Today’s project is homemade Worcestershire sauce. Worcestershire sauce is a mystery in a bottle. Tart, salty, complex. Yes, it has anchovies.
The project’s first step is learning how to spell and say the word. I took my lessons from the Three Stooges Moe Howard, who notoriously struggled with the word in one of their many movies. Nearly as difficult as the spelling and pronunciation, this is a recipe that requires a lot of ingredients. I had to go shopping, and I love to shop for food like this. A few of the items I already had on hand: homemade vinegar, spices, dried smoked chilies, preserved lemons. I did need to get dried anchovies and tamarind, though.
As you can tell from reading my posts, I like my condiments. To me, condiments are the things that add the little extra flair to a finished dish. Homemade condiments allow me to fine tune flavor and gain depth that is sometimes not possible with commercial products.
I always have deferred to one of my cooking idols, Cajun chef Justin Wilson, when it comes to Worcestershire sauce. He always demanded the use of Lea and Perrins, and if was good for him, it was certainly good for me. That was all I needed, and a bottle of Lea and Perrins can always be found in my fridge. In fact, I probably have a backup in the pantry, too.
Then, as some of you know, I have been involved with a growing Facebook community dedicated to serious cooking, a group called The Handcrafted Larder. (If you’re on Facebook, you should go and join.) A few members there posted all sorts of recipes and pictures of making Worcestershire sauce. I thought I would give it a go.
I started by reading up on how Lea and Perrins is made. Why not start with the Gold Standard? Next, I looked at many recipes on line. The one that interested me the most was from Saveur magazine. Serious Eats made a few very small changes to this recipe for their recipe. Using these as my basis, I set off and made some bold moves on the recipe for my own version.
Here’s what I came up with.
4 cups homemade mead vinegar, divided (use other vinegar with mother if you don’t have homemade mead vinegar)
½ cup unsulfured molasses
6 oz. naturally fermented soy sauce
10 oz. tamarind paste (I took the seeds out and weighed afterward)
3T brown mustard seed
3T sea salt
1t very coarsely cracked black pepper
1t whole cloves
1t homemade garam masala
5 pods cardamom, broken open
6 smoked, dried serrano chilies, coarsely chopped
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup dried Korean anchovies
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
6T fresh ginger, peeled and diced
1 cinnamon stick broken into pieces
½ cup raw sugar
2 preserved lemons, diced
1 cup mixed raisins (red, gold, black)
Put half of the vinegar and all remaining ingredients into a non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. The mixture is thick, so stir to make sure it does not scorch. Once the pot boils, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cooled to room temperature, stir in the remaining 2 cups vinegar.
Transfer this mixture to a 2-liter sealed glass jar. I used a snap-top jar in case the mixture fermented and let off gas. Leave the sealed jar at room temperature for three weeks.
After the aging period, the flavors will have melded. Press the mixture through a fine mesh strainer using a silicone spatula. I got about five cups of finished sauce.
To check the results, I did a taste test (and enlisted others in my test, too) against the gold standard, Lea and Perrins. The flavors are very close, but much more intense in the homemade sauce. The commercial sauce tasted watered down in comparison, although the flavors were very similar. Lea and Perrins is more liquid and more vinegar-y then the homemade sauce. I could have added more vinegar to make them much more close, but in the end, decided to let it go.
I’m all set to use my new sauce in my soups, stews, gumbo, marinades, and more!
Something I’ve been doing with this, in the last few batches I’ve made, is to run the mixture in a blender before straining it. This improves the yield. I still strain it to get any hard bits, like seed husks and anchovy bones, out of the finished sauce.
Note, regardless, this sauce has a thicker consistency than commercial products. I like that!