First made at 60 Broad Street, Worcester, England, by two dispensing chemists, John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, the Lea & Perrins brand was commercialised in 1837 and has been produced in the current Midlands Road factory in Worcester since 16 October 1897. It was purchased by H.J. Heinz Company in 2005 who continue to manufacture and market "The Original Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce", under the name Lea & Perrins, as well as Worcestershire sauce under their own name and labelling. Other companies manufacture similar products, often also called Worcestershire sauce and marketed under different brand or private label names. Additionally, in recent years recipes have begun appearing for homemade variations of the British version.
Worcestershire sauce is made with anchovy and is therefore not suitable for use in strictly vegetarian dishes. It is often an ingredient in Welsh rarebit, Caesar salad, Oysters Kirkpatrick, and sometimes added to chili con carne, beef stew, hamburgers, and other beef dishes. Worcestershire sauce is also used to flavour cocktails such as a Bloody Mary or Caesar. Known as salsa inglesa (English sauce) in Spanish, it is also an ingredient in Michelada, the Mexican beer cocktail.
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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 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 Worcestershire variety became popular in the 1840s and is a legacy of the British rule of the Indian subcontinent. Theories vary concerning its invention.
It may be that a "Lord Marcus Sandys, ex-Governor of Bengal" encountered it while in India under the East India Company in the 1830s, and commissioned the local apothecaries to recreate it. However, author Brian Keogh concluded in his privately published history of the Lea & Perrins firm on 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 veiled by Messrs Lea and Perrins (who used to assert 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. His given name was confused for that of his brother and heir, Arthur Marcus Cecil Sandys, 3rd Baron Sandys (1798–1863), in the story. The latter 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 // ("sands") 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 commercially bottled sauce without a serious breach of decorum.
A version was published by Thomas Smith:
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.
The two problems with this story are a) that we are not given the surname of "Sir Charles" and b) that there was no such office as Chief Justice of India until 1943.
An accidental discovery
The resulting product was 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 again, discovering that the sauce had fermented and mellowed and was now palatable. In 1838 the first bottles of "Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce" were released to the general public.
According to historian and Herald for Wales, Major Francis Jones, 1908–1993, the introduction of the recipe can be attributed to Captain Henry Lewis Edwardes 1788–1866. 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.
Lea & Perrins original recipe
The ingredients of a traditional bottle of Worcestershire sauce sold in the UK as "The Original & Genuine Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce" are malt vinegar (from barley), spirit vinegar, molasses, sugar, salt, anchovies, tamarind extract, onions, garlic, spice, and flavouring. The "spice, and flavouring" is believed to include cloves, soy sauce, lemons, pickles and peppers. Notes from the 1800s, which he rescued, were found by company accountant Brian Keogh dumped in a skip. The documents are to be placed on display at the Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum. Apart from distribution for its home market, Lea & Perrins supplies this recipe in concentrate form to be bottled abroad.
- 5 calories
- 0 grams of fat
- 0 grams of saturated fat
- 0 grams of monounsaturated fat
- 0 grams of protein
- 1 gram of carbohydrates
- 20 milligrams of sodium
- 0 milligrams of cholesterol
Around the world
Historically there were several manufacturers of Worcestershire sauce in Australia, e.g. Holbrooks, Lionel Brand from Taringa in Brisbane. Also made in Australia is Crockershire brand Worcestershire sauce made in Harden, NSW. Crockershire also makes a Coeliac version.
In Brazil, Worcestershire sauce is referred to as molho inglês (literally English sauce). The original Lea & Perrins brand is difficult to obtain in Brazil, and so local producers are the primary distributors of the sauce in supermarkets and other food shops, as well as restaurants.
In Canada, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce is identical to the standard British version. It is imported from England and has the same bottle. The label is similar to the British version, but modified to include French text.
Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce sold in the USA differs from the British recipe. Its ingredients are listed as: vinegar, molasses, sugar, anchovies, water, onions, salt, garlic, tamarind concentrate, cloves, natural flavourings and chili pepper extract. The main difference is the use of distilled white vinegar in place of malt vinegar. Nonetheless, the United States version tastes almost the same as the British recipe, although some people claim the US version is slightly sweeter, less spicy, and has less depth.[who?] A thicker variety is also sold for the US market. 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. For years, the US version contained high fructose corn syrup, but sugar was used to replace this ingredient in early 2011.
A thick sauce is manufactured in Japan under brand names such as 'Bulldog', which reflect its English origins, but this is a brown sauce more similar to HP Sauce rather than any type of Worcestershire Sauce. A thicker variety of the sauce, although labelled Worcester (rather than Worcestershire) in katakana, is commonly known as tonkatsu sauce and most often used as a condiment for tonkatsu (fried, breaded pork cutlets). Both the dish and the sauce are thought to have derived from English cuisine imported into Japan in the 19th century.
Japanese Worcester sauce (pronounced as Usutā sōsu) is made from purees of fruits and vegetables such as apples and tomatoes, with sugar, salt, spices, starch and caramel. It commonly accompanies western-influenced yōshoku dishes such as the aforementioned tonkatsu and korokke. Yakisoba sauce, and okonomiyaki sauce are also variants of Worcestershire sauce, often thicker and sweeter than the original.
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Worcestershire sauce plays a part in the cuisine of Asian regions following exposure to Western cuisine.
In Cantonese cuisine and Hong Kong 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 (Chinese: 喼汁; pinyin: jiézhī; Cantonese Yale: gip jāp). It is also used in a variety of Hong Kong-style Chinese and Western dishes.
In Shanghai cuisine, the use of Worcestershire sauce spread from European-style restaurants in the 19th and 20th centuries 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 used for Chinese foods such as the shengjian mantou, which are small, pan-fried pork buns. In Shanghai, Worcestershire sauce is called la jiangyou (Chinese: 辣酱油; pinyin: làjiàngyóu; literally "spicy soy sauce"). As 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. Lea & Perrins has in recent years established a plant in Guangdong, China, thus increasing availability of the original variety in China. However, it does not have a dominant market share compared to the native-grown varieties.
In Thailand, the Lea & Perrins Original Worcestershire sauce on sale is, according to its label, imported from England.
In Indonesia, the name for Worcestershire sauce is kecap inggris meaning "English 'fermented sauce' ".
In South Africa, Minnies Food Enterprise manufactures Worcester Sauce unders its Minnies brand.
Several brands sell anchovy-free varieties of Worcestershire sauce, often labelled as vegetarian or vegan. Alternatively, Henderson's Relish can be used as a vegan substitute for Worcestershire sauce. Although many vegan sauces are prominently labelled "gluten free" (e.g.: Spring Gully Gluten Free Worcestershire Sauce), the barley malt vinegar used in Lea & Perrins is distilled and contains no gluten peptides that would harm coeliacs.
Orthodox Jews refrain from eating fish and meat in the same dish, so cannot use traditional Worcestershire sauce to flavour meat. However, certain brands are certified to contain less than 1/60th of the fish product and can be used with meat.
- Oxford English Dictionary
- Keogh, Brian (1997) The Secret Sauce: a History of Lea & Perrins ISBN 978-0-9532169-1-8
- Shurtleff, W.; Aoyagi, A. 2012. "History of Worcestershire Sauce (1837-2012)." Lafayette, California: Soyinfo Center. 213 p. (533 references. 42 photos and illustrations. Free online)
- Worcestershire Sauce Recipe
- Rarebit recipe featuring Lea & Perrins. Good Housekeeping magazine (UA), December 1934. Retrieved 4 July 2009
- Caesar Cocktail (Canada) Retrieved 4 July 2009
- Smith, Thomas Successful Advertising, (1885 7th edition)
- Jones, Francis (1987) Historic Carmarthenshire Homes and their Families, Brawdy Books, Pembrokeshire
- Daily Mail Online Retrieved 23 June 2010
- Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum - Spirit of Enterprise Exhibition - Wine & Sauce Making
- "Ingredients - Worcestershire Sauce". DrGourmet.com. Retrieved 2011-07-27.
- About Lea & Perrins
- Lea & Perrins® - Unwrap the Possibilities
- McLaughlin, Katy (6 July 2011). "Sweet Revenge, Chefs Pour on the Sugar". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
- Food Forum - Kikkoman Corporation
- Gyldendal - Den Store Danske
- Henderson's Relish website Retrieved 27 February 2010
- "Worcestershire Sauce – Gluten Free, Cholesterol Free, Fat Free and Preservative Free". Leaperrins.com. 2012-12-06. Retrieved 2013-03-27.
- Star-K Kosher certification Retrieved 4 July 2009
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- Chef Greg Atkinson, abetted by Lea & Perrins, reports and debunks the myth, without unveiling Lady Sandys
- A very different history of Worcester Sauce at foodsofengland.co.uk