Appalachian Food

Papaw Tony’s Tarter Sauce

Tarter sauce recipe

I’m foolish about fried fish. Pap and Granny loved it when I was growing up and I reckon I inherited their tastes.

My nephew has been trout fishing a lot over the last year and every once in a while he’ll bring me a stringer of fish. One of The Deer Hunter’s friends has sent fresh fish our way too in the last several months. Fresh fried fish be it trout or something else is so so good.

Papaw Tony, The Deer Hunter’s father, loves to fry fish too. He even makes his own tarter sauce and its really good.

Here’s Papaw Tony’s recipe for tarter sauce.

Mix together 16oz of sour cream, sweet pickle relish to taste, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise. Chill till ready to serve. This recipe makes quite a bit of tarter sauce so you might want to reduce the amounts if you only need a little.

One time we were out at Papaw’s and he fixed a big fish fry. As we stood around in the kitchen watching him cook he teasingly said “Here’s my advice on getting fresh fish: find somebody who has them and then steal them.” 🙂 That was actually how Papaw secured the fish we ate that night, but it was all in good fun as he only got them from his friend’s freezer with the help of his friend’s son.


Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    August 10, 2021 at 9:46 am

    I grew up in SE lower Michigan, and consider fish fry to be my ‘native cuisine.’ Every Friday we’d head up to our cottage on the river and all the churches had fish suppers, perch and walleye caught from Lake St Clair. In later years we’d choose a boater bar to hang out at for the quality of local fish. I’ll try this version!

  • Reply
    Sallie the apple doll lady
    July 12, 2021 at 10:57 pm

    I’m like many of the others, Tipper. You’ve made me want to eat some fish. Thanks for the tarter sauce recipe. It sounds delicious! I usually just mix chopped onion, homemade sweet pickle relish and Mayo. In his late years my dad grew rainbow trout in concrete block runways near our spring. He piped the water from the spring to the runways so that it splashed on rocks to produce enough oxygen. It was a small operation but he researched and even was successful in spawning them. Not bad for a small time farmer and carpenter who quit school after the second year of high school in the 1920’s. Every once in a while we had a big fish fry, sometimes as the result of the cows getting in the branch and bumping the pipes or muddy water from a heavy rain lowering the oxygen the trout required. We used the same big black pot we rendered lard in at hog killing time and built a fire under it. That was the best tasting corn meal battered deep fried fish and hush puppies! We learned to “peel” the fish from the tail to the other end holding the tail so that most of the skeleton would lift right off leaving one side of the meat on the plate. Then the other side could be carefully separated from the bones with a fork in the same manner. We still had to watch for bones. What memories! And I have heard about not drinking milk with fish but I don’t remember why except it might make you sick. But I don’t know if that is true. Thanks again to you and Papaw Tony.

    • Reply
      Carol Roy
      July 13, 2021 at 10:49 am

      I too love fried fish….nothing compares to fresh trout from the brook to the fry pan. Enjoy all your posts Tipper…altho I do not always reply I am faithful in following you …thank-you for your great write ups for all of us to enjoy!

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    July 12, 2021 at 3:27 pm

    We rarely had fish..too far to a fishing hole…and we had serious FOSFB….FEAR OF SWALLERING FISH BONES!!!
    WE did eat fish sticks at times…and liked them.
    I am wondering if anyone ever heard the saying …..if you drink milk while eating fish, you’ll die.
    We always heard that in the VA. Coalfields.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      July 12, 2021 at 10:40 pm

      Not that you would die but I heard drinking milk and eating fish would make you pretty sick. I challenged that and suffered no ill effects.

  • Reply
    Donald Wells
    July 12, 2021 at 2:15 pm

    Another fried fish eater here,especially with slaw,hushpuppys, fries, and yes tarter sauce. I actually crave fried fish when it’s been awhile since of eaten any,must be some vitamin or mineral my bodys needing that the fish has.
    The tarter sauce looks good, Thanks for the recipe,Tipper and Papaw Tony.

  • Reply
    July 12, 2021 at 2:11 pm

    O my Lordy, my husband gonna love this post. His days off, that’s all I hear is fishing, fish, fish, fish. Lol we went yesterday. He lives trout fishing. I dont like it to eat it. To many bones. He lives it. We go at least once a wk up there. Tipper, I don’t know if you have ever heard of Wactaca in Elizabethan Tn. Its is beautiful, I have to say that. And cool to. He always makes a deal with me, he says, I will let you stop at the Dollar Tree. ( o boy)

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      July 12, 2021 at 11:23 pm

      Is that the Watauga River? My son in law has a float boat and that is one of the rivers he fishes. The Nolichucky and the Holstein Rivers too. He ties his own flies as he goes depending on the hatch he sees. Is your husband that addicted?

  • Reply
    Brad Byers
    July 12, 2021 at 10:56 am

    I wanted to tell y’all about the time my son and I went fishing in Raccoon Creek. We had a drought that summer and there was only one hole deep enough to hold any fish. We worked hard at it because I was terribly fish hungry. I finally caught a catfish but it was so dry he had three ticks on him!

  • Reply
    July 12, 2021 at 9:46 am

    I love fish also, but cannot fry them so they taste good. My attempts have been a dismal failure. That is one time I will go through a drive through when my craving gets really bad. Nobody in my circle loves fish, so most of the time I enjoy this in the confines of my vehicle. I blame this on Mom would not let us eat fish growing up because of the fear we would swallow a bone. If there were fishsticks in those days she never bought them,because we never had prepackaged anything. You can bet that tarter sauce is delicious with all my favorite sour cream in it. I learned to make a California dip years ago, and my grandson loves it. Mom loved the Knorr spinach dip. Sour cream is somewhat like bacon grease in that when you mix it with anything it is good.

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    July 12, 2021 at 9:44 am

    One of my very favorite meals is fried fish with the trimmings- hush puppies, slaw, and French fries.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 12, 2021 at 9:29 am

    I’m not a big fish eater myself …………………………..
    but I shore can scarf up a whole bunch of little ones.

  • Reply
    July 12, 2021 at 9:11 am

    Fried fish is my favorite food. I never eat tarter sauce with fish I fry at home or when I eat out. There’s just something special about eating the fish caught on the cook’s fishing pole. I’m guessing Papaw Tony has served up a few of his own but a stolen mess is just easier sometimes.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 12, 2021 at 8:13 am

    Every now and then the Appalachian comes out in your posts such as this morning with “I’m foolish about”. I like it. As was said yesterday, sounds like ‘my people’; both endearing and comfortable, aka homey.

    This morning’s post also reminds me of another you posted way back about returning from a trip to the coast because I was reminded of seafood. I hope you have a favorite place to go from time to time to get fried fish without starting from a fish stringer. (Though like most everything else, freshest is still best.)

    Your post also reminds me of low country boil. I never knew what that was until I was grown but it is a favorite with us now. The something for everybody and the one clean pot is really nice. And now the garden vegetables are ready.Y

    We’re going to remember the recipe though we will have to cut way back to match what we can use.

  • Reply
    Brad Byers
    July 12, 2021 at 8:11 am

    Love fried fish! You made me fish hungry.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 12, 2021 at 7:25 am

    Sounds wonderful, make sure to call me the next time you are frying fish!

  • Leave a Reply