From crab cakes to Caesar salad to Bloody Marys, many of Summer's staples share one ingredient in common: Worcestershire sauce. But what exactly is it?

Originally bottled in Worcester, England, Worcestershire sauce — commonly referred to as "Worcester sauce" — is a fermented flavoring that contains many ingredients. Lea & Perrins, the original purveyor, keeps its recipe a well-kept secret, but it contains a plethora of items that are left to mature in oak barrels for several months, including malt vinegar, molasses, corn syrup, anchovies, onions, salt, garlic, tamarind, cloves, and chili pepper extract. Worcestershire sauce is frequently added to cocktails, salad dressings, and gravies.

It is used around the globe in dishes ranging from Cantonese dim sum to Welsh rarebit. For those of you who are well-versed in cooking with Worcestershire sauce, what do you use it for? Are you surprised to learn of its manifold ingredients?