Back in the 70’s and 80’s when I helped my grandfather make our Low Country Moppin’ Sauce, we would go down to the local Red & White or Piggly Wiggly grocery store in his ’64 rusty white Chevy pickup truck complete with side-steps. There, we would purchase the ingredients quite easily. In those days, products like vinegar, ketchup, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce were sold in bulk quantities and made with natural ingredients that you could actually recognize and pronounce .
When I decided to make my grandfather’s mopping sauce almost 30 years after the last batch of sauce he and I produced together, I wasn’t expecting to run into any issues buying the ingredients for the standard 8-gallon recipe. Surprisingly, I was unable to find real apple cider vinegar in gallon jugs or #10 cans of ketchup made with sugar. Everything had corn syrup, artificial flavorings, or was chemically derived like the vinegars which were acetic acid with caramel coloring made to look like the real thing. After visiting five different stores, I pulled together the ingredients that I needed except for the ketchup which I eventually conceded would have to be the kind with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
For several years I produced our sauce in very small batches. Many people would ask me “when can I purchase your sauce in a store?” My answer was always, “we are working on it but there are a lot of issues in scaling the business.” While certification of a food product can be a lengthy process, I wasn’t willing to compromise on the quality of the ingredients. I had substituted butter for the margarine to get rid of the hydrogenated oil and worked with a food expert to develop proprietary methods to keep the butter, as best as possible, from separating in the sauce. Eventually we were able to source natural ketchup in bulk quantity as well. In the end, several years of work went into developing a supply-chain to ensure that we were sourcing only the finest, authentic ingredients without HFCS, gluten, or artificial ingredients.
I am proud of the work we accomplished to provide a product that I don’t mind serving my own children and that preserves a true, old-fashioned southern taste. The question I am often asked now is not so much “where can I buy your product” but “when will you be in Walmart?” As I scanned the shelves of their BBQ sauces one evening, I looked at one national best-selling brand. The first ingredient was High Fructose Corn Syrup. It also contained flavorings and regular corn syrup along with sodium benzoate. I thought, no wonder they can retail their 16oz product for under $2. It’s simply HFCS, flavoring, and preservatives and when that stuff is bought by the train-car load, it’s dirt cheap. The truth is, I can not compete in that market nor do I want to. I’m not willing to compromise on the quality of our sauce or my family’s name for money. As a result, our focus is on small stores that appreciate authentic products and have customers that don’t mind paying a fair price for a quality product. Incidentally, if you experience some separation in our product, it’s normal because I refuse to use chemical binders to prevent it. Shake well and enjoy a product that is made with the best ingredients that we can find.