The sort of gross way Worcestershire sauce is made

Posted July 21
Updated July 24

When you think of Worcestershire sauce, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? It’s probably, “How do you pronounce that?” or, “How do you spell that?” But the real question on your mind should be, “How the heck is that stuff made?” Well, your burning question has been answered: The Science Channel show conveniently called “How It’s Made” recently did an episode on this difficult-to-pronounce sauce-and the results were not super appetizing.

First of all, this sauce is fermented, just like sauerkraut or kombucha. So that’s the first kind of strange thing. Second, the original Lea & Perrins recipe included everything from walnut and mushroom ketchups to sherry and brandy to even pork liver, according to Adrian Bailey and Philip Dowell, the authors of “Cooks' Ingredients.” Don’t worry though–none of those ingredients are still in the American formula.

worcestershire sauce photo
Flickr | rjw1

The process starts with onions and garlic that get pickled in barrels of malt vinegar (for one to two entire YEARS!), turning a strange red that is reminiscent of the color of raw liver. There are also massive barrels of salt-packed anchovies (these only get cured for a few months), so this sauce is definitely not approved for vegetarians and vegans, which was news to me.

The sauce also contains salt, sugar, white vinegar, more malt vinegar, molasses, tamarind paste (a tangy fruit that is used in many types of international cuisine) and a “top secret” blend of other spices and herbs, according to How It’s Made.

All of the ingredients get poured into a massive mixing vat, and I will never unsee that revolting cat food-esque barrel of salted anchovies being upturned into the rest of the sauce. Lea & Perrins closely guards the mixing time and proportions of the recipe, so it’s going to be hard to make this at home…if you even wanted to.

steak sauce photo
Flickr | joshmadison

Then the Worcestershire sauce ages for several months in “maturation tanks” which helps the sauce develop its traditional, tangy flavor. Ultimately, it gets bottled and taken to stores, where people like you and me buy it to dump on steak and add to cocktail sauce. Although…are you still sure you want to buy a bottle?

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