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North Carolinians get saucy when it comes to spicing up a plate full of barbecue.  It’s no surprise, then, that a number of sauce companies call North Carolina home.

Tar Heel Pete

From it's name, you might think Texas Pete Hot Sauce hails from somewhere down in the Lone Star State, but it was actually created in Winston-Salem, where it is still bottled today. With what is one of the most-known sauces in the nation, Texas Pete is most definitely a Tar Heel State success story.

In1929, 16-year-old Thad W. Garner was getting ready to graduate from Winston-Salem’s Mineral Springs High School. He had saved $600 driving a school bus and delivering papers, with plans to use the funds for college.

But then Garner heard that the nearby Dixie Pig Barbecue Stand was up for sale and he decided his future was in the kitchen instead of a classroom. Garner paid $300 for the restaurant, and it probably would have continued as a nice local business if it hadn’t been for the handwritten recipe for barbecue sauce that came with the his purchase.

To help his son, Garner's mother, who was affectionately know as “Mother Jane” to family members, began making the sauce in pots on her stove at home. The special sauce caught the attention of a barbecue stand owner in Mount Airy, who started buying it by the gallon to use and sell in his restaurant.

Word began to spread about the special Garner family barbecue sauce, helped along in part by Garner's father, Samuel, who proved to be a natural-born salesman. He began traveling North Carolina’s backroads, touting the sauce and selling it to restaurants and grocery stores. As the sauce’s popularity grew, Garner’s two younger brothers, Harold and Ralph, also pitched into the family business.

By the 1930s, customers were clamoring for a spicier sauce and the Garner family responded with a new mixture of hot peppers, vinegar, and salt that was meant to be not too hot and not too mild. When it came to naming the sauce, the three brothers had agreed on Mexican Joe, but their father, Samuel, felt that it should have an American theme.

While Samuel was looking at his son, Harold (who was nicknamed Pete), he said, “Maybe Texas. But, Texas what?” And that’s how the name Texas Pete was born.

Since then, the T.W. Garner Food Company has built on the fame of Texas Pete with a wide array of sauces and many other products. Reg Garner, Ralph’s son and Samuel’s grandson, is now president. He says, “We are now into our fourth generation of family involvement, as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of our founding. Our parents and grandparents left a legacy of honor, integrity, quality, and service which, in large part, helped us win the Mass Mutual Family Business of the Year Award in 2003.”

Along with the original Texas Pete--designed ”to lasso the flavor of all your favorite dishes”--the Garner line now includes: Texas Pete Pepper Sauce (green pepper sauce); Chicken Wing Barbecue Sauce; Honey Mustard Sauce; Seafood Cocktail Sauce; Darryl’s Barbecue Sauce; chili; jams; jellies; marmalades; preserves; gift boxes; and a selection of Texas Pete gear for hot sauce aficionados.

T.W. Garner Food Company
4045 Indiana Avenue
Winston-Salem, NC  27105
(800) 476-PETE

Dress It Up

In the early-1930s, families weathering the depression had to get creative with their cooking ingredients (or lack thereof). In Randolph County, one family in particular counted on their mother, Mama Thomas, to create interesting meals for her husband, a half dozen hungry boys, and one little girl.

Mama Thomas provided variety to standard dishes by creating a tomato-based sauce that could be added to meats, vegetables, and more. She also made memorable pasta sauce, a unique marinara sauce, and tasty tartar sauce.

These recipes and many more stayed in the Thomas family for decades until one of the sons, Dwight, decided to bring the family sauce secrets to the forefront. “I started bottling Thomas Sauce commercially about 1984, but I’d been eating it since I was eight years old,” says Dwight.

Thomas Sauce is a mild all-purpose sauce that Mama Thomas and her family used on practically everything. It now comes in five sizes and people do literally buy it by the gallon (its largest size). The container for Thomas products bear wedding pictures of Mama and Papa Thomas. Thomas Sauce is still the company’s most popular offering, but many other products also have a loyal following in North Carolina and much further afield.

“Our family of products has grown over the years and we are always looking to bring out more of those kitchen closet recipes,” says Dwight. The line now includes: Thick Thomas Sauce; Mildly Hot Thomas Sauce; Thomas Marinade; Thomas Dressing; Thomas Fish Camp Tartar Sauce; Thomas Fish Camp Cocktail Sauce; Mama Thomas Pasta Sauce; Mama Thomas Marinara; and Papa Thomas Bloody Mary Mix.

Thomas Gourmet Foods
P.O. Box 8822
Greensboro, NC  27419
(800) To-Sauce

Treet Yourself

In 1952, Lenwood M. King Sr., general manager of a small independent grocery store in Wilmington, was working with the owner of the store to make his recipe idea into a unique cooking barbecue sauce with just the right mix of vinegar and spices and no sugar, articfical sweetners, or tomoato products. King's son, Joe, who is now president of the company, worked in the grocery store in the late-50s, starting as a bagger and then moving on to the produce and meat departments. “Daddy would not let me work directly under him. He wanted me to pull my own weight.”

“The barbecue sauce was to be used in a concept new to grocery stores in the area at that time--barbecued chickens for takeout," explains Joe. "In the beginning, 24 chickens were barbecued. This soon grew to five cookings per day, with customers being turned away. Sunday was our biggest day. Customers would come to the store after church and buy a barbecued chicken for their Sunday main dish. One whole chicken was $1.39."

Many customers started asking if they could buy the sauce separately, and a retail size of Carolina Treet Barbecue Sauce was created for consumers later that year. The sauce continued to develop it’s own following and King acquired the brand in 1960.  It’s been in the King family ever since, with Joe's brother, Lenwood King Jr. joining the company in 1991 as vice-president of sales and marketing.

“We take pride in being able to compete with the national companies whose resources are extensive,” says Joe. “While our retail distribution is limited to the southeastern U.S., we do ship Carolina Treet to the rest of the nation, as well as many foreign countries.”

Joe says wheat flour is one of the unique ingredients in Carolina Treet. Because of the flour, Carolina Treet is meant to be cooked on the meat, poultry, or fish that’s being used. When cooked, the sauce’s distinctive flavor is greatly enhanced.

Along with the original Carolina Treet, the company now produces Hickory Smoke Carolina Treet Barbecue Sauce, Big Moe’s Barbecue Sauce (vinegar, sugar, red pepper, mustard, garlic, onions, hot sauce, smoke flavor, Worcestershire sauce, and more), South Carolina Style Barbecue Sauce (vinegar, mustard, sugar, and spices for south of the border barbecue souls), and even a popular line of Aunt Bertie’s Concentrated Iced Teas (which sure do go with some “Carolina Treeted” barbecue!).

Carolina Treet, Inc.
P.O. Box 1017
Wilmington, NC  28402
(800) 616-6344

The Un-Ketchup

Tar Heels know that "cackalacky" is a regional colloquialism for the Carolinas.  So when H. Page Skelton first started making sauce for his friends, they simply named it the, “sauce from Cackalacky,” and the name stuck.

Self-proclaimed Ambassador of Cackalacky and president of Chapel Hill-based Cackalacky Condiment Company, Skelton’s calling card is Cackalacky Premium Hot Sauce, which he started selling in 2000 as one of the first “premium” hot sauces in the nation. This interesting blend of tomatoes, sweet North Carolina-grown yams, savory onions, gourmet mustard, relish, burgundy wine, tangy key lime essence, secret spices, and, of course, aged fiery chiles, is seriously spicy--and addictive as an addition to almost anything.

The sauce has garnered many awards, including Chile Pepper Magazine’s Fiery Food Challenge, the Texas Fiery Food Shoot-Out, and two awards at the Barbecue Cook Off at the Official NFL Tailgate Party during this year’s Super Bowl.

Cackalacky Premium Hot Sauce fans also rave about Cackalacky Combo Condiment, which Skelton introduced in 2003 at Durham’s famed World Beer Festival. This is most definitely a combination of great ingredients, including tomatoes, mustard, onions, pickles, and more. “It’s deeply delicious and nicely spicy as a dressing, dip, or topping,” says Skelton. “It’s also good for you, too--with nothing the least bit artificial or phony.”

Skelton thought of the idea while standing in line at a Durham Bulls game, where he wanted to put the works on his hot dog. “The concept hit me. Wham! This line could move a whole faster if they put everything in one great big jar.” He was so obsessed with the concept that he started work on the prototype that night.” Cackalacky Combo is now served at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

With the initial success of Cackalacky Premium Hot Sauce and growing interest in the unique Cackalacky Combo Condiment, Skelton has yet another North Carolina saucy success story. In less than three years, Skelton’s company has grown from a small home-based business into an industry contender with two factories pumping out Cackalacky products to meet demand and other exciting condiments in the works. “I can’t believe that the great marketing minds at Heinz and Kraft didn’t think of the Combo Condiment before I did,” says Skelton. We have discovered the Un-ketchup!”

Cackalacky, Inc.
P.O. Box 4901
Chapel Hill, NC  27515-4901
(919) 967-4996


Texas Pete Nachos

*Plain or seasoned tortilla chips.
*Shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, Cheddar, or Sharp)
*Texas Pete Hot Sauce

Spread tortilla chips evenly on a microwaveable plate. Sprinkle with your choice of shredded cheese. Splash on Texas Pete Hot Sauce to taste. Microwave for one minute or slightly longer, until cheese is thoroughly melted. Cheese will be hot!

--from T.W. Garner Food Company

Main Dishes

Thomas Sauce Pork Roast

Place 1/2 cup of Thomas Sauce in a large Ziploc bag. Add the roast and marinate overnight. When ready to cook, roll wet meat in seasoned flour and roast as usual. The drippings will make a great sauce, but add another teaspoon or so of Thomas Sauce just to be sure!

--from Thomas Gourmet Foods

Main Dishes

Fried Cackalacky Catfish Nuggets

*2 1/2 lbs. catfish filets
*1/4 cup Cackalacky Hot Sauce
*1/2 cup water
*1/4 cup mustard
*1 cup plain flour
*1 cup white corn meal
*2 teaspoons salt
*1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

Cut the catfish fillets into two- or three-ounce pieces. In a mixing bowl, combine the Cackalacky Hot Sauce, mustard, and water. Then, marinate the catfish pieces in the mixture for about 30 minutes. Refrigerate. In a separate bowl, blend the dry ingredients until well mixed. Roll the marinated fish pieces in the dry mixture. Then, fry in a heavy pot of hot oil (350-375 degrees) until golden brown.

--from Cackalacky Inc.

Main Dishes

Carolina Treet Oven-Barbecued Chicken

This is the easiest way to use Carolina Treet Barbecue Sauce. Dip chicken pieces in Carolina Treet. Place in a foil-lined pan (for easy clean-up) and bake at 350 degrees for 75-90 minutes. You can remove the pieces about halfway through and dip in Carolina Treet again for a more robust flavor.

--from Carolina Treet, Inc.