Originally an Indian condiment, a Lord Marcus Sandys, reportedly of Indian nobility, brought the sauce from India to the UK. Sandys approached chemists Lea and Perrins asking them to prepare a fresh batch of the Indian concoction. They did. It was fiery and no one liked it. They put it aside. Much later, they tried it again and found the mixture tasted much better, mellower. They liked it! On the spot, chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins purchased the secret sauce from the Lord.
By 1823, Lea & Perrins decided on a partnership to market their new sauce. They learned from experimentation the sauce needed an aging period in wooden casks, also the necessity to shake containers before using. Soon they had several branch factories in the UK. By 1837 they began to produce the dark brown, tasty liquid commercially.
U.S. grocery stores carry some 20 different, non-original brands of WS. Other imitation names are “British Lion” and “Empress of India.” However, only Lea and Perrin earned the right to use the terms, “Original and Genuine.” Known ingredients are TAMARIND from India, African chili peppers and ANCHOVIES from Mediterranean waters. The original never used artificial sweeteners, coloring or additives.
From the beginning, their marketing was aggressive. They placed cases of the sauce in restaurants, hotel dining rooms and aboard ocean liners arriving at and leaving British shores. They paid ships’ stewards to suggest their Worcestershire Sauce. This led to visitors wanting to carry the sauce to their homes around the world. Shipping the bottles led to wrapping each in plain, unbleached paper to avoid breakage. The practice exists today. By 1839 a John Duncan, a New York promoter, imported large shipments. When popularity warranted, Lea & Perrins shipped ingredients to the States for processing to exact British standards.
After the original chemists died, HP (House of Parliament) purchased the company in 1930. Over the years, the sauce received accolades from King Edward VII and the King of Spain. The sauce came through WWII in tact, even though key personnel went away to serve in the armed forces. Necessary ingredients were scarce, as well. After the war, the HP Company decided no one person would know Worcestershire Sauce’s complete list of ingredients. The list would remain secret. It was broken up and put into code. The list is still a mystery.
Copycats, non-original recipes, demonstrate how differently people interpret their own taste. One interpreter felt the sauce contained dark plums, another lemons, another walnut or tomato catsup. Most used treacle rather than molasses in their formulations.
A www.RecipeSource.com copycat recipe calls for onion, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, vinegar, molasses, dark soy sauce, tamarind pulp, curry sauce, water and crushed anchovy.
Though the sauce is high in sodium and potassium and boasts few nutrients, there is so little used in a dish, no one’s health is in jeopardy.
Not until quite recently did the HP Company produce Lea & Perrins’ special White Wine Worcestershire Sauce. It is slightly thicker and lighter in color and contains white sauterne wine with undisclosed Indian spices. This new sauce is for lighter-colored chicken, fish, pork, seafood and vegetables.
“Worcestershire” in the UK is pronounced “Woost-ur-shire.” In other parts of the world one often hears, “War-sest-uh-shire.” This wonder from Worcestershire County, also the town of the same name, has been commercially available for over 165 years, 45 years longer than Ketchup. Three things stand out for visitors to Worcestershire today: Their fine gloves, Royal Worcester porcelain and Worcestershire Sauce. The town welcomes tourists to wander their shops and find evidence of WS everywhere.
- Soups stews, meats, fish, poultry, cheese dishes, vegetable dishes, marinades, sauces, gravies and dressings.
- Usually found in Steak Diane and barbecued prawns.
- Filipinos frequently marinate pork in WS.
- On the website, WEBTENDER, they state Worcestershire Sauce is used in 16 drinks, including Bloody Biker, Bloody Caesar, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary Jolly Style, Bull Shots 3 and 4.