Tennessee Tomatoes Meet Mexican Taco Sauce

Sandy Laws

A soldier in World War II, Kenneth Byrd, was stationed in Texas where he became friends with another soldier whose parents were of Mexican descent.  One evening this family invited him to a meal where he had his first taste of the best taco sauce he had ever eaten.  This was Kenneth’s first encounter with a Mexican dish.  The family was gracious enough to give him the recipe, and when he was discharged from the service in the 1940s, he brought the recipe back home to Jonesborough, Tennessee.

When Kenneth married, his wife passed this novel recipe to her sister, Lois Broyles, in the South Central Community of Washington County.  When Lois’s son Ronnie married Jan Kilday Broyles, she loved the sauce so much that she just had to have the recipe.  Twenty plus years later, Jan still uses the recipe and swears that it is the best taco sauce she has “ever had in her mouth.”

Jan stated that the only alteration she has made is the type of shortening used, and a dash of sugar.  She uses Crisco, whereas Ronnie’s mother used her own home-rendered lard.  Jan adds the sugar to offset the tomato juice.  She uses her own homemade tomato juice in the recipe, with tomatoes she grows in her garden.  At age 10 she learned how to make the juice from her mother, Reba Ripley Kilday, a Greene County native who in turn learned it from her mother, Pauline Ripley.  Pauline was born May 21, 1898, and probably learned to make the recipe from her mother.  Whoever would have thought that this 110-plus-year-old recipe that has been handed down through three generations of Greene and Washington Countians would eventually end up in a taco sauce recipe that made its way from Texas in the 1940s, most likely by way of Mexico, to Washington County, Tennessee?

2 tablespoons Crisco

3 heaping tablespoons self-rising flour

3 tablespoons chili powder

¼ gallon tomato juice

Dash of sugar

In a pan, melt Crisco.  Add flour and make a roux until the flour starts to turn brown.  Add chili powder.  Add tomato juice and sugar.  Simmer until thickened.

Tomato Juice

Core tomatoes but do not peel.  Place in a pot with a small amount of water  and bring to a hard boil.  Remove from heat and strain through a metal funnel using a mallet to press tomatoes through the holes.  Reheat strained juice to a boil.  Pour juice into heated canning jars and seal.