History and Origin of Worcestershire Sauce

An accidentally forgotten potent brew becomes a food hit

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Worcestershire Sauce. © 2007 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone

It takes 18 months to get the fermented sauce that graces the steaks of so many. Worcestershire sauce is made of barley malt vinegar, spirit vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions and additional ingredients that may include lemons, soy sauce, pickles and peppers, though the full recipe of Worcestershire sauce has yet to be revealed by the original purveyors of the upscale condiment.

The sauce has been used to flavor drinks as well as food such as caesar salads, steaks as mentioned above, oysters, deviled eggs among other dishes.

The Origin of Worcestershire

Worcestershire sauce has its roots in India, but was actually created by accident in its namesake town of Worcester, England in 1835. As the story goes, Lord Marcus Sandy had returned home to England to retire after successfully governing Bengal, India for many years. He so missed his favorite Indian sauce that he commissioned drug store owners John Lea and William Perrins to come up with a reasonable facsimile.

The History of Worcestershire
The original intent of the chemists was to keep some of the batch to sell in the store, but the fish and vegetable mixture had such a strong odor that they decided otherwise and stored it in the cellar. It lay forgotten for two years, until it was rediscovered during a clean-up mission.

The batch had aged into a wonderfully flavored sauce which was bottled and quickly became a hot item with customers.

Promoting Worcestershire Sauce

Lea and Perrins successfully branched out by convincing stewards on British passenger ships to include it on their dining table set-ups. It soon became a British staple, primarily as a steak sauce, and further emigrated worldwide.

The guarded recipe basically remains the same. However, the advertising no longer purports to "make your hair grow beautiful."

Worcestershire Sauce Worldwide

The United States version of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce differs from the British recipe. In place of Malt vinegar, distilled white vinegar is used and there's literally three times more sugar and slightly more than three times as much sodium per third of an ounce. The US version is also labeled with a smaller serving size, a teaspoon as one serving in contrast to the British/Canadian one tablespoon. There's on explanation for the change, but many imported goods are specialized for the US and it turns our Worcestershire sauce is known as the oldest food import to America.

More About Worcestershire Sauce

What is in Worcestershire sauce?
Homemade Worcestershire Sauce Recipe
• Worcestershire Sauce History
Worcestershire Sauce Recipes

Cookbooks

The Sauce Bible: Guide to the Saucier's Craft

The Book of Dressings and Marinades

The Complete Book of Sauces

The New Food Lover's Companion

 

More Cookbooks