Worcestershire (// WUUS-tər-shər) or Worcester sauce (/ -/ (listen) WUUS-tər -) is a fermented liquid condiment created in the city of Worcester in Worcestershire, England during the first half of the 19th century. The creators were the chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, who went on to form the company Lea & Perrins. Worcestershire sauce has been considered a generic term since 1876, when the English High Court of Justice ruled that Lea & Perrins did not own the trademark to "Worcestershire".
Worcestershire sauce is frequently used to enhance food and drink recipes, including Welsh rarebit, Caesar salad, Oysters Kirkpatrick, and deviled eggs. As both a background flavour and a source of umami (the savoury fifth flavour), it is now also added to dishes that historically did not contain it, such as chili con carne and beef stew. It is also used directly as a condiment on steaks, hamburgers, and other finished dishes, and to flavour cocktails such as the Bloody Mary and Caesar.
A fermented fish sauce called garum was a staple of Greco-Roman cuisine and of the Mediterranean economy of the Roman Empire, as the first-century encyclopaedist Pliny the Elder writes in his Historia Naturalis and the fourth/fifth-century Roman culinary text Apicius includes garum in its recipes. The use of similar fermented anchovy sauces in Europe can be traced back to the 17th century.
The Lea & Perrins brand was commercialised in 1837 and was the first type of sauce to bear the Worcestershire name. The origin of the Lea & Perrins recipe is unclear. The packaging originally stated that the sauce came "from the recipe of a nobleman in the county". The company has also claimed that "Lord Marcus Sandys, ex-Governor of Bengal" encountered it while in India with the East India Company in the 1830s, and commissioned the local apothecaries to recreate it, (the partnership of John Wheely Lea and William Perrins of 63 Broad Street, Worcester). Michael Portillo, the presenter of the BBC documentary series Great British Railway Journeys, visited the Worcestershire factory where the gentleman he interviewed stated the original recipe was from Bengal; then the British added fermented fish.
According to company tradition, when the recipe was first mixed there the resulting product was so strong that it was considered inedible and the barrel was abandoned in the basement. Looking to make space in the storage area a few years later, the chemists decided to try it again, and discovered that the long fermented sauce had mellowed and was now palatable. In 1838 the first bottles of "Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce" were released to the general public.
The original ingredients in a bottle of Worcestershire sauce sold were:
- Barley malt vinegar
- Spirit vinegar
- Tamarind extract
- Onions (originally shallots)
While the original Worcestershire sauce is matured in wooden barrels for 36 months, in Europe a low-cost version is on the market, aged only 18 months. On the label is only mentioned "18 months".
Anchovies in many Worcestershire sauces is a concern to people allergic to fish, vegans, other vegetarians and others who avoid eating fish. The Codex Alimentarius recommends that prepared food containing Worcestershire sauce with anchovies include a label warning of fish content although this is not required in most jurisdictions. The US Department of Agriculture has forced the recall of some products with undeclared Worcestershire sauce. Several brands sell anchovy-free varieties of Worcestershire sauce, often labelled as vegetarian or vegan. Generally, Orthodox Jews refrain from eating fish and meat in the same dish, so they cannot use the traditional Worcestershire sauce to season meat. However, certain brands are certified to contain less than 1/60 of the fish product and can be used with meat.
Lea & Perrins
On 16 October 1897, Lea & Perrins relocated manufacturing of the sauce from their pharmacy in Broad Street to a factory in the city of Worcester on Midland Road, where it is still made. The factory produces ready-mixed bottles for domestic distribution and a concentrate for bottling abroad.[deprecated source]
The US version is packaged differently from the British version, coming in a dark bottle with a beige label and wrapped in paper. Lea & Perrins USA claims this practice is a vestige of shipping practices from the 19th century, when the product was imported from England, as a measure of protection for the bottles. The producer also claims that its Worcestershire sauce is the oldest commercially bottled condiment in the US.
In Brazil it is known as "molho inglês" (English sauce).
China, Hong Kong, Taiwan
Worcestershire sauce is variously known as "spicy soy sauce" (Chinese: 辣酱油; pinyin: là jiàngyóu) around Shanghai, "Worcester sauce" (Chinese: 伍斯特醬; pinyin: wŭsītè jiàng) in Taiwan, and "gip-sauce" (Chinese: 喼汁; pinyin: jízhī; Jyutping: gip1zap1) in Hong Kong and neighboring southern Chinese regions. It sees use in Cantonese dim sum as well as Haipai cuisine, with dishes including steamed meatball, spring rolls, Shanghai-style pork chops and borscht served with the sauce.
The ingredients of Worcestershire sauces vary: with the exception of the imported Lea & Perrins sauce, most southern Chinese "gip-sauce" contains soy sauce or MSG for the umami flavor only with no anchovy. The Shanghainese "spicy soy sauce" has no significant umami flavor and is similar to its fruity Japanese cousins containing fermented fruits and vegetables, as do the two most famous Taiwanese variations.
Worcestershire Sauce, known colloquially as salsa inglesa (English sauce) or salsa Perrins (Perrins sauce), is extremely popular in El Salvador, where many restaurants provide a bottle on each table. Over 120,000 gallons - or 2.5 ounces (71 g) per person - is consumed annually, the highest per-capita consumption in the world as of 1996.
In Japan, Worcestershire sauce is labelled Worcester (rather than Worcestershire), rendered as Usutā sōsu (ウスターソース). Many sauces are more of a vegetarian variety, with the base being water, syrup, vinegar, puree of apple and tomato puree, and the flavor less spicy and sweeter. Japanese Agricultural Standard defines types of the sauces by viscosity, with Worcester sauce proper having a viscosity of less than 0.2 Poiseuille. Thick (> 2 Poiseuille) sauces are more common; they are manufactured there under brand names such as Otafuku and Bulldog, but these are brown sauces more similar to HP Sauce rather than any type of Worcestershire sauce.
United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand
Holbrook's Worcestershire has been produced since 1875 but relocated to Australia in the 1950s
- A.1. Steak Sauce
- Anglo-Indian cuisine
- Henderson's Relish – Similar sauce without fish
- List of sauces
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Worcestershire sauce.|
- Atkinson, Chef Greg (28 January 2001), "Sauce of Legend", The Seattle Times, NW source, archived from the original on 8 June 2002, abetted by Lea & Perrins, reports and debunks the myth, without unveiling Lady Sandys.
- A very different history of Worcester Sauce, Foods of England.
- Song "Worcestershire Sauce" written for a "Ballad Documentary" put on by the Somers Folk Club (Malvern) in 1984