Spring has sprung guys! We grilled out last night for the first time, and it was so nice. Let's be honest, there's nothing better than lighting up the grill and sipping a beer on a warm Spring evening.
Sid Feagin is the chef and brains behind the Low Country Moppin' Sauce Gullah Gravy. Jimmy and I have been enjoying the sauce for quite some time. We put it on everything! Last night I put it on my cheeseburger. No joke. It's spicy and tart with a bit of a kick to it. It's become a staple on our kitchen table. I reached out to Sid to ask him a few questions about Gullah Gravy, and I loved all his answers. Since Jimmy and I are not amazing grillers, I loved reading his 5 tips to better grilling! Read the tips and Q & A below :)
5 Tips for Better Grilling
Tip 1: Just say “no” to low and slow. Low and slow is how you make jerky and personally I don’t like dry BBQ. I’ve tasted so much bad BBQ because it was cooked “low and slow” and was basically dehydrated, burnt, or over smoked. For a bone-in pork shoulder I usually start out fat side up and scored at 450 degrees. I then reduce the temperature and let the mass of the meat bring the grill temperature down to about 300 degrees where I will hold the temp and cook it until the bone slips out freely. For ribs I will start out around 350 degrees and work it down to 200 for a tender finish. By starting at a high temp, it allows the natural sugar in the meat to be extracted and caramelized so you end up with a very natural bark while the finishing temp cooks the meat to internal perfection and maximum juiciness.
Tip 2: Whatever meat you are grilling, take it out of the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to cook it, especially steak. This simple step allows the meat to cook more evenly and keeps the outside from being overcooked and the inside from being undercooked.
Tip 3: Careful with the rubs! There’s a myth that you have to coat your meats with a million spices and tons of sugar to get the coveted bark (see Tip #1). It’s simply false and there’s nothing worse than BBQ where you can’t taste the meat or you taste burnt herbs and spices. I use a very simple rub and it goes like this: evenly coat the meat with kosher salt followed by coarse ground pepper, fresh is always best. Stop here for steak, chicken, fish and seafood. For pork my next layer is an even coat of paprika and every now and then I might add a very small amount of brown sugar. Remember, spices are to accentuate the meat and should be used sparingly.
Tip 4: About half way through your cooking, start mopping on the Gullah Gravy Low Country Moppin’ Sauce. The flavor just gets better and better as your food cooks. It truly is amazing, especially on chicken which is a recipe I have not gotten tired of in my 46 years and it’s really my go-to favorite when I want something simple and great.
Tip 5: Don’t over think grilling. It’s the most primitive form of cooking and mankind has been cooking this way for thousands of years. The TV personalities and competition folks come up with some of the most ridiculous concepts and ideas that cause a lot of angst among the home cooks for sure. While I appreciate the entertainment, ultimately BBQ and grilling in general is a “soul food” experience and you should just be free to kick it back with a cold beer or bourbon and not worry about over complicating things. In the end, good fellowship, good food, and good cheer are what it’s about. They can keep the showmanship.
Q & A with Sid Feagin
What inspired you to make and bottle Gullah Gravy?
In 2009 I started hearing this inner voice that just wouldn’t go away and kept getting stronger and stronger, tugging at me relentlessly. I had a failed attempt in 1995 to launch the sauce so I tried to bury the inner voice in my heart and not surface the difficulties of that time period or the struggle to launch a food business. Finally, one night as my wife Tricia and I were preparing to go to bed I mentioned the sauce and story to her. We had been married for 6 years and it was the first time she had ever heard of the sauce. A few weeks later I cooked 8 gallons in our garage and put it up in Mason jars, a far cry from the empty liquor bottles of the past. This batch was cooked from the recipe that I had hand-written around the time I was 12 or 13 while cooking with my grandfather, Samuel Carlton Feagin. Two weeks later I had to make 8 more gallons to satisfy the request of friends who tried the first batch.
What has been your biggest success so far, and what advice can you offer other business owners?
Our biggest success by far has been getting over all of the hurdles to provide a commercially viable product that is representative of my grandfather’s recipe. It’s really hard to scale up recipes to the quantities that are produced commercially and preserve their integrity, and then there is all the government red tape and capital requirements. The odds are really stacked against you when you think about it. Nevertheless, there’s something very satisfying about walking into a store and seeing your product on a shelf and the vulnerability that comes with the fact that anyone can literally walk in and buy it. The first impression is no longer me talking about it, it’s now the bottle, the label, the color, the story, or someone’s word of mouth.
From a sales perspective, I have to say that our entry into Smith’s ACE Hardware has been amazing. They were our first retail outlet to carry the sauce and the feedback I have received from customers has been phenomenal and sales are strong at both locations, outstripping some stalwart brands. It’s not uncommon for me to receive text messages, emails, etc. about how much people really enjoy and love the sauce. It’s these moments when people, complete strangers, take time out of their busy schedules to express their genuine gratitude that you can look back and say it was well worth the effort.
What advice would you offer to other business owners?
That’s a good question. My advice to other business owners or anyone starting a business like ours is to make sure you have a passion for your product and can genuinely connect with your niche on a personal level. I think that without these two fundamental blocks, you won’t have the drive or tenacity to persevere through all the challenges. Also having a supportive spouse and, in my case, her blessing and support has been critical. If not for Tricia, I would have given up again. She was there to pick me up during some really really low points along this journey. One in particular was our first production run after we had finally cleared all the government red tape and solidified the supply-chain, etc. Our producer at that time basically botched 40 gallons of sauce. I felt like I had been punched in the gut not to mention the investment that was lost. It took several weeks along with her encouragement and that of my daughters, Grace and Lillie, to get back up. At that point, I did it for the three of them and some very close friends who were very encouraging, not for me.
So your grandfather was the one who made this sauce and you helped him? Can you share a quick story about you, him and the sauce?
Well, let me start by saying my grandfather was a simple man with a 6th grade education who loved his bourbon a little too much, always had a cigar in hand and worked at the Georgetown Steel Mill. During his off time he built flat bottom boats that were perfect for traversing through the narrow swamps of the SC Low Country and of course he made his sauce. During the summer months from the time I was about 5 until 11 I would visit my grandparents in Andrews, SC. Granddad always included me in his sauce making and boat building “hobbies.” I was always the “official stirrer” for the sauce. In 1979 I went to live with my grandparents permanently and we made the sauce often because the demand was so high and I was expected to work to help provide for the family needs. Circa 1980 my grandfather had a heart attack and nearly died. I think that moment in his life was a catalyst to hand down the recipe. I was roughly 12 at the time and remember it well when I asked him if he would pass it down. Without hesitation he told me it was time to pass the sauce on to me. He said, “Listen carefully and write down everything I tell you.” I quickly grabbed the first thing I could find to write on. Ironically it was the wrapper from the Sunday Charleston News and Courier paper. I ripped it off and flipped it over and captured every detail meticulously. Through some miracle, that recipe survived all these years. It is now safely locked away in our safe deposit box and willed to Grace and Lillie. Incidentally, it wasn’t until I pulled the recipe out in 2009 that I realized on the backside of the recipe, the words “Contents Very Valuable” was printed. It gave me chills and was really special because in all these years, including 1995, I had never noticed it.
While my grandfather didn’t have much in the way of material things, what he gave me in drive, work ethic and the sauce recipe is far more than he could have ever imagined.
One last thought to give you some idea about how protective my grandfather was of his recipe: My dad never knew that the recipe had been handed down to me and was certain it went to the grave when my grandfather died. From 2010 to 2011 dad was visiting us frequently in Atlanta for medical treatments. During one of his visits, I made a batch of sauce with him watching me. To hear him recount the memories as each ingredient was added and the subsequent aroma changed was really gratifying and brought back a lot of memories that I had forgotten. He passed away on December 18, 2011 but not before telling me how proud he was of me and how grateful he was that the sauce had survived all these years unbeknownst to him and was being enjoyed by a fourth generation.
What would your last meal be? (click links to see recipes!)
If it’s my last meal then I’m going all out! I have always envisioned a Low Country feast with all the friends I’ve been blessed to have who have helped make this dream a reality. Chandeliers and lights would be hanging from live oak trees. Men and women would be in fine southern attire. Tables and chairs would be covered with fine linens and the menu would feature a pit cooked whole hog sopping wet with Gullah Gravy Low Country Moppin’ Sauce. Also served would be chicken perlou, Frogmore Stew, and an oyster roast complimented with a mix of 1 part Gullah Gravy, 1 part beer, horseradish, and a dash of Tabasco hot sauce. For sides I would serve my collard greens, my mom’s South Georgia slaw, and plenty of cornbread and hushpuppies. Rounding out the feast would be an endless supply of Blanton’s bourbon, extra sauce, and live music featuring everything from shag, beach music and southern rock to jazz and swing.
Can you provide a link to a recipe that is the ideal companion for Gullah Gravy?
I mentioned my go-to favorite being grilled chicken with Gullah Gravy Low Country Moppin’ Sauce. I simply can’t think of a better companion or food marriage if I may say. It’s amazing how good grilled chicken taste with Gullah Gravy and it’s the reason that for so many years, churches and schools used our sauce for their BBQ chicken plate fundraisers. They always sold out.
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