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Reading Sauce

Sauces and Spicery

The leading Piquant Sauce of the Victorian era. Originally a dissolved-fish sauce, but later made with other materials. Cocks's Reading Sauce seems to have been the first to use the bright orange label which has since become the badge of English liquid sauces such as Henderson's and Worcester Sauce.

Advertisement for Reading Sauce
'Northampton Mercury' Saturday 26 October 1811

James Cocks, a fishmonger of Reading, sold as a side-line the 'Burgess' dissolved-fish sauce from about 1789. He began manufacturing their own version, devised by his wife Anne, from around 1793, moving to a specialised sauce factory at King's Road near to Reading library in 1814. The sauce ceased manufacture in 1962.

In Jules Verne's 'Around the World in 80 Days', Mr Fogg has for his breakfast "...a side-dish, a broiled fish with Reading sauce, a scarlet slice of roast beef garnished with mushrooms".

So universal was the sauce that Lewis Carroll was able to write:
Then, fourthly, there are epithets, That suit with any word
As well as Harvey's Reading Sauce, With fish, or flesh, or bird.

Original Receipt from Mrs.B

502. INGREDIENTS: 2-1/2 pints of walnut pickle, 1-1/2 oz. of shalots, 1 quart of spring water, 3/4 pint of Indian soy, 1/2 oz. of bruised ginger, 1/2 oz. of long pepper, 1 oz. of mustard-seed, 1 anchovy, 1/2 oz. of cayenne, 1/4 oz. of dried sweet bay-leaves.
Mode: Bruise the shalots in a mortar, and put them in a stone jar with the walnut-liquor; place it before the fire, and let it boil until reduced to 2 pints. Then, into another jar, put all the ingredients except the bay-leaves, taking care that they are well bruised, so that the flavour may be thoroughly extracted; put this also before the fire, and let it boil for 1 hour, or rather more. When the contents of both jars are sufficiently cooked, mix them together, stirring them well as you mix them, and submit them to a slow boiling for1/2 hour; cover closely, and let them stand 24 hours in a cool place; then open the jar and add the bay-leaves; let it stand a week longer closed down, when strain through a flannel bag, and it will be ready for use. The above quantities will make1/2 gallon.
Time: Altogether, 3 hours.
Seasonable: This sauce may be made at any time.

Advertisement by Cocks for Burgess Sauce
'Reading Mercury' - Monday 15 June 1795

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