Presidential Mumbo Jumbo

On February 11, 1731 in the County of Westmoreland, Virginia, Mary Ball Washington gave birth to a son, George. At the time, the Julian calendar and the Annunciation style of enumerating years were the prevailing fashion and Later, in 1752 the Gregorian Calendar was implemented in the British empire and this date became February 22, 1732. Under the influence of William Fairfax, George’s brothers brother-in-law, he followed his career path as a surveyor and soldier – ultimately becoming a senior officer in the French and Indian war, and finally being chosen to be commander in chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolution by the Second Continental Congress. Soon after, George took the office of the First President of the United States in 1789.

In a one room cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky on February 12, 1809, Nancy Hanks Lincoln gave birth to her second son, Abraham. He was so named after his paternal grandfather Captain Abraham Lincoln, killed by Indians in 1786. As a child, Abraham attained a reputation for brawn and audacity after a very competitive wrestling match with the renowned leader of a group of ruffians known as “the Clary’s Grove boys”. In 1846 he was elected to the US House of Representatives and served a two year term. On November 6, 1860, Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States, beating Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. He was the first president from the Republican Party.

Combining these two U.S. historically significant births into a single official state holiday is a 1980’s push from advertisers. The actual holiday is just Washington’s birthday and it was implemented in 1879. Poor Abe never got an official holiday commemorating his birth.

Why all of this dalliance with historical events? Because Presidents Day is a day of rest and relaxation for me, and that generally means barbeque. Digging for inspiration with my newfound knowledge, I thought it would be appropriate for me to look to Washington D.C. for some barbeque ideas. I was naturally curious what sort of barbeque they cooked there and what I found was just as interesting as my history readings (at least to me).

There is a sauce in Washington D.C. that the locals call “Mumbo Sauce”. I had to find out more about it. This is really a very simple vinegar/sweet sauce with a little tomato paste for backup. The origins can be traced back to Chicago, and it appears to have migrated to D.C. It looks and tastes very much like sweet and sour sauce that you might get in a Chinese dive restaurant. Think of it as a cross between barbeque sauce and sweet and sour sauce. In D.C. they use it on Fried Chicken, French Fries, Fried Rice and Shrimp. I’m guessing it goes on a lot more than just that. Being one to twist something enough to shoehorn it into my own use, I thought it would make one hell of a barbequed rib glaze. And I was right.

Here’s how this Mumbo Sauce stuff is made.

  •  4 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

Stir all the ingredients together in a saucepan until smooth. Simmer for 20 minutes, whisking to prevent scorching. Let it cool and stick it in the fridge. It’ll last for about a month, but I doubt it will make it that long. You’ll find lots of uses for it.

I seasoned a rack of spare ribs I had trimmed with some salt, Chinese 5 spice, sugar and pepper after first rubbing them with some sesame oil.  I prepped these for the Pit Barrel Cooker with the requisite hooks.

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Once the pit was ready, I hung them and closed the lid – ready to contemplate the thin blue curl.  I contemplated for about 5 minutes and promptly fell asleep.  When I awoke, I tested the ribs for bendiness.  This let’s you know when they are done – hold them by one end with a pair of tongs and they should beeeennnnd with great flexibility.  They were ready.  I took them off the pit and squirted honey down their length, brushing it on.  I followed up with a nice coating of Mumbo Sauce and rehung them on the pit for another half an hour.

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I pulled them off and sliced the individual ribs.  They were sweet and tender with just enough tug to them.  I don’t know if the ever do this in D.C., but they should.  Happy Presidents day.

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About The Quincho Project

Dedicated to the pursuit of all forms of live fire cooking and the thoughtful prose it evokes. Whether prodding at a dying fire, patiently waiting on a perfect steak or simply contemplating a thin blue curl of smoke - I am truly at peace.
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2 Responses to Presidential Mumbo Jumbo

  1. Very nice, Mr Quincho! A history lesson fused into gastronomy, if that’s the right word. Nicely done. I think I could get into that Mumbo sauce. Never had it before that I know of. And the ribs look great, as always. I like how you make good use of that pit barrel too. Good times.

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