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Alabama/The Mobile News

English discovers secret in Soakin' Sauce

12/31/00

The scent wafting through the Montgomery Civic Center during the Buckmasters Expo hooked my quickly, enticing me to push through the crowd to the Original Soakin' Sauce booth.

There sat Mark English of Tuscaloosa, handing out morsels of pork and venison cooked in his marinade.

After the taste test, it was obvious why there was such a crowd.


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"That show was so successful that we were selling out every night," English said. "I didn't really know how well it would go, so I just came down with one trailer full. I'd have to go back to Tuscaloosa every night to get more."

English, nicknamed the "Soakin' Sauce Boss," is still surprised by the way his product has been accepted, especially by consumers of wild game.

"I'd been making this for friends and families for about eight years," he said. "And I kept tweaking it until I thought I got it right.

"My wife, who was about to retire from schoolteaching, thought we ought to market it. After a lot of thought and prayer, we decided to try it."


Here comes the judge But English didn't go into the venture blindly. He'd been a certified judge for years at Memphis in May, a huge barbecue fest in the Mississippi River city.

"When you're a certified judge, you start picking up things," he said. "You listen to this, listen to that. Then you start working with it and get it the way you want it."

English settled on the product name, hired two people and found sources for bottling equipment on the Internet. He went through the licensing process for food products, which included the FDA-required nutritional facts.

Then English heard about the Atlanta Gourmet Food Show and reserved a booth.

"We had never even sold a bottle when we went to the Atlanta show," he said. "We just knew there were supposed to be 10,000 buyers at the show. We needed to figure out where the learning curve started. Went over there very humbly, and they really humbled us."

Humbled, as in awards. English's product won the Best New Sauce Award and Best Low-Fat Healthy Product.

"The thing about Original Soakin' Sauce is there is no fat, no MSG (monosodium glutamate), no artificial preservatives," English said. "When you go in a store, they've got a shelf with 100 marinades. They average between 600 and 1,800 milligrams of sodium. This has 220.

"The key to this product is it's a marinade, but it's also a tenderizer. Apple cider vinegar is the base ingredient and it's a natural tenderizer. The vinegar will break down the outer fibers of the meat and allows spices to get down into the meat."

Uses vary widely English said customers use the marinade on wild game, beef, pork, chicken, seafood and even vegetables.

"One guy called me and told me he took it to Florida and tried it on alligator steaks," he said. "He marinated the alligator in Soakin' Sauce and then smoked it. He said it was out of this world."

English's business has expanded to 21 states with 208 dealers, including one in Mobile County and three in Baldwin County.

"We stayed out of the big chains and stayed in the specialty markets - meat markets, gourmet food stores and hunting stores," English said. "And we've had a lot of success in health food stores."

Tide Line Outfitters in Mobile carries the sauce.

"We've had a good response. We've done real well with it," said Jim Joyce of Tide Line Outfitters. "I use it on meat, fish, chicken, pork chops. I use it all the time. I like the apple cider taste. It's just a different taste from other marinades and it has a lot less sodium."

In Baldwin County, the Church Mouse in Fairhope, Accessories Galore in Foley and Farm Fresh Meats in Robertsdale stock the product, as well as Hilltop Meats in Andalusia.

Perfect for wild pig Spencer Johnson at the Church Mouse is sold on the sauce.

"It does phenomenal on wild pig," Johnson said. "And it's excellent on venison, poultry or a roast. It's good stuff. The fact that it tenderizes is one thing. It's different from most sauces I've ever tried. It gives stuff a kick."

English cranked up the company website "www.soakinsauce.com" on July 1 and as of Wednesday had 51,720 hits.

"People can go to the website to find out where they can buy the sauce and plenty of recipes," he said. "We have it broken down into different categories, including wild game recipes."

English said the marinade is easy to use.

"It's a simple process," he said. "Use a half-cup per pound, put the meat and sauce in heavy ZipLoc bags, seal it and shake it to distribute the spices. Put it flat in the refrigerator and come back in an hour and shake it up. Do that every hour, or as often as practical, until you get ready to cook."

Let it soak English recommends a soak time of a minimum of two hours.

"Some have done it as much as six to eight hours," he said. "I don't know anybody who has used it overnight, but I don't see a problem. Agitate it before you go to bed and when you wake up.

"The only time I don't use the two-hour minimum is with fish. Fish, whether it's catfish or red snapper, is very porous and soaks up the flavor a lot quicker. I recommend soaking the fish from 30 to 45 minutes before cooking."

English said his sauce is great on deer roast, and I can vouch for that. The venison was tender, juicy with a hint of the apple cider taste. It didn't last long at my house.

"If you're tired of the same old soy sauce-based marinade, tired of real heavy sodium, it's worth a try," English insists.

Several of English's recipes follow:

Deer Chili 2 pounds ground venison cup cooking oil 1 cup chopped onion 1 large green pepper, chopped 2 14-ounce cans of tomatoes, undrained and chopped 1 16-ounce can of kidney beans, undrained 1 16-ounce can tomato sauce 1 cup Original Soakin' Sauce marinade

Brown venison in oil in a Dutch oven. Add onion, green pepper and cook for five minutes. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 hours. Makes 2 quarts.

Easy 4-Ingredient Deer Chili 1 pound ground venison 1 48-ounce can of Hormel Chili with Beans 1 small can of Hormel Chili without Beans 1 cup Original Soakin' Sauce marinade.

Brown venison in oil. Mix in remainder of ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes.

Deer Kabobs 1 venison backstrap (tenderloin) 3 onions 3 bell peppers 1 package fresh mushrooms

Marinate venison in Original Soakin' Sauce, amount depends on size of tenderloin. Cut into chunks and skewer, alternating with wedges of onion, peppers and mushrooms. Place on hot grill until venison reaches desired doneness.

2000 Mobile Register. Used with permission.

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