|Cooking and basting in circa
1920s Arcadia, Florida (Courtesy of State Archives of Florida)|
The key to good barbecue is a constant basting of the meat while it slow-cooks. No southern barbecue could be considered done unless the meat was “saturated with blistering sauces.” Cooks repeatedly basted the barbecuing meat until it was an “aromatic brown.” Basting sauces differ across the South. A basting recipe the former slaves Louis Hughes recalls from the 1830s contains “butter, pepper, salt, and vinegar.” The butter prevents the baste from rolling completely off the barbecuing meat when it is mopped on. The pit masters who ran the barbecue operation for his master in Virginia “basted the carcasses with” the sauce “until the meat were ready to serve,” says Hughes.
Martha McCulloch-Williams, author of Dishes and Beverages of the Old South, published in 1913, calls for twelve hours of cooking time over hot coals from “midnight to noon next day, usually.” In the book, she shares her father’s sauce that he gleaned from an old plantation pit master. “Two pounds sweet lard, melted in a brass kettle, with one pound beaten, not ground, black pepper, a pint of small fiery red peppers, nubbed and stewed soft in water barely cover, a spoonful of herbs in powder—he would never tell what they were—and a quart and a pint of the strongest apple vinegar, with a little salt.” Combine the ingredients and simmer them for a half an hour while the meat is cooking. Then lightly apply the basting sauce to each side of the meat with a fresh clean mop preventing any from dropping on the coals and thereby causing smoke and ash from forming on the barbecued meat.
Mop Sauce Basting Recipe
Ingredients (for use on 10 lbs. of ribs)
1 bottle of ketchup (8 oz.)
2 cups vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup French mustard
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
Mix ingredients and baste with mop every 15 minutes. Meat cooked over hot coal fire should be done in 45 minutes. When meat is done use old fashioned sauce.
The Baltimore Afro-American, May 3, 1941
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