Worcestershire sauce

Worcestershire sauce (wooster-sheer) is a widely used fermented liquid condiment first made at 68 Broad Street, Worcester by two dispensing chemists, John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins. It was made commercially in 1837, and remains the only Worcestershire Sauce still to be made in the UK. In 1930 the business was sold to HP Foods and was subsequently acquired by the H.J. Heinz Company when they acquired that business from Groupe Danone in 2005.

The product is made and bottled in the Midlands Road factory in Worcester, which has been the home of Lea & Perrins since 16th October 1897.

The H. J. Heinz Company, which now manufactures "The Original Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce", under the name Lea & Perrins, Inc., lists the following ingredients on the label of a bottle produced in the United States: vinegar, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, anchovies, water, onions, salt, garlic, custard, tamarind concentrate, cloves, natural flavourings and chili pepper extract.

The ingredients of a bottle of Worcestershire Sauce from England sold under the name "The Original & Genuine Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce" by Lea & Perrins, Limited, lists the following ingredients: malt vinegar (from barley), spirit vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions, garlic, spice and flavouring.

It is a flavouring used in many dishes, both cooked and uncooked, and particularly with beef; and drinks, such as the Bloody Mary. Lea & Perrins supplies it in concentrate form to be bottled abroad.

Worcestershire sauce is referred to in South Africa and some parts of the US and the UK as Worcester sauce or spelled phonetically as Wooster sauce.

Though a fermented fish sauce called garum was a staple of Greco-Roman cuisine and of the Mediterranean economy of the Roman Empire, "Worcestershire sauce" is one of the many legacies of British contact with India. While some sources trace comparable fermented anchovy sauces in Europe to the 17th century, this one became popular in the 1840s.


A widely reported legend has it that "Lord Marcus Sandys, ex-Governor of Bengal" (a figure unknown to history outside this tale) encountered it while in India under the Honourable East India Company in the 1830s, missed it on his return and commissioned the local apothecaries to recreate it. However, Brian Keogh concluded from his research in writing The Secret Sauce, a history of the Lea & Perrins firm that was published privately in 1999 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Midland Road plant, that "No Lord Sandys was ever governor of Bengal, or as far as any records show, ever in India."

The Lord in question, whose identity was being discreetly veiled by Messrs Lea and Perrins (who used to aver on the bottle's paper wrapping that the sauce came "from the recipe of a nobleman in the county") was Arthur Moyses William Sandys, 2nd Baron Sandys (1792–1860) of Ombersley Court, Worcestershire, Lieutenant-General and politician, a member of the House of Commons at the time of the legend, whose given name is being confused in the tale with that of his brother and heir, Arthur Marcus Cecil Sandys, 3rd Baron Sandys (1798–1863), who did not succeed to the title, however, until 1860, when the sauce was already established on the British market. The barony in the Sandys family ([sændz]) had been revived in 1802 for the second baron's mother, Mary Sandys Hill, so at the date of the legend, in the 1830s, "Lord" Sandys was actually a Lady. No identifiable reference to her could possibly appear on a commercial bottled sauce without a serious breach of decorum. It is likely her heir agreed to sell the recipe.

To abandon the unrevised legend and substitute a more accurate version that was published by Thomas Smith, Successful Advertising, (7th edition, 1885):

We quote the following history of the well-known Worcester Sauce, as given in the World. The label shows it is prepared "from the recipe of a nobleman in the county." The nobleman may be Lord Sandys. Many years ago, Mrs. Grey, author of The Gambler's Wife and other novels, was on a visit at Ombersley Court, when Lady Sandys chanced to remark that she wished she could get some very good curry powder, which elicited from Mrs. Grey that she had in her desk an excellent recipe, which her uncle, Sir Charles, Chief Justice of India, had brought thence, and given her. Lady Sandys said that there were some clever chemists in Worcester, who perhaps might be able to make up the powder. Messrs. Lea and Perrins looked at the recipe, doubted if they could procure all the ingredients, but said they would do their best, and in due time forwarded a packet of the powder. Subsequently the happy thought struck someone in the business that the powder might, in solution, make a good sauce. The profits now amount to thousands of pounds a year.

Upon completing the necessary steps, however, the resulting product was found to be so strong that it was considered inedible, and a barrel of the sauce was exiled to the basement of Lea & Perrins' premises. Looking to make space in the storage area a few years later, the chemists decided to try it once again, only to discover that the sauce had fermented and mellowed and was now quite palatable. In 1838 the first bottles of "Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce" were released to the general public.

An alternative story was published in Historic Carmarthenshire Homes and their Families (1987), by the well known historian and Herald for Wales, Major Francis Jones, 1908-1993, who attributed the introduction of the recipe to Captain Henry Lewis Edwardes 1788-1866 . Captain Henry Lewis Edwardes, originally of Rhyd-y-gors, Carmarthenshire, was a veteran of the Napoleonic wars and held the position of Deputy-Lieutenant of Carmarthenshire. He is believed to have brought the recipe home after travels in India. The article does not say how the recipe found its way to Messrs Lea and Perrins.

Messrs Lea and Perrins, being John Wheeley Lea (research and product development) and William Perrins (finance), from their building in Broad Street, Worcester, ran by far the most important and successful chemist and druggist business in the county. They made their fortunes from manufacturing and selling the sauce. They built a new factory with railway access in Midland Road, Worcester and made various charitable donations to the city such as Perrins Hall in a Worcester School.

Dishes using Worcestershire sauce

Worcestershire sauce is often an ingredient of Caesar Salad and can be used as steak sauce.

Welsh rarebit is a combination of Caerphilly cheese, English mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and other ingredients, frequently eaten with bread, toast or crackers. A simpler version uses Worcestershire sauce with cheese on toast, with the sauce added to the plain version during the grilling process. Worcestershire sauce also plays a key role in the flavour of original recipe Chex Mix. In the U.K., advertising by Lea & Perrins has made Worcestershire Sauce popular for use on spaghetti bolognese, cheese on toast, chips, gravy and sausages. It is also frequently used in chili con carne, and in a cocktail known mostly to Canadians called a Caesar

Worcestershire sauce (known as salsa inglesa in Spanish) is an essential ingredient of the popular Mexican beer cocktail, the Michelada. It is also a key ingredient, besides lemon juice, in the marinade of Peruvian ceviche. People also use it to flavour cheeseburgers. In Mexico, it is often used on pizza.

Finally, it is nearly universally available as a condiment in steakhouses throughout North America, and is also sometimes used as a condiment for hamburgers, pork chops, chicken, and certain other meats and fish.

Certain brands of crisp sell Worcestershire sauce flavour crisps, usually in purple packets.

Use in East Asian cuisine

Worcestershire sauce plays a significant part in the cuisine of Asian regions which have seen significant exposure to Western cuisine.

In Cantonese cuisine, Worcestershire sauce was introduced in the 19th century via Hong Kong and is today used in dim sum items such as steamed beef meatballs and spring rolls. The Cantonese name for this sauce is "gip-jap" (). It is also used in a variety of Hong Kong-style Chinese and "Western" dishes.

In Shanghainese cuisine, the use of Worcestershire sauce spread from European-style restaurants in the 19th and 20th century to its use as an ingredient in ubiquitous, Eastern European-inspired dishes such as Shanghai-style borscht, and as a dipping sauce in Western fusion foods such as Shanghai-style breaded pork cutlets. It is also commonly used for Chinese foods such as the shengjian mantou, which are small, pan-fried pork buns. In Shanghai, Worcestershire sauce is called "luh jiangyou" (). After imported Worcestershire sauce became scarce in Shanghai after 1949, a variety of local brands appeared. These are now in turn exported around the world for use in Shanghai-style dishes.

Japanese Worcestershire sauce

Japanese Worcestershire sauce, often simply known as sōsu ("sauce"), or Usutā sōsu ("Worcester sauce") is made from purees of fruits and vegetables such as apples and tomatoes, matured with sugar, salt, spices, starch and caramel. Despite this appellation, it bears only moderate resemblance to Western Worcestershire sauce. Sōsu comes in a variety of thickness, with the thicker sauces looking and tasting like a cross between the original Worcestershire sauce and HP sauce. There are many variations according to flavour and thickness, and are often named after the foods they are designed to go with, such as okonomiyaki sauce and tonkatsu sauce. It has become a staple table sauce in Japan, particularly in homes and canteens, since the 1950s. It is used for dishes such as tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets), okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes), takoyaki, yakisoba, yaki udon, sōsu katsudon and korokke.

Henderson's Relish

There is also a very similar sauce to Worcester sauce made and sold locally in Sheffield called Henderson's Relish. This sauce is sold in the same size and shape of bottle as Lea and Perrins Worcester sauce and also has an orange label, which calls it 'The Spicy Yorkshire Sauce'; it does not contain anchovies.

Vegetarian substitutions

Vegetarian and gluten free alternatives are available; the vegetarian variety omits the anchovies (notably Henderson's Relish, which is similar, although not considered a variety of Worcestershire Sauce). 'Life' Worcester sauce, produced by MH Foods (Morehands Ltd), is also vegetarian. Both this and Lea & Perrins' sauce are suitable for coeliacs. Angostura also offers a fish-free sauce, but does not advertise itself as "vegetarian".

It appears that Worcester sauce powders are vegetarian. The powder produced by Nikken Foods contains no meat or fish, nor the one produced by Provesta Flavour Ingredients.

See also


External links

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