Brown Sauce: How HP Sauce Conquered Blighty

HP Sauce next to Big Ben in London
Thanks to HP Sauce for this epic image.

Tally, bally ho! If you’re a Brit, you’re either a ketchup enthusiastic… or you plunge the deep, dark depths of embracing brown sauce.

The two condiments have created a national divide bigger than Brexit!

It’s the standard north-south divide, with brown sauce favoured up north. Whilst dirty southerners like ketchup! Bah!

And we’re exploring this unusual fixation in today’s historical British food yarn.

What’s Brown Sauce?

Brown sauce is a popular British condiment that has a punchy, pungent, salty quality and is of a brown hue.

The main ingredients of the sauce include tomatoes, molasses, dates, tamarind, and vinegar.

It’s quite similar in test to Worcestershire Sauce, but more salty.

Brits will typically dollop this stuff onto the likes of bacon sandwiches, fish and chips, or full English breakfasts.

Whilst tasty and all that, be aware there’s a lot of sugar and salt in the condiment. So brown sauce is best enjoyed in moderation.

The History of Brown Sauce

HP Brown Sauce was invented by David Hoe of Bottesford in Leicestershire. He did so to compliment local pork pies he enjoyed scoffing down.

However,  Frederick Gibson Garton bought the recipe in 1895 and named it H.P. Sauce. He named the sauce after London’s Houses of Parliament.

Apparently, he heard brown sauce was popular in parliament. So, chuffed, he went all sycophantic with it.

From 1896, he produced saucy stuff from his small factory in Basford of Nottingham.

But! He sold the recipe to the Midland Vinegar Company for the princely sum of £150.

Apparently, he didn’t want to do that. But he had bills with the owner, Edwin Moore, and so he chucked away his landmark recipe. Foolish boy!

You can still pick up the original bottles of HP Sauce, which at least had Garton’s name printed on their sides.

The bottles also had pictures of the Houses of Parliament on the front for many years.

And, in the 1960 and 1970s, the sauce picked up the name “Wilson’s gravy”. That was after Prime Minister Harold Wilson (1916-1995) apparently said:

“If Harold has a fault, it is that he will drown everything with HP Sauce.”

The popularity of the sauce has continued unabated and there’d probably be national riots if it disappeared at all.

But the condiment definitely has a sort of macho man vibe to it.

Geezers who like hearty pies, beef, beer, and watching football will put hairs on their chest with this stuff.

And you get that hint from this rather sexist 1982 advert for the sauce.

This is the type of advert the right-wing lot droning on and on about “the woke” would use as cannon fodder for their narrative.

“Back in my day, you could have them gross adverts that’d make me chortle. The LEFTIES ruined it! Ee ba gum!” Well, whatever granddad.

Anyway, these days Heinz owns the whole shindig and has done since 1988. It bought the stuff for £199 million!

In 2006, Heinz shifted the factory from Birmingham to Elst in the Netherlands.

At the time that led to something of an outcry.

Production at the Birmingham factory ended on 16th March 2007, after which a wake was held by enraged HP Sauce enthusiasts. We kid you not, that really happened.

And then the factory was demolished in the summer of the same year. Hurray! Oh, sorry… we mean, boo! Hiss! Bloody lefties ruining society!

So yes, fancy that? This most patriotic, nationalistic of sauces is actually produced in the Netherlands and shipped over here. By ‘eck!

Can You Get Addicted to Brown Sauce?

You can indeed get addicted to HP Sauce! But keep in mind it’s a harrowing and life-changing addiction.

Once you’re hooked on the sauce, there’s no coming off it. Addicts down the stuff by the litre. There’s no such thing as, “Just one last spoonful!” It’s always more!

The film Ravenous explored the theory of Wendigo and it’s clear to see here that an addiction to brown stuff will land you in hot bother.

Call your nearest Samaritan helpline if you need assistance. God be with you.

How Do You Make Brown Sauce?

Oi oi! God save the Queen! Here’s Steve Owens to teach you how to make a sauce so that it turns a brown due.

The ingredients you’ll need are:

500 grams of pitted dates
A chopped onion
2 chopped garlic cloves
A chopped chilli
Juice of an orange
Juice of an apple
75ml of vinegar
50 grams of molasses
60 grams of tamarind paste
25 grams of tomato paste

That’s quite a lot, isn’t it? You’ll also need to pile in the sugar and salt to beef up the oomph factor.

Or, you know, just go down to the local shop to buy some from a jar.


    • Yeah, America is famous for its hot sauce obsession. Yesterday I found out chickens don’t have hot food taste receptor things, so can wolf down hot stuff without flinching. Handy for the summer months!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Sounds similar in type to BBQ sauce here in the States — a truly patroitic sauce that’s best used moderately. We do have Worcestershire sauce too; we use it on steak sometimes, good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

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