Appetizers

Rufus Teague’s ‘legacy’ is four sauces with big flavors

Just as barbecue season continues (does it ever really end?), so does our search for great spice rubs and sauces. After years of tasting hundreds of them, we’re favoring on Kit’s Kansas City BBQ Rub by Miner’s Mix (think brown sugar), Roy’s Seasonings and Dizzy Pig rubs.

Sauce-wise, there’s Daddy Sam’s Slop It On B-B-Que Sawce. Sweet meets heat in the molasses-based, blue ribbon-winning concoction, which, the story goes, was created by a certain Daddy Sam Oglesby “on his ranch in West Texas.”

While Daddy Sam’s remains our go-to for the time being, we happily discovered the “born in Kansas City” Rufus Teague line of sauces the last time we stopped by BBQ Pro in Fair Oaks, which stocks just about everything for the backyard pitmaster. It’s also available at Corti Bros. Market and other area stores ($6 to $7 for 16 ounces).

The four flavors are Whiskey Maple, Honey Sweet, Touch O’ Heat and Blazin’ Hot. The sauces come with clever packaging that has a sense of humor, starting with the shape and look of the 16-ounce bottle, which resembles a pint-size whiskey flask. Then there’s the little photo of Rufus Teague himself, a serious-looking guy dressed in what appear to be 19th- or early 20th-century duds.

Rufus’ backstory is on the labeling, including this passage: “Rufus Teague made some sauce. He put some in a jar and shared it with the boys. They kept on painin’ him till he fixed up another batch. Next thing he knew, he’s makin’ sauce all the time. ... Good sauce makes bad barbeque good, and good barbeque gooder.”

The sauce really is outstanding — dark, thick and in-your-face bold with flavors deeper than, uh, a hundred-foot well. That’s because the menu of ingredients is longer than, um, a preacher’s sermon. Depending on the flavor, they include paprika, brown mustard, mustard seed, brown sugar, honey, molasses, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, raisin paste, anchovy paste, tamarind, cayenne pepper, chipotle chili powder, celery seed, orange juice, onion, garlic and “spices you can’t know about.” But no whiskey.

The question is, of course, did Rufus Teague really exist and is the four-flavor line really based on his sauce recipe? After all, where would the good ol’ boys in, say, 1890s to 1930s Kansas lay hands on anchovy paste or tamarind?

I called the parent company in Shawnee, Kan., to ask.

“Rufus Teague was not an actual person, (the concept) is a little something we came up with,” said founder John McCone. “(His portrait) is a couple of different pictures put together and modified. A buddy of mine and I came up with (the backstory), but it does have a bit of true meaning to it, we just kind of twisted it. I came up with all the recipes myself and we did (create the sauces) in a sauce pot.”

The business started “as a fun little thing that just keeps growing,” McCone said, “There are hundreds of barbecue sauces here in Kansas, and I thought, ‘How am I going to compete with that?’ But it’s moving right along and we’re doing better than I ever thought we would.”

Fair enough.

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