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Tender Barbecue Pork Chops Recipe

Before we dive into this delicious recipe, it is always a treasure to learn about the individual behind it. In this feature, we are taking a look at Irene Mooney Bruske’s Barbecued Pork Chops recipe.

Yearbook Photo of Irene Mooney

“Miss Irene Mooney, a teacher in the Saginaw Public School system, tomorrow will begin a three-month field work training program at the Saginaw Valley Child Guidance Clinic, Dr. Norman Westlund, clinic director announced.

Following the training period, Miss Mooney will join the school system as a school diagnostician. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, and master’s degree from the University of Michigan.” The Saginaw News, October 2, 1960

Irene Mooney was born in Saginaw in 1932. After school in Saginaw, she graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree. She continued her education at the University of Michigan where she earned a Master’s degree.

Irene Mooney married George R. Bruske at St. Andrew’s Church on June 12, 1964. Her maternal uncle, Msgr. Albert A. Kerhens, officiated at the wedding. The Saginaw News noted that she wore “a cathedral-length mantilla of Brussels lace previously worn by her mother and sister.”

While she spent much of her career in other communities: Sydney, Australia, Wichita, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri, she would eventually return to Saginaw. Her 2005 obituary notes, “Upon her retirement from the Coleman School District as a school psychologist, she continued her work with children in the Saginaw area through the Child Abuse and Neglect Council - C.A.S.A. program.”

This c. 1947 portrait of Irene Mooney by Bosch Studios is from the Castle Museum’s Collection

As always, the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History appreciates the assistance of the staff in the Local History and Genealogy Department of the Public Libraries of Saginaw at Hoyt Library.

Ready to try out Irene's Barbecued Pork Chops?


  • 2 cups soy sauce

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 tbsp dark molasses 

  • Thick cut pork chops

Mix together soy sauce, salt, brown sugar, water and molasses. Bring to boil. Place chops in pan, pour cooled marinade over. Chill over night in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, prepare red sauce.

Red Sauce

  • 1/3 cup water 

  • 1 (14oz) bottle ketchup 

  • 1 (12oz) bottle chili sauce

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

  • 1 tbsp dry mustard

Stir mustard, sugar, water together, leaving no lumps. Bring all ingredients to a slight boil. 

Grill marinated chops away from hot coals until tender. When just about ready to pull off the grill, dip chops in red sauce and finish grilling until slightly glazed. 

These pork chops were supposed to go into a 350° degree oven for 2 hours then finished off on the grill. Due to the hot weather, I slowly cooked them on the grill. The marinade made the meat very easy to cook tender and dipping in the red sauce just took it over the top. These were great barbecue pork chops!

Deana Coleman, our staff associate, tests out weekly recipes from the cookbook Savoring Saginaw. Vice President/Chief Historian Tom Trombley and Chief Curator Sandy Schwan provided the historical information for this blog.


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