What IS Worcestershire Sauce Really?
Plus, the right way to pronounce it.
To start, you might be surprised to learn that even though it's a 14-letter word, the correct pronunciation of Worcestershire involves only three syllables: "wist-ə-shur." The sauce gets its decidedly clunky name from Worcestershire, the rural county in western England where it was born at the hands of two pharmacists, John Wheeley Lea and William Perrins, back in the 1830s.
According to the BBC, the story begins with a local aristocrat named Lord Sandys, who tasked the two pharmacists with remaking a concoction he came across in India. Lea and Perrins reportedly made an extra jar of the mysterious brew for themselves, found they did not like it, and stored it in the basement. But when they tried it again a few years later, they discovered that it had become savory and delicious. The sauce was such a hit, that Lea and Perrins began manufacturing and selling it in 1838. Nearly 200 years later, they're still going strong.
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To this day, Lea and Perrins' recipe remains a (mostly) guarded secret, though Chowhound reports that Worcestershire sauce is really just aged, fermented fish paste. That's right. Aside from a couple different types of vinegar, "spices and flavorings," molasses, tamarind and sugar, the main ingredient in Worcestershire sauce is anchovies. We'll let that sink in for a bit.
But nobody knew what the "spices and flavorings" were until 2009, when a company accountant came across a diary from the 1800s in a dumpster. In that diary was a list of the secret spices and flavorings: cloves, soy, essence of lemons, peppers, and pickles.
Simply mix all of these together in the proper proportions, let them sit for 18 months, and voila! Worcestershire sauce! If only it were that easy. Unless you want your basement smelling like aged fish paste, it's probably best to leave this one to the experts.