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When it comes to food, the British are very passionate about their sauces and their condiments. They know exactly what they have with what meal, and don’t go trying to tell them any different, they won’t have any of it! There are lots of sauces the British use that aren’t used elsewhere or are slightly different to those used abroad, so we’ve taken a look at some of the most British of them.
Worcestershire sauce is better know as Worcester sauce and it’s a fermented liquid condiment of a pretty complicated mixture that was originally created by the Worcester chemists John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, who went on to form the company Lea & Perrins. The ingredients have to be matured for 18 months before being blended and bottled in Worcester, where the exact recipe is kept a secret. Lea and Perrins devised the recipe way back in the 1830s. However, it was not to their liking, so it was cast aside and forgotten about. It wasn’t until the barrels were rediscovered many months later that the taste had mellowed into what is now known and loved by many as Worcester sauce.
Used on: Cheese on toast.
The British version of Marmite is a sticky, dark brown food paste with a distinctive, powerful flavour, which is extremely salty. They hit their marketing on the head with the marketing slogan ‘Love it or hate it’, as you rarely find someone who just likes it. It can turn to quite the debate when you get to opposing thoughts. It’s even so popular in the British culture that the product’s name has entered British English as a metaphor for something that is an acquired taste or tends to garner very different opinions. There have been various versions manufactured in New Zealand since 1919, which have been sold as Marmite in Australasia and the Pacific, whereas elsewhere in the world the British version is sold. Marmite was originally supplied in earthenware pots, but since the 1920s has been sold in glass jars shaped like a French cooking pot.
Used on: Toast, cheese sandwich or crackers.
Mint sauce is an concoction of chopped spearmint in vinegar and sugar and can be used in some recipes in place of fresh mint. It can be eaten on toast or bread, but isn’t quite as popular as smothering your lamb in it. Sweet and sour sauces such as our beloved mint sauce were common throughout Medieval Europe, however they became less common and mostly died out as Europe entered the Modern Era. The British loved the easy-to-make sauce so much that it is still used today by the bucketload.
Used on: Lamb roast dinners.
Ketchup is a sweet and tangy sauce typically made from tomatoes, sweetener and vinegar, which is then mixed with an array of seasonings and spices. The later added spices often include onions, allspice, coriander, cloves, cumin, garlic, mustard and sometimes celery, cinnamon or ginger, but can often depend on the brand. The market leader in United Kingdom is Heinz and many people will only eat this variety. The British also refer to their ketchup is as ‘tomato sauce’, which can often mean fresh passata in Italy. We’re sure this would greatly disappoint our Italian friends!
Used on: Chips, burgers, hot dogs, chicken, wedges – pretty much anything!
Brown sauce is a traditional dark brown condiment that is really popular in Britain. The ingredients include a varying combination of tomatoes, molasses, dates, apples, tamarind, spices, vinegar and sometimes raisins or anchovies, which give its very distinctive taste. The taste tends to be quite sweet with a peppery flavour similar to that of Worcester sauce. A recipe for ‘sauce for steaks’, which shares much likeness with our brown sauce, was first noted down in the The Practical Family Cookery Book, first published in London back in 1862. The recipe conisted of ale, wine, ketchup, black pepper and butter. The most popular brand in Britain is Daddies.
Used on: Sausage roll, bacon sandwich, full English breakfast and fish and chips.
Piccalilli is the English interpretation of a mix of Indian pickles. It’s a relish of chopped pickled vegetables and spice and the British piccalilli contains various vegetables, which tend to be cauliflower, onion and gherkin, finished with seasonings of mustard and turmeric. It’s a very chunky mix, although a smoother variety has been brought out in recent years. It’s bold yellow in colour, down to the turmeric used. It is popular as a relish with cold meats such as ham and head cheese, and with the very traditional ploughman’s lunch served with bread, meat, onions and butter.
Used on: Sandwiches, meat platters and ploughman’s lunches.
English mustard is one of the hottest mustard varieties in the world. It is brighter yellow in colour and a far thicker consistency than the mild American mustard. The most famous brand of English mustard is Colman’s, who first produced its variety in 1814 as a powder in its famous yellow tins. Back in 1830, William Taylor from Newport Pagnell was the first person to sell mustard in the ready-made format we know and love today.
Used on: Hot dogs, sandwiches and burgers.
Branston Pickle is made from a variety of diced vegetables, similar to piccalilli, but it includes swede, carrots, onions and cauliflower pickled in a sauce made from vinegar, tomato, apple and spices. As we have become more health conscious over the years, corn syrup has replaced sugar in the product sold in the American market although sugar is still used in the British version, so we haven’t deviated from the original recipe at all. Branston Pickle has a sweet and spicy chutney-like consistency. It is commonly served as part of a ploughman’s lunch, again, much like picalilli. It is also frequently combined with cheddar cheese in sandwiches, and it’s so popular that many sandwich shops in Britain offer cheese and pickle as a lunchtime option. It is available in the original ‘chunky’ version, as well as a ‘small chunk’ variety, which is easier to spread onto bread.
Used on: Cheese or ham in a sandwich.
Liquor is a savoury parsley sauce commonly served with traditional London-style pie and mash, but is a very acquired taste. Liquor is not alcoholic as the name suggests; it actually refers to a liquid in which something has been cooked. Back in the good old Cockney knees-up days, the something in question was originally eels! The origins of adding this eel-based sauce to pie and mash aren’t very clear, but we presume it was probably the result of eel sellers and pie sellers joining forces to make some extra cash. These were originally separate street food goodies, but their coming together created a very British dish.
Used on: Pie and mash.
Bread sauce is literally made with milk and breadcrumbs so it’s a very basic sauce that is typically eaten with roast chicken or turkey. It is the sole survivor of the medieval bread-thickened sauces that makes this very traditionally British. You can often find it flavoured with onion, salt, cloves, mace, pepper and bay leaf, with the fat from roasting often added too, which is more of a modern twist but the base is still very much the same. The use of slightly stale bread is very popular as it makes it an economical way of using up leftover bread and is actually slightly better for the sauce. This is the easiest sauce to make on our list, which may be why it’s so popular.
Used on: Roast chicken or turkey.
Gravy is certainly one of the most British sauces out there and it’s made from the juices of meats that run naturally during cooking and padded out with wheat flour to add texture. The gravy may be further coloured and flavoured with gravy salt, which is a simple mix of salt and caramel food colouring or gravy browning gravy salt dissolved in water. Ready-made cubes such as OXO and powders such as Bisto, the nation’s favourite, can be used as a substitute for natural meat or vegetable extracts.
Used on: Sunday roast, pie and mash, bangers and mash or chips.
Gravy on bangers and mash