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Friday, June 20, 2014

Evansville's Big "B" Pit Cooked Pork, "barbecue in a jar"



Here I am, before dinner

When I was growing up, my mother tended to shy away from the more processed meats for dinner, such as Manwich sloppy joes, canned chili and spam. Of course, like all kids I did eat my share of hotdogs.

With those memories in mind, we recently decided to try barbecue in a jar.

While passing through Evansville, Ind., we were intrigued by Big “B” Pit Cooked Pork with Barbecue Sauce, a popular local staple found in area Schnucks, Wesselmans and Beuhlers grocery stores. You’ll find it in the same aisle as the barbecue sauces. It also has been sold on the QVC home shopping network.

Big “B” Pit Cooked Pork has been made in Evansville since 1962, the same year John Bonenberger bought Baugh’s Barbecue restaurant, a family-owned diner since the 1920s. He renamed the place Big “B” Barbecue.

While the restaurant is now a memory, the family business continues to produce its jarred meats and sauce. The Bonenberger family also bottles its tomato-based sauce as well as sauces for other private labels across the country through their company, FarmBoy Food Services.

In 1965, Bonenberger became the sole owner of Farm Boy Food Services, but a year later he passed away suddenly. His two sons, Robert and Richard, run the business today. Today, Farm Boy is part of UniPro, the largest food distribution cooperative in the world.

According to a company profile in Evansville Business, the pork for Big “B” barbecue arrives in 2,000-pound bins and is cooked separately from the sauce, which is prepared in 500-gallon kettles in about 20 minutes. Afterwards, the meat and sauce are combined and packaged for distribution in two-pound, 32-ounce jars.

Big "B" Barbecue on a bun.

While the sauce recipe supposedly is a family secret, the basic ingredients – in this order – are pork, water, tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, salt, flavorings, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, vegetable gum, spices, mustard, paprika and onions.

Sounds yummy, right?

Well, not really, but our jar of Big “B” Pit Cooked Pork was better than expected.

Obviously, it is a convenient dinner option for families, but not a substitute for going out to the barbecue pit. We warmed our jar’s contents on top of the stove and ate it on buns with some pickles. Like other canned or jarred meats, Big “B” is somewhat salty and the sauce lacks a strong flavor profile.

If you were looking for a hint of smoke, you must have been dreaming.

But people around Evansville must really like Big “B” Pit Cooked Pork, because the locally owned and operated company’s been around for more than 50 years. The sauce and pork can only be distributed locally, but the company will ship it to fans. If you become an approved vendor, Farm Boy Food Services (812-425-5231 or spastore@farmboyfoodservice.com) may send it to you.

9 comments:

  1. I was wondering how this is......Big “B” Pit Cooked Pork has been made in Evansville since 1962, the same year John Bonenberger bought Baugh’s Barbecue restaurant, a family-owned diner since the 1920s. He renamed the place Big “B” Barbecue. When after it was Baugh's you find this......Baugh's was opened in 1934 by Floyd Baugh, who had arrived in Evansville that year from Kentucky. Baugh sold the business to Bruce Hall and J.B. Render, who sold it two years later, in March of 1946, to Kenneth A. McKinney, who renamed it Mac's Bar-B-Q. McKinney sold it to his nephew William Skelton who cooked for and owned Mac's Famous BBQ 1967-1980 until he closed it. Enquiry minds would like to know.......



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    1. Hi. Thank you for sharing that. I googled Mac's BBQ and found this article. The Big B looks just like it. I hope it's just as good. We had that a lot as kids. I can't find a place to buy it online. Might have to make a road trip.

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  2. Editor's note: Obviously, there is more of the story to tell, Mr. Anonymous. I chose to focus on the more general story, using the facts I had available to me. Thanks for providing additional information.

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  3. Where can I find this product in Indianapolis?

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    1. Hi Ron,
      Thanks for reading. The only place where I have seen this product is in the greater Evansville area. I have never seen it in Central Indiana, which is why I found it so curious. If you decide to take a road trip to get some, please write back with your thoughts!

      George Vlahakis

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  4. You either love it or you don't. I grew up on it and the unique taste and very lean pork make it a great,easy dinner meal when you do not want to fool around with the grill. Now I live out of the country and wish I could get it. It is so unique that I do not think anyone else packages their BBQ in a glass jar while saving the flavor!

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  5. I live in the Vigo & Sullivan co area. Where can I buy it in my area?

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  6. Interestingly enough, I do know some of the history behind Big B as well. The original cook and owner of the recipe was a man by the name of Edwin Meese. He sold the recipe with an agreement to never cook barbecue in Evansville again. He moved out near Chandler on Heim Road and opened a small country store and lunch counter, and guess what, made pit barbecue again. That would have been around 1967. He purchased the land for the store from my grandfather.

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