Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Texas BBQ Sauce's Missing Link?

 Rodney Scott's mop sauce at  Scott's Variety
Store,  Hemingway, SC. Rodney slices lemons
 into his sauce, too.
Daniel Vaughn, the newly named "barbecue editor" of Texas Monthly Magazine and author of the forthcoming book The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue, sent me a clipping the other day from a Dallas newspaper from 1937. Piggy-backing off the prospect of visitors from Latin America sampling barbecue at the Greater Texas and Pan-American Exhibition, the writer provides a detailed description of the state of barbecue in Texas in 1937.

Of most interest to me was the description of the sauce. In my own barbecue book, I documented how barbecue sauce in the 19th century was pretty much uniform from Virginia all the way out to Texas, and it was a simple blend of vinger, some sort of fat like lard or butter, salt, and red and black pepper. During the early 20th century, cooks began adding a bunch of other stuff into it, which is how it eventually evolved into the wide variety of high-flavored sauces we enjoy today.

The article Vaughn sent me helps fill in the gaps between old and new versions. It describes barbecue sauce in mid-Texas in the 1930s as follows:
It is made simply of vinegar and hot water, melted butter if the purse allows, or rendered beef suet if not, black and red pepper and salt (pioneer sauce stopped there) and generous dashes of catsup and Worchestershire sauce. Onions and sometimes lemons are sliced into it, and canny masters of the grid thicken it slightly with flour and water as thin gravy is thickened, to hold it smoothly together.
This sauce, or "dip", was used to baste the meat while it cooked, and, the writer notes, it would be served with "pitchers of hot sauce made by pouring a little hot water into leftover dip."

And now I'm hungry for brisket.

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