Thursday, May 31, 2007

On Worcestershire Sauce.

Today, May 31st

Worcestershire Sauce, an essential ingredient in a Bloody Mary (and even more essential in a Virgin Mary) was trademark registered by Lea & Perrins on this day in 1892. Lea & Perrins had been manufacturing the famous sauce since the 1830’s, but Trademark legislation was not enacted in Britain until 1875. Why did they wait so long to patent their product? They must have been confident that imitations of their sauce would not have been serious competition, which means that they must have been confident that they could maintain the secrecy of the recipe.

The recipe has a mysterious disputed past. The original Worcestershire Sauce bottle label stated that it was “from the recipe of a nobleman of the country”. Most versions say the ‘nobleman’ returned from India with a recipe which he asked the local apothecaries (Lea & Perrins) to make up. They did. It was awful. They all forgot about the idea. They literally forgot about it, and left the barrels in the cellar. Some time later (months? years?) the barrels were rediscovered, and were about to be disposed of when someone thought to taste the contents and Lo! and Behold! – fermentation had improved the brew no end. The rest is marketing history.

The sauce became a standard ingredient in savoury dishes, even in America (although the American version contains white, not malt vinegar), as this recipe from School And Home Cooking By Carlotta C. Greer (1920) demonstrates. Note: it is a text book, so questions will follow. Please pay attention.

Veal Cutlets (Steak)
Clean the meat; then remove the bone and tough membranes. Cut the meat into pieces for serving. Cover the bone and the tough pieces of meat with cold water and cook at a low temperature. (This stock is to be used in the sauce.) Small pieces of meat may be put together by using wooden toothpicks for skewers. Season the veal with salt and pepper. Roll in dried bread crumbs, dip in beaten egg, then in crumbs again. Put 2 tablespoonfuls of drippings or other fat in a frying pan. Brown the cutlets in the fat. Remove the veal; in the frying pan prepare the following:

Sauce for Cutlets.
3 tablespoonfuls drippings
1/4 cupful flour
1/2 tablespoonful salt
1/8 teaspoonful pepper
2 cupfuls stock or water
2 tablespoonfuls chopped parsley
1 teaspoonful Worcestershire sauce
Make a brown sauce, using all ingredients except the Worcestershire sauce (see Brown Sauce). Add the cutlets to the sauce, and cook them at simmering temperature for 1 hour or until tender. Just before serving, add the Worcestershire sauce.

Beef may be prepared in the same way.

Why is it desirable to use parsley and Worcestershire sauce with veal? Is it desirable to use Worcestershire sauce with beef or mutton? Explain your answer. Why is Worcestershire sauce not cooked with the brown sauce?

I fail. I am unable to answer Ms Greer’s questions. Are you?

Although the exact recipe for Lea& Perrins’ Worcester Sauce remains a secret, there seems to be consensus that it contains salted anchovies, tamarind, molasses, garlic, vinegar, chillies, cloves, shallots, and sugar. As with the famous drink that once contained real Cola, its popularity has ensured that imitators will keep trying. The useful and comprehensive Cassell’s Dictionary of Cookery (1870’s) gave a recipe for it, using its original name of Worcester Sauce.

Worcester Sauce, To Make.
Mince two cloves of shallot, put the mince into a dry bottle, and pour over it a pint of Bordeaux vinegar. Add three table-spoonfuls of essence of anchovy, three tablespoonsful of walnut ketchup, two tablespoonfuls of soy, and as much cayenne as is approved: the quantity cannot be given as cayenne varies so much in quality. Cork the bottle, keep it in a cool place, and shake it well twice a day for a fortnight. Strain the sauce, put in small bottles, cork closely, and store for use.

Tomorrow’s Story …

Queen of Artichokes.

This Day, Last Year …

We had a story about the Australian explorer, Edward John Eyre

Quotation for the Day …

The English have only three sauces - a white one, a brown one and a yellow one, and none of them have any flavor whatever. Guy de Maupassant, French author.


Ed said...

And it has to be Lea & Perrins. Nothing else will do.

alyson said...

But what is walnut ketchup??

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

So, there is hope for that bottle that has been in my refrigerator for several years! It should taste even better than the original now!

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Everyone:
I agree Ed, Beware of Imitations;
Alyson - walnut ketchup was a real Victorian favourite, made with green walnuts: here is Mrs Beetons version:
Walnut Ketchup
1.1lt (2 pints) Vinegar
600ml (1 pint) Port Wine
100 Walnuts
20 Shallots
110g (4oz) Anchovies
7g (¼oz) Mace
7g (¼oz) Nutmeg
7g (¼oz) Cloves
7g (¼oz) Ginger
7g (¼oz) Whole Black Pepper
1 handful salt
1 small piece Horseradish

Procure the walnuts at the time you can run a pin through them, slightly bruise and put them into a jar with the salt and vinegar, let them stand 8 days, stirring every day.
Then drain the liquor from them and boil it, with the above ingredients, for about 30 minutes.
It may be strained or not, as preferred and, if required, a little more vinegar or wine can be added, according to taste.
Pour into sterilised bottles with airtight caps.
Seasonable. Make this from the beginning to the middle of July, when walnuts are in perfection for pickling purposes.

t.w - your bottle may now have increased in value incredibly. Try it on steak.

Anonymous said...

I remember someone telling me that Worcestershire resembled Garum in its composition. It sounded as if it vaguely made sense, so I repeated it to someone else who was a professor of Humanities (Humanities, translated, meaning Classical Civilization) and she became quite incensed at the idea and thought I was rude to even consider it.

What do you think, Janet? :)

Lapinbizarre said...

I have wondered for some years whether Worcester sauce might originally have been an attempt of sorts to produce a substitute for soy, which was available in Western Europe in the 18th century, but which must have been pretty expensive.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Karen - I agree totally with you. The learned professor was silly. The preference for salty savoury sauces goes way back, and I am sure most 'experts' acknowledge this.

The Old Foodie said...

Hello lapinbizarre - I meant to combine my answer to you with that to Karen. I think that both are correct to some extent. The thread of salty savoury sauces can be detected throughout history.

Paul said...

First off. I wish you would stop bringing up such interesting topics. After reading your entries I end up on the net researching more about the daily topic and consequently, not getting my own writing done.

There’s a quote from a collection of recipes by Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General Arthur Robert Kenney-Herbert.

“I denounce ‘Worcester Sauce’ and ‘Tapp’s Sauce’ as agents too powerful to be trusted to the hands of the native cook”
from Culinary Jottings for Madras or A Treatise in Thirty Chapters on Reformed Cookery for Anglo-Indian Exiles (1885), by 'Wyvern' (Colonel Arthur Robert Kenney-Herbert)

I think by Tapp's he was referring to "Empress of India" sauce by Sutton and Tapp which I read is quite similar.

Here is what I’ve read about the history of the sauce.
Lord Marcus Sandys (who is completely unkown to history except for his part in this story) served as the Governor General of Bengal in India during British rule. He fell in love with the spicy tamarind and jaggery sauce (chinch gulaachi) made by his Indian cook. He took the recipe with him when he retired to Ombersley, England. When he had a hankering for the sauce, supposedly in 1835, he asked local chemists in Worcester “Messrs. John Lea and William Perrins” to recreate the sauce from his recipe. The chemists made a concoction substituting some ingredients and the resulting slurry absolutely horrified Lord Sandys. The order was rejected and barrel was put aside. From here apparently Lord Sandys was so sad at not having his sauce he vanished in a puff of smoke. The chemists came upon it some time later, depending on the source anywhere from a couple of months to two years later, while spring cleaning or inventory or something. Before chucking the lot, somebody, clearly on a dare, tasted the murky brew. The person survived the taste test and hey, it wasn’t so bad. Lea and Perrin bottled Worcester Sauce as a local dip. Lea and Perrins had one of thier salesmen convince British passenger ships to put the sauce on their dining room tables, Worcestershire Sauce became an established steak sauce across Europe and the United States.

There was an advertisement in 1919 falsely claiming that Worcestershire Sauce was “a wonderful liquid tonic that makes your hair grow beautiful.”

(ignore what I first said, I love getting inspired by your dailies, and this is writing—isn’t it?)