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From Our Backyard: Fiery Texas Crackers

Ever dip a cracker in buttermilk, crisp it in a little oil until golden-flakey, and then roll it in garlic, red pepper flakes, and paprika? Well, why the heck not? Turns out it’s a great idea and good thing for us somebody’s already thought about it! Texas Firecrackers are crunchy, spicy, salty, rich, and darn addictive. Unlike most other crackers, you don’t need a dip or cheese – they’re already packed with great snacky flavor. But the thing I especially like about these hot crackers is that they have a history that’s almost as long as the history of Texas itself.

Texas Firecrackers are inspired by a similar corn meal and bean cracker served to Sam Houston’s army before the Battle of San Jacinto. Theirs was a Cherokee bean cracker called tus-ya-ga. It reportedly provided just enough sustenance to the weary Texas army to launch a surprise attack that was such a surprise, the decisive battle only lasted 18 minutes. Santa Anna’s army lost more than 700 men; Sam Houston’s army lost just nine. That must have been some cracker!

The actual name ‘Firecracker’ was coined at the Log Cabin Saloon near Beaumont in about 1900. Nearby Spindletop, the largest oil gusher at the time, was producing more than 100,000 barrels of oil per day. And if I know one thing, it’s that wherever there’s a boom city, there’s gotta be a saloon. I can almost imagine the line of oily roughnecks bellying up to the bar, a cold mug of hoppy beer in one hand, a crunchy spiced cracker in the other.

Today’s Texas Firecrackers, made by Houston-based Jett Foods, have won awards, garnered accolades, and reportedly have even developed a cult following among astronauts in Houston. My father has always said, “If it’s good enough for NASA, well by golly, it’s good enough for me.” So true, Dad! Come to think of it, I bet he’d love these for Father’s Day.

Ever want to gild a lily? Me too! And here’s one way to do it:

Spindletop Firecracker Cheese Ball
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
16 oz softened cream cheese
1 oz ranch dressing mix
2 cups sharp shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup beer
1 cup Texas Firecrackers, crumbled

In medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except Firecrackers. Blend with a hand mixer until well combined.

Form mixture into ball shape and refrigerate until firm, about two hours. Roll firm cheese ball in Firecracker crumbs until completely covered. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one more hour. Serve with more Texas Firecrackers!