In 1838, a vinegar-based condiment sauce tempered with molasses, soy sauce, and an eccentric amalgam of other global flavors appeared on the market: Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce. As the story goes, the blend was inspired by a customer, recently returned from India, who requested the Lea and Perrins pharmacy in his native Worcester in Britain to duplicate the condiment he had come to adore while there. Its “exotic” ingredients include tamarind paste, anchovies, and Indian spices like cardamom, curry powder, ginger, and chilies. From the list and the photo of ingredients, you might not think they could come together in a svelte way. But they did. The rest is history. Though, as the story continues, there was a dark interlude when the blend was not claimed by the client and relegated to a storeroom, there to slowly brew for years before being resurrected by a curious clerk, who, cleaning out, tasted it. (Why it wasn’t tossed right away is a mystery.) Today, Worcestershire reigns as a supreme seasoning used worldwide to embolden a sundry of stews, meat loaves (see the previous post), cheese rarebits, sauces (coming up in my bbq sauce recipe), marinades, and dressings.
The alchemist in me could not resist trying my hand at a homemade version. Recipes for it abound on the internet, including on Lea & Perrins own website, so there was lots of help on how to go about it. Per British taste, the original called for malt vinegar. The American version (it’s now manufactured in America and Canada also) uses distilled white vinegar. I slightly prefer malt vinegar for its more complex flavor and amber color, but distilled white vinegar is a fine alternative.
A note: There are “quick” recipes for Worcestershire sauce, but letting the mixture ferment for 10 days or so intensifies the flavor, which is the point of a fermented sauce.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
1 3/4 cups malt or distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup low sodium tamari soy sauce
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup tamarind paste
3 anchovy fillets, chopped
1/2 yellow or white onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
5 cardamom pods, smashed
3 small dried red chilies
1-inch piece of cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup filtered water
1. Combine all the ingredients except the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until thickened, 10 minutes. Set aside momentarily.
2. Combine the sugar and water in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, until the mixture is syrupy and turning golden, 10 minutes.
3. Add the syrup to the vinegar mixture, whisk to mix, and simmer for 5 minutes. Transfer to a glass jar and let cool, then refrigerate for 10 days to 2 weeks to cure and blend the flavors.
4. Strain through a very fine mesh sieve or paper coffee filter into a clean jar and use right away or store in the refrigerator for up to forever. May be decanted into small jars for gift giving.