Most everyone has heard of the delicious, tangy sauce made in the county of Worcestershire in England, but no one is really sure where the idea of the recipe originated.
Some say a gentleman named Lord Marcus Sandys served as governor of Bengal and was very fond of a particular sauce served with his dishes.
When he returned from India in 1835, he asked chemists (pharmacists) John Lea and William Perrins to recreate the delicious sauce and gave them a list of ingredients.
The problem with that legend is that Lord Sandys wasn’t a governor of Bengal! He may have gone to India with the East India Company, but there’s no record of his travels.
But in spite of that little historical hiccup, there is good reason to believe the original recipe came from India.
A Sauce For Many Dishes
The ingredients used to make Worcestershire sauce include soy sauce (which had its origins in China and Japan), anchovies (a little salt-water fish), garlic, and tamarind.
Tamarind is the fruit of a tree grown mainly in India. In fact, India is the world’s largest grower of tamarind!
The fruit in the pods (actually a legume, like a peanut) has a sweet-sour flavor used in plenty of Indian cuisine. The other ingredients are also commonly found in dishes all over India.
Of course, Britain had been ruling India for about 80 years before the sauce request made its way to the chemists’ shop.
During that time, other dishes, like tikka masala, found their way into Britain and have since become national favorites.
Back To The Recipe
The documented story calls the gentleman a “nobleman from the county”, but he remains unnamed.
No matter who popped into Lea and Perrin’s shop with fond memories of their meals in India, the chemists were keen to try to recreate the sauce.
Their first attempt was less than pleasant.
In fact, it stunk up their chemist shop so bad, they put the mixture in a barrel and stuck it in the cellar!
And there it sat for nearly TWO YEARS!
The Sauce in the Barrel
One day, the gentlemen were cleaning out the basement when they stumbled across the cask of sauce.
Instead of just chucking it out the door, they wondered what a couple of years aging had done to the mixture.
Would you open a barrel of stinky sauce after two years?
Their curiosity got the better of them, and they opened the barrel.
The liquid inside wasn’t stinky anymore. It had mellowed into a sweet and tangy sauce.
Imagine the looks on their faces when they realized what they had done!
From Accident to Instant Hit
They quickly bottled up the sauce and began to sell it in their store.
It was such a hit, people all over the world began to request Lea and Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce.
It was even stocked on ships because it kept so well and tasted so good.
And now Worcestershire sauce is found all around the world, although the actual recipe is still a closely guarded secret.
How Do You Pronounce Worcestershire?
As you’ve been reading this post, how have you heard Worcestershire in your head?
The correct pronunciation, according to PronounciationLexicon, is Wuh-ster-sure.
No matter how you say it, this sauce is amazing.
So now you know the English origin of Worcestershire sauce even if no one is sure how John and William came up with the idea for a fishy, garlicky, tamarindy concoction.
We’re just glad they did.
You can try Worcestershire sauce for yourself in the shepherd’s pie recipe from our UK box as you eat2explore!