"What's-this-here sauce," as my Dad used to say. I never actually considered an answer to my Father's silly phrase (it induced more cringes than laughs) since, for all intents and purposes, Worcestershire sauce was never more than just Worcestershire sauce.
To start demystifying this sauce, I begin with a little history lesson, which taught me the importance of time in the production. As told by Lea & Perrins, the sauce originated in the early 1800s when Lord Sandys of Worcester, England, returned home from Bengal and commissioned local dispensing chemists John Lea and William Perrins to replicate a sauce he had brought back with him. The resulting sauce was deemed unpalatable and shelved, only to be unearthed a couple years later to find that age had made it good. The sauce was then bottled and Worcestershire sauce, born.
With this background, I had a starting point, but the ingredients and amounts where still hazy. While the original Lea & Perrins recipe has recently been discovered, the process has not and I imagine there's been some changes along the road. So I turned my sights on on this more complet, recipe from Saveur, with a few adjustments based on comments and intuition.
Unlike most sauce recipes, which I adjust as I'm cooking, this one was difficult to endure. I had to wait three weeks of aging to see if it produced something blog-worthy. Luckily, it did!
While Lea & Perrins this is not, it is unmistakably Worcestershire sauce. The strong malt vinegar tang holds secrets of flavor that I can now identify more clearly as anchovy, soy sauce, molasses, chilies, and tamarind, among many others that come together in a seamless sauce.
I'm so happy to have a top-notch, unique homemade Worcestershire in my arsenal, as this will now become a little bit of a secret ingredient of mine in sauces to come.
- 2 cups malt vinegar
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup tamarind concentrate
- 3 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
- 5 cardamom pods, smashed
- 4 chiles de árbol, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 3 anchovy filets, roughly chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and crushed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 cup sugar
Combine vinegar, molasses, soy cause, tamarind, mustard seeds, salt, black peppercorns, cloves, curry powder, cardamom, chiles, garlic, anchovies, onion, ginger, and cinnamon in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high medium, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
While sauce is simmering, in a small saucepan, melt sugar over medium-high heat and cook until it becomes dark amber and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Pour caramelized sugar into simmering sauce and whisk to combine; simmer sauce for 5 additional minutes. Transfer sauce to a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and set in refrigerator for 3 weeks.
Strain sauce into a medium bowl; discard solids. Place sauce back in jar and store in refrigerator for up to 8 months.