Last week I included a recipe for Tapp’s Sauce from an Anglo-Indian cookery book of the mid-nineteenth century. The recipe was, in fact, an attempt at imitating one of the popular commercially-made bottled condiment of the same name. Attempting to re-create these condiments was a common goal, it seems, of many cooks and cookery book authors of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The motive was perhaps a simple desire to unlock a manufacturing company’s highly guarded secret, but in some instances it was simple kitchen frugality. The latter was particularly the case with soy sauce, as the genuine article was imported and rather expensive a hundred years ago. The concocting of copies of this mysterious but incredibly savoury black liquid was so common a practice in Britain that the results were referred to as ‘English soy.’
I found the pimped-up version of Tapp’s sauce in the English colonial cookery book Indian Domestic Economy and Receipt Book (Madras, 1860.) It has a couple of other treasures for us today:
A Good Imitation of Worcestershire Sauce.
Add to a pint of apple vinegar, a half ounce of hot chopped peppers, "bird" peppers best, three cloves of garlic, mashed, five anchovies, twelve whole cloves, a one-quarter teaspoonful of ground mace, and twelve whole black peppercorns, crushed. Shake, cover and stand aside over night. Next day rub through a sieve, strain again, and add one pint of Soy sauce; put into jars, cover, and let stand ten days. Bottle, cork and seal. Use sparingly in brown sauces and soups or stews.
Mrs. Rorer's key to simple cookery, by Mrs. Sarah Tyson Rorer (Philadelphia, c.1917)
Imitation Soy Sauce—The Famous East India Sauce.
Boil one quart of the seeds of haricot or kidney beans in sufficient water until soft, add one quart bruised wheat; keep in a warm place for twenty-four hours, then add one quart salt and two gallons water, and keep for two or three months in a tightly bunged stone jar, after which press out the liquor and seal in jars.
Professor H. Blits' Methods of Canning Fruits and Vegetables by Hot Air and Steam, and Berries by the Compounding of Syrups, and the Crystallizing and Candying
of Fruits, etc., etc:, by H. Blits (1890)
Over half a century later, Dr. Willliam Tibbles published a comprehensive reference called
Foods, their origin, composition and manufacture (London, 1912.) It is a veritable treasure trove of knowledge of the time. In the chapter on Condiments and Spices, Dr. Tibbles gives recipes for both Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce, the veracity of which he does not excuse in any way:
Sauces. — There are sold numerous liquid condiments which are highly esteemed by a host of consumers for their appetizing properties. Many of these sauces, or relishes, consist of a basis of vinegar, with Indian soy, mushroom ketchup, walnut ketchup, cayenne pepper, allspice, garlic, and other condiments and aromatic spices, to give flavour, pungency, and aromatic properties. A notable example is Worcestershire Sauce, which is composed of the following ingredients:
Soy 1 quart
Malt vinegar 7 pints
Lime-juice ¾ pint
Tamarind 1 pound
Chillies 1¼ ounces
Cloves 1¼ ounces
Garlic 3 ounces
Shallots 6 ounces
Anchovies 3 ounces
These substances are prepared by peeling and bruising the garlic and shallots with the anchovies. They are then mixed with the vinegar, soy, and spices, boiled together for twenty minutes, allowed to get cold, and strained.
There are many other examples; most of the ingredients have been described in the foregoing pages. Soy is a liquid preparation of soy beans (see Legumes), which is prepared by boiling the beans with salt, reducing them to a pulp with wheat or barley meal, and allowing the mixture to ferment. After three or four weeks the liquid is poured off and clarified, forming a thick dark brown liquid, used as a basis for various sauces. An imitation, called English soy, is made by heating together 10 parts treacle, 16 parts extract of malt, 4 parts mushroom ketchup, and 9 parts common salt; it is allowed to stand twenty-one days, and afterwards clarified.
Dr. Tibbs’ comments on ‘ketchup’ are also most interesting, and highlight the difference in the concept in the early twentieth century compared to today, when the unqualified word surely refers only to the variety made with tomatoes. It perhaps also counterpoints the English, as distinct from the American ideas on the condiment.
Ketchup or Catsup is a sauce or condiment, made from the juice of mushrooms, obtained by sprinkling them abundantly with common salt. The juice is boiled with spices, such as allspice, cayenne, ginger, and mace. The mushrooms used for this purpose are Agaricus campesiris, A. arvensis, A. rvibescens, Marasmius oreades, Coprinus comatus, C. atramentarius, Fisiulina hepatica, and Morchella esculenta. When mushrooms are scarce, doubtful species, such as Agaricus spadiceus, A. lacrymabundus, and many others, classed as nonpareils and champignons, are used.
A few paragraphs later, he notes:
Mushroom ketchup is a sauce made by covering mushrooms with common salt for three days, then removing the juice by expression, and boiling it with chillies, allspice, ginger, mace, etc. It is used for flavouring gravy and making sauces, etc.