By MICHELLE MATTHEWS, AL.com
EVERGREEN, Ala. (AP) — For David Webb, it was love at first bite.
His obsession with Conecuh sausage started when he was 13 years old. His parents brought some home from the commissary on the U.S. Coast Guard base in Mobile.
“I’ll never forget it,” he says. “My dad cooked it on the grill, and I fell in love with it. I remember it distinctly.”
Even in his teens, Webb couldn’t stop talking about Alabama’s own Conecuh sausage, made at the Conecuh Sausage Co. facility in Evergreen, located just off I-65, halfway between Mobile and Montgomery. Now 50, he still can’t.
“People automatically equate me with sausage,” he says, laughing.
Even his personalized Alabama tag proclaims his obsession with Conecuh. Until recently, it read “CON3CUH.” But when he renewed his tage, he was thrilled to learn that the actual spelling was available. “Any guy whose license plate says ‘Conecuh’ is serious about their sausage,” he says.
Webb isn’t the only one who’s somewhat obsessed with Conecuh. (When people use that word, they almost always mean “the sausage” instead of “the county” in which it’s made.) The Conecuh Sausage Fan Club on Facebook, “open to all Conecuh Sausage aficionados,” boasts 2,800 members who trade recipes and other information.
At any given time, Webb has about 20 pounds of Conecuh in his freezer, he says. “I’m constantly grilling that stuff.” On his YouTube channel, where he has a section devoted to the sausage, he recommends leaving the lid open for best results while grilling it.
Chefs all over the state incorporate the beloved sausage in creative ways throughout the year. Just a few examples include the L.A. Burger special offered every Wednesday at Callaghan’s Irish Social Club in Mobile; empanadas at Central Mesa in Tuscaloosa; the clam, shrimp and sausage pizza at Pizzeria GM in Homewood; grilled oysters topped with Conecuh sausage butter at Acre in Auburn; and the Conecuh appetizer at Kowaliga Restaurant on Lake Martin in Alexander City, where it’s served along with pimento cheese and Wickles Pickles.
This time of year, the sausage is on just about every grill at every tailgate event in the state. Sausage dogs are sold at Auburn’s and UAB’s stadiums. And later this month, on Saturday, Oct. 20, it will be celebrated at the 16th annual Conecuh County Sausage Festival.
It can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, alone or paired with other meats and vegetables. It’s popular as an accompaniment to shrimp in dishes like jambalaya and gumbo. It can even be skewered and included as a garnish, along with celery and pickled okra, on a Bloody Mary. It’s a staple in red beans and rice. And, for the past two years, it was the most coveted throw at Mobile’s Mardi Gras.
Guess who threw it? That’s right, Conecuh’s No. 1 fan, David Webb, who is also a member of a parading society. He bought a few packages of his favorite sausage in 2017 and threw them from his float, causing a sensation. So this past Carnival season, he asked Conecuh Sausage Co. for help.
The company was happy to oblige, sending him 100 pounds of sausage that went straight from their truck to his cooler and into the hands of the hungry paradegoers that night.
Kathy Cope, the customer service manager at Conecuh Sausage Co., gets a kick out of Webb and his passion for her company’s products. “He’s over the top, definitely,” she says. “He’s our self-proclaimed No. 1 fan. He comes to visit us whenever he comes through.”
At the Conecuh Gift Shop at I-65 Exit 96, fans of the sausage can buy everything the company makes, as well as all kinds of souvenirs, from baseball caps to soft-sided coolers emblazoned with the logo to home decor and grills.
Conecuh Sausage Co. has been a family-operated business since it was established in Evergreen in 1947. Still owned by the Sessions family, the second and third generations now run the company, Cope says.
Since an expansion a couple of years ago, Conecuh has broadened its reach. “We’re in most stores throughout the Southeast,” Cope says, adding that the products are now available in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and even Detroit, as well as at military bases along the East Coast.
The company has also added some products, including a new blend, Cracked Pepper, which Webb says has surpassed the Cajun style to become his favorite. The newest addition to the Conecuh line is Little Chief Premium Franks. The response to the hot dogs has been “overwhelming” over the past month since they were released, says Cope.
Webb pronounced them “awesome” in a post in the Facebook fan group, enthusing that they’re better than Nathan’s or Atlanta’s The Varsity or even Mobile’s Dew Drop Inn hot dogs. “If you’ve been putting off buying a pack, head down to the store and get it done,” he advised.
By now you must think Webb is paid to endorse Conecuh Sausage Co., but his promotional services are offered free of charge and from the heart. When he’s not grilling sausage for family and friends in the tiki hut behind his Victorian cottage in midtown Mobile, he’s the general manager for a parts distribution warehouse.
“My dream job would be to work for them,” he admits. Whether that ever happens or not, he says he’ll continue to give them free publicity “because I love their product so much.”
His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. “He is a fireball for Conecuh sausage,” says Cope. “David’s a great guy, and we’re proud that he likes and promotes our product.”