by Edward Southerland and Gary Carter
In John Ford’s movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, a young reporter learns that the central truth of the legend that has earned Jimmy Stewart’s character fame and honor is not quite the way the story really happened. The reporter asks his editor what he should do. Without hesitation the editor replies, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” So let it be with PO Sam and his legendary spicy brown gravy barbecue sauce.
PO Sam’s Creation
The sign out front read PO Sam’s. His friends called him Po’ Sam, like the New Orleans sandwich called the po’ boy. Other folks called him just PO. As long as they went away happy after eating some barbecue with his legendary “spicy brown gravy” sauce, PO Sam was happy. And by that criterion, he was a happy man indeed.
Making brown gravy out of the drippings of beef is not new. Cooks have been doing that since cooks have been doing that, but putting brown gravy on barbecue is uncommon, and the spices and the this and that added by PO Sam to make his secret sauce makes the idea even more intriguing. The taste was something that stayed in one’s memory, a perfect marriage of fat and flavor with a smoky intensity. No three-star Michelin kitchen could have done it better.
Are you a brown gravy sauce fan, or do you think red is the only way to go? Leave a Comment and share your favorite sauce recipe or tell us about your choice for best BBQ Joint, Shack, or Stand in Texoma.
For five decades, barbecue lovers in Texoma took the Colbert exit off U.S. 69 and stopped by PO Sam’s place for a brown-gravy sauce fix. He may have had another type of sauce, but if so, no one but a stranger to these parts would ask for it. If a patron wanted sauce to take home, PO Sam would pour some into whatever container was available, from a bottle to a barrel, and figure out a price.
Over the years, PO Sam’s sauce became a link joining folks from this area with a common memory, a shared experience. Bump into someone from this part of the world in another part of the world, and if the conversation turned to food and recollections of home, someone would mention PO Sam and his wondrous brown gravy sauce.
For fifty years PO Sam retreated to a small brick-walled room behind his place in Colbert to call up whatever mystical incantations he added to the carefully guarded list of ingredients needed to make his sauce. When he died, sometime in the 1980s—he was in his eighties—the recipe for the sauce died with him. Or did it?
Several of the joints, shacks, and stands visited by Texoma Living! in our feature article “Texoma’s Favorite BBQ Joints, Stands & Shacks,” offered a spicy brown gravy sauce that they claim is a direct descendent of PO Sam’s elixir. There’s a nephew who said he learned the secrets at PO’s side, an old fellow who used to help PO Sam smoke his brisket and a cook who used to live in Colbert and said he knew the sauce by the taste on his tongue.
Unbiased, empirical testing (We tried all of them. Tough work, but someone has to sacrifice for science.) show that they cannot all be PO Sam’s famous sauce for no other reason than that all the sauces are different, sometimes not by much, but different just the same. They may be related, but they’re not blood kin.
But then who can really say what the real thing was? It has been three decades since PO Sam made his gravy, and it is hard to imagine a palate so sophisticated as to remember the nuances of his flavors today.
Love the spicy brown or hate it, it’s definitely a delicacy that one can appreciate if for no other reason than the time it takes to make. It starts with up to twenty-four hours of smoking the meat to produce the drippings; then come the flour, the water, the cayenne pepper, the black pepper, and the secret ingredients that make it special.
If you would like to make a batch of spicy brown gravy sauce the next time you barbecue, here is a recipe you could try. Is it the real true absolutely authentic thing? Who knows? You will have to channel the spirit of PO Sam to answer that question.
Spicy Brown Gravy Sauce
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup warm water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp ketchup
1 tsp mustard
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 quart of smoked brisket drippings
1 tbsp cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper to taste
Add ingredients to the smoked brisket drippings while warm and whisk briskly over simmering heat.
Featured Archive Story
Kay B. pours tea from the silver set her parents gave her when she got married. “This is not a fancy one,” she says. “It’s just what people used. Whitewright had a lot of teas when I moved here in 1947. In those days, people dressed up on a daily basis. So, of course, we were always dressed up for teas.”
By Staff Report
The Texoma Council of Governments (TCOG,) celebrated its 40th Anniversary with more than 360 guests attending an awards gala on June 19 at Austin College. The event was dubbed the “Legacy of Leadership”. The event was also a quiet farewell by Executive Director Frances Pelley, who notified her Board of Directors that after 30 years of service, she would be leaving the organization.
Looking for the Printed Version?You can find a complete set of Texoma Living! Magazine in the library at Austin College.
Featured Archive Story
By Ginger Mynatt on December 1, 2008
On a winter day, when the wind whips across the open fields on Schneider Road near Howe, Terry Irvin runs across the back yard to her greenhouse and checks on the hundreds of tiny herbal seedlings that bask under grow lights. She waters them and adjusts the lights, and when it is really cold, she creates a small plastic tent to keep them warmer.
By Dan Acree on December 1, 2007
During the day Wendy “Bo” Mueller, 46, is a sales assistant in the advertising department of CableOne Advertising in Sherman. At night and on weekends she becomes Texoma’s newest soap star—mixing up batches of exotic, all-natural, aromatic soaps in her rural Denison soap kitchen.