Secret Barbecue Sauce
The text said, “The barbecue sauce is so good I want to eat it with a spoon….like soup.”
It was the Fourth of July in Round Top. Katie was reporting from the Rifle Hall. I was busy downtown—and missed the opportunity to lick the spoon.
Ever the sleuth, she determined that Eugene “Jeep” Menking was the master chef behind the superlative sauce that graces plates at the Fourth of July celebration hosted by the Round Top Rifle Association. She also confirmed reports that numerous people come to these events carrying large empty containers hoping to score any leftover sauce.
Several months later I arrived at the Menkings’ house in Brenham assuming the recipe for the beloved barbecue sauce was a closely held, generations-old secret that Mr. Jeep chose to share with his community. I was partly right.
“No, I make the sauce because I’m a sucker for volunteering,” Mr. Jeep said laughing. “I inherited the recipe and the job from Oliver Wagner when he couldn’t do it anymore.”
Although Mr. Jeep has been part of the cooking crew for more than 20 years, he took on the responsibility of sauce making just six years ago when he was 87 and vice-president of the Rifle Association.
The sauce, which he characterizes as “ketchup-based with lots of onions and a little oleo,” is tart instead of sweet.
“People come to a barbecue to eat meat not candy,” he said. “Every once in a while I get a little heavy on the lemon juice, but nobody complains.”
It takes about 32 gallons of sauce to feed the crowd. Mr. Jeep cooks the sauce in a 16-gallon wash pot and makes two batches on site the day of the respective event. It’s too much for a home kitchen. All the prep work is done the day before.
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]“It takes a whole lot of onions,” he said.[/pullquote]
The cooking crew arrives at the Rifle Hall at midnight the morning of the event to start the fires. They use oak burned down to coals to cook brisket, pork and sausage.
“Pork is my favorite meat to cook and eat,” Mr. Jeep said. “I think the sauce tastes best on it, too,”
He quickly adds, “Everything they cook is good. It’s just a matter of personal taste.”
His favorite part of the cooking experience is the fellowship.
“The best part of the barbecue and sauce-making is the camaraderie after everything is done,” Mr. Jeep said. “With us, there’s no beer until all the work is done.”
And come to find out there is a secret to the sauce.
“Cook it low and slow because it’s easy to burn,” Mr. Jeep said. “If you’re tempted to hurry, remember good things take time.”
Secret Barbecue Sauce Recipe Available for First-Time
For the first-time, the beloved (and heavily guarded) recipe for the legendary barbecue sauce featured at Round Top Rife Association events is available. The recipe, created by Oliver Wagner, is included in the Bethlehem Lutheran Church’s new cookbook, Faith & Family, Fellowship & Food. The release of the cookbook marks the beginning of the church’s yearlong 150th anniversary celebration.
Cookbooks are available at the church (412 South White Street, Round Top) or by calling the church office at (979) 249-3686. They can be ordered by email at [email protected]. They will also be available at local merchants including the Round Top Mercantile and at special events such as Octobierfest.
The cost is $17. There is an additional $3 shipping charge for mail orders.
For the record, the Rifle Association’s cooking crew agreed to share the recipe, but they didn’t do the math for you. Be prepared to brush up on your fractions, or invite a lot of people to your house for barbecue.