At 85, Harley’s still grilling BBQ chicken
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Tuesday, 24 July 2012 09:53
LUCKEY — 85-year-old Harley Jacobs has been cooking barbecued chicken for crowds large and larger for 48 years now, and he’s not yet ready to throw in the towel — or paintbrush.
|Harley Jacobs, 85, of Luckey, glazes a rack of 2 1/2 pound chickens for a Sunday afternoon church outing. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
Jacobs and his wife Donna got their start with the tasty open-air barbecued chicken in 1950 on a chicken farm on Ohio 199 north of U.S. 6 owned by Gale and Betty Creighton. Also in the business were Leonard and Margie Eilert, his uncle and aunt, who first revealed the much-praised barbecue chicken recipe to them.
The recipe Jacobs is sharing with Cook’s Corner readers today is the same one they’ve served at many a barbecue dinner over the past half century.
“Leonard shared this recipe with Harley,” who “carried on the tradition many years.”
He still does it for the Jacobs reunion and church potlucks at Zion United Methodist Church in Luckey. The reunions and church dinners have had the extra draw provided by the Jacobs chicken for the past 40 years.
“For the Jacobs family reunion we do about 90 (chicken) halves,” estimated son and current partner Allan Jacobs.
The 2012 reunion is coming up this weekend, as a matter of fact, with an even larger crowd expected.
“We’ll be doing over 100 of ’em this coming Sunday” for the dinner at the Pemberville Legion Hall, Harley Jacobs said.
That amount of chicken — 100 halves — “would be close to the max” the Jacobs family is interested in preparing for a single event. “Because that makes four big racks,” explained Harley’s wife, Donna.
“We don’t do it commercial. We just do it because people like it and request it.”
These days sons Allan and Mark Jacobs, both of Luckey, help brush and turn the chicken while Donna makes the sauce.
At the end of every event at which they show up, Harley Jacobs hears the same comments: “Don’t forget to do next year. We’ll come and help you.”
“You know as he gets older they don’t want it to end,” Donna explained.
No fears. Harley’s in no hurry to stop. After all, chicken-barbecuing mornings — or afternoons — are a lot of fun.
“He gets together with his sons, he makes a lot of people happy,” she pointed out.
One hidden partner in their success is Belleville Meat Market in Bowling Green, which knows exactly what kind of chicken to supply when Harley places a big order.
“He goes to Belleville’s and they give him the right size of chickens — 2 1/2 pounds. Too big a chicken and you can’t get ’em done around the bone, you see.”
The secret ingredient in the sauce is the Tabasco or Red Hot, which gives the barbecued meat its appealing color.
“It doesn’t do much to the flavor, but it gives the skin that nice color,” Donna explained.
Harley Jacobs is well known as the former mayor of Luckey. He served at two different periods, for about 33 years total, at the helm of the village where he was born and raised.
In between was a seven-year period “when I went to work for the (Ohio) State Patrol. I was a driver’s examiner in Bowling Green.”
After he retired from the state job he returned to the mayor’s seat for another 12 years, finally giving it up for good six years ago.
His work resume also included a stint as a small-business owner. He formerly owned both Jacobs Meat Market and the Luckey Food Locker.
“We used to have a thousand lockers” in that building, Harley recalls.
“That was before the Amana freezers came on” and people bought them for their own homes starting in the 1950s, eventually putting commercial lockers out of business, Donna added.
Today the building that was once the Jacobs family’s food locker business is now the Luckey Public Library.
“It can hold a lot of weight,” whether meat or books.
There are plenty of Jacobs offspring in the next generation down to carry on the chicken barbecuing tradition if they so desire. Harley and Donna Jacobs have 12 grandkids — six of them boys and six girls, plus 10 great-grandkids.
Harley's barbecued chicken
20 chicken halves (if buying whole chicken to cut, use 21⁄2-lb. chickens)
1 quart water
1 lb. butter
1⁄2 cup salt
2 T. pepper
1 pint vinegar
3 T. Worcestershire sauce
1⁄2 cup Real Lemon (optional)
2 tsp. Tabasco sauce or Red Hot
Clean chicken and pat dry.
To prepare sauce, put butter and water in a medium-large pan. Add other ingredients and bring to a boil once.
Simmer while you start your charcoal fire. One hour in advance, start chicken halves with fat side down. Baste with sauce, applied with a four-inch paint brush. Keep turning and basting for about two hours or until well done.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 July 2012 11:00