When Making Worcestershire Sauce, Be Prepared To Wait

While it's most commonly a store-bought staple, you may be surprised to learn that it's actually not hard to create your own version of Worcestershire sauce at home. That zesty condiment that's been gracing tables since the 1830s is in essence an elevated fish sauce. Worcestershire is made fragrant with fruits and spices, sweet with molasses, and piquant with malt vinegar. There is, however, one necessary ingredient that you might not be able to afford: patience. 

As the originator of the condiment, Lea & Perrins will tell you that you've got to leave this concoction alone. Company lore holds that the first batch was considered too strong and abandoned, only to be rediscovered a year-and-a-half later tasting sublime. And Worcestershire sauce is still fermented for long periods to this day — Lea & Perrins lets the stuff sit for 18 months. To achieve a similar result at home, you'll want to leave it be for three weeks of aging in the fridge. Letting all the Worcestershire ingredients hang out together will balance out their flavors, giving you a delicious and harmonious result.

Time is a master chef

A typical Worcestershire sauce recipe calls for some ingredients that have — and this is an understatement — assertive flavors, including anchovies, vinegar, cloves, tamarind concentrate, onion, and garlic. That's not to mention soy sauce, hot chiles, sweeteners, and various spices. Boiling this stuff together for several minutes will do little to lessen the resulting mixture's intensity, although it might just clear out your sinuses if you take a big whiff. 

Next, leaving this sauce alone in the refrigerator will allow the real flavor magic to happen.. Firstly, all those intense components will blend and mellow, creating an identifiable sauce out of a collection of distinct flavors. The vinegar's acid will break down the anchovies, while the onion's glutamic acid contribution will enhance the emerging, exquisite umami flavor. When you taste your first aged batch of Worcestershire sauce — the caramelly sweetness of the molasses, brightened by the tartness of the tamarind, enlivened with black and red pepper spiciness, combined with the thorough umami-ness of the fermented fish — an adequate description of the resulting delight might escape you. Aren't you glad you waited?