“They’re using 50 gallons a month. They’re keeping me busy, and they also sell our bottles there,” Swindell said. “Our barbecue sauce comes in three different levels of heat. I make a mild, a bold, which is a little bit spicier, and then a hot.”
“We use it on briskets, pulled pork, ribs, chicken, turkey, bologna and sausage,” said January McKinney, manager of the Cockeyed Pig. “That’s the only sauce we use. Richard basically makes good sauce that we like.”
The restaurant also sells Ol’ South Fine Swine to the public at $5.80 per 16-ounce bottle.
“They love it. We have nothing but great reviews about the sauce. People say they come just for the sauce,” McKinney said.
Swindell swears the main factors in having a flavorful barbecue sauce are the ingredients, but he is not about to divulge too much about his recipe. He will reveal that he has six dry ingredients and six wet ingredients in the sauce.
As for the flavor, he describes it as, “Mostly a tomato taste with a little zing of apple cider vinegar in it.“I use sorghum (from Muddy Pond, Tenn.). I think it has a better flavor to it. Plus the dark brown sugar I use is different from any found around here,” said Swindell, who also uses his sauce in dip and cheese ball recipes and to zip up baked beans.
He and his wife, Rhonda, who teaches special education in Portland, produce and bottle their sauce at the Cumberland Culinary Center.
“I wanted to put it out to the public,” Swindell recollected. “I started calling around, and a person said, ‘Cumberland University has a kitchen. You need to call Sue Sykes.’ After explaining to her what I wanted to do, my wife and I went over there in September, and we cooked 40 to 45 gallons at a time.
“We cook and bottle and do the whole thing there. You can rent that facility for a small amount per hour. We cooked and bottled 500 bottles in one day in eight to nine hours.”
Sykes, manager of the Cumberland Culinary Center, said they have five small businesses using the growing facility. These include Swindell’s R&R Condiments, Ron Reed’s Signature Barbeque Sauce Company, BBQ Fight Club, Smokey’s Gourmet and Tennessee Gourmet.
The culinary center, Sykes said, helps small businesses by “taking a home recipe and turning it into a formula that allows them to provide safe products and, hopefully, make money.”
Swindell is striving to plant his barbecue sauce in some major stores, but for now, besides the Cockeyed Pig, it is sold at Haebeggar’s Amish Market in the Mennonite community near Scottsville, Ky.; at Cope’s Custom Slaughtering in Sparta; and at All Sauced Up in Gatlinburg.
Of the latter business, the entrepreneur said, “We went up there in October, and I told them what I was doing. I asked, ‘What would I have to do to get my product on your shelf?’ He said, ‘Just bring a sample.’ ‘I said, ‘Wait just a minute.’ I had several cases in the car and gave him some samples. He said, ‘We’ll call you in a little while and let you know.’
“He called back two hours later and said, ‘We’ll take six cases.’ That’s the way it’s sort of been. We’ve not had the first negative response,” said Swindell, who works part time at Manheim Auto Auction.
“I sell to a lot of guys I work with at the car auction. I have a lot of repeat customers. The folks at the restaurant told me, ‘You’re not going to believe this, but we saw one guy putting your barbecue sauce on his toast.’”
When diners ask for it at breakfast, that’s quite a compliment to a budding barbecue sauce just now zinging its way to plates and palates.
Feature Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.