Worcestershire sauce is a slightly spicy, sweet and sour, fermented English sauce, traditionally made from vinegar, fish, sugar and spices. It is almost unbelievable how many flavors and tastes can be packed into a single little bottle, in which you will find one of the most popular sauces in the entire world. The sauce bears the name of the West English county Worcestershire.
A curious fact is that the sauce has a different name in different parts of the world. For example, in Japan it is known as Bulldog. However, people who don't like the taste of fish should not use this otherwise incredible sauce because one of its ingredients is anchovies.
History of Worcestershire Sauce
The main ingredient of the sauce is anchovies and the making of fish product based sauces is not a new practice by any means. A fun fact: the first known fish sauce was used back in Greco-Roman cuisine and bore the name Garum.
Use of anchovy-based fermented sauces was seen in Europe in the 17th century. The first brand to foresee how popular this type of sauce might become was Lea & Perrins. Even today, that is still the main manufacturer of Worcestershire sauce worldwide.
It is unclear exactly where the company received the inspiration for its recipe. The original label of the sauce claimed that the recipe belonged to an English lord named Marcus Sandys, who was once a governor of Bengal. He had discovered the recipe for Worcestershire sauce thanks to the East India Company in the 30s of the 19th century. According to other sources however, this lord never even existed.
Regardless, the recipe was found by complete accident in the pharmacy of John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, but the end result was an exceptionally potent product, which the 2 pharmacists considered unfit for consumption and the container of it wound up forgotten in the basement.
A few years later, the chemists would accidentally discover that the sauce had fermented, thereby achieving a different and more pleasant taste. In 1838, the 1st bottles proudly bearing the label Lea&Perrins Worcestershire sauce appeared on the market.
To this day, the company manufactures a sauce ready for consumption in Great Britain, as well as a concentrate intended for exportation and bottling locally.
In 1930, the company was bought by HP Foods, which years later was acquired by Imperial Tobacco Company. Consequently, HP Foods was bought by Danone in 1988 and acquired by Heinz in 2005.
Ingredients of Worcestershire Sauce
The traditional Worcestershire sauce, that is intended for sale in the United Kingdom contains spirit vinegar, malt vinegar, molasses, anchovies, salt, sugar, onions, garlic, tamarind extract, sweeteners and spices. The last 2 themselves include lemons, pickles, cloves, soya sauce and peppers. Preparation of the sauce is kept secret in general but the ingredients are known.
The one ingredient that contributes to the unbelievable flavor of the sauce is the exotic and rarely seen fruit called tamarind. One of the secrets of Worcestershire sauce is that after all of the products are added and it is boiled, it is left to mature for a specific period of time, thus resulting in the familiar flavor. The final sauce is filtered and bottled.
Selecting and Storing Worcestershire Sauce
Worcestershire sauce is sold in small dark bottles. Store it in a dry and cool place, and after opening, store it in the refrigerator only.
Cooking with Worcestershire Sauce
Undoubtedly, Worcestershire sauce is one type of serious bragging right of the former British Empire. One of the most recognized sauces worldwide takes its symbolic place in the kitchen and is a valued ingredient of numerous dishes.
Worcestershire sauce is an indispensable part of the Bloody Mary cocktail but it showcases its taste qualities not only in the combination of vodka with tomato sauce but also when used as an addition to different meats and steaks. A number of chefs are adamant that no true Caesar salad can go without a little Worcestershire sauce.
Worcestershire sauce can be served with warm as well as cold dishes. It is suitable for salads, sauces, pâtés and mayonnaise.
Worcestershire sauce can provide a pleasant spicy flavor to different dips. Very often it is used to season seafood. Just a few drops of Worcestershire sauce are enough to change the taste of any dish.