Thursday, November 5, 2009

004.Lea & Perrins Thick Classic Worcestershire Sauce

Made by Lea & Perrins, Inc., Fair Lawn, New Jersey
Claim: "Same premium quality since 1835"
$2.87 for a 10-ounce bottle
Ingredients: distilled white vinegar, tomato puree (tomato paste, water), Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce concentrate (distilled white vinegar, onions, anchovies, salt, garlic, tamarind concentrate, water, cloves, natural flavorings, chili pepper extract), high fructose corn syrup, molasses, modified corn starch, roasted onion puree (onions, high maltose corn syrup, salt), roasted garlic puree (garlic, high maltose corn syrup), xanthum gum.
Best by: 03/28/2011.

The Aisles Project does not shy from the classics. Sometimes, in spite of their often centuries of doing business, some products fall out of the buyer's periphery. We look at them, then through them, thinking we know all there is to know.

You may or may not know that it was aging – then in glass jars, on a neglected shelf of failed efforts; now in wooden casks, like a single malt Scotch or a vinaigre de Jerez – that gives the sauce of John Lea and William Perrins, Broad Street, Worcester, England, it's complexity and savor. The secret to the success is no secret. It is a marriage of good things over time.

"Contains Anchovies," reads a piece of bold type under Lea & Perrins Thick ingredients list, for some kind of emphasis, in the way typical of a disclaimer. To me, it reads like a sales pitch. Anchovies aging in a wooden barrel recalls the Roman garum, the earliest fish sauce, used to season just about everything the Romans could sink their teeth into. Anchovies, vinegar, molasses, tomato puree, roasted garlic … Worcestershire is nothing more than one big umami bomb.

The distilled white vinegar and the corn syrup are American intrusions. (The English version subs malt vinegar and sugar.) This thick version came out in late summer. It's hotter than I recall the thin version to be, which could be a nod toward edgier palates numbed somewhat over the last half-century by salsas and, in England's case, decades of fiery curries. (Dart-throwing, lager-tipping Keith Talent, of Martin Amis' London Fields being by far the most insatiable of that staple.)

Taste for the tamarind. It's palpable. It's that super tangy-sweet explosion at the end.

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