just some random lady from Albany randomly combining what should be separate recipes.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    It seems as if you have drawn your own conclusions, rather than provide a proven answer. Where is it said that the two most common types of ketchup were tomato and red bell pepper? Also, it doesn't appear that the timelines for these recipes line up. (Note that the first recipe calls for tomato pulp or 2 cans of tomatoes.) And the recipe for the bell pepper ketchup doesn't call for red bell peppers, just sweet bell peppers. Lastly, how did you determine that the last recipe was the combination of the other two? They do have a few common ingredients, but it seems like quite a stretch. – Cindy Jun 26 '18 at 18:21
  • BTW, a peck is 8 dry quarts according to kitchn. – Jolenealaska Jun 26 '18 at 19:47
  • Or 1/4 of a bushel. There's a song - 'A Bushel and a Peck". – Cindy Jun 26 '18 at 20:05
  • @Cindy I have drawn my own conclusions and just presented the results, the ANSWER. I am not going to write a book about ketchup or start listing 5 page bibliographies for you. I answered the question to my satisfaction. If you don't like my answer, then go start reading a few dozen 19th century cookbooks and make your answer. – Drisheen Colcannon Jun 27 '18 at 1:50
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    Drisheen, I don't think you're fairly describing Cindy's concerns. It's not that we want to see 5 page bibliographies, but we would like to see evidence that directly supports your claim. As-is, we know that bell pepper catsup existed, and that eventually recipes with both bell pepper and tomato existed, but the idea that someone conflated the two is unsupported. – Cascabel Jul 1 '18 at 17:06

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