Friday, July 3, 2009

Pig, Spice, Smoke

Summertime calls for barbecue, for barbecue ribs, specifically, and by ribs I mean pork spareribs. To do it right is time-consuming but not difficult. A fairly high tolerance for wood smoke is required. If barbecue isn't bred in your bones--if you're a Yankee, in other words, and one of Canadian heritage, for pete's sake--it helps to have a good guide. Peace, Love, and Barbecue by Mike Mills and Amy Mills Tunnicliffe is the best one I've found.

In addition to being a collection of the most authentic barbecue recipes you'll find, it's also full of stories, humor, history, and hard-won pit-wisdom. A treat to browse through or cook from. You can peruse it while you enjoy some gracious living by the fire ring.

I've written about the thrilling experiment of
bbq ribs in a cardboard box, which we prepared at Bide-A-Wee last summer. This year we have much more sophisticated equipment:

Yes, that's an actual metal lid, from the little Weber grill we use out at the cabin. The rack of ribs sits under the lid, soaking up smoke in the low, indirect heat from a nice smoldering fire of apple wood. Because we're making a version of the Apple City Barbecue Team's World Champion Ribs, if I neglected to mention it. Amy Mills Tunnicliffe graciously granted permission to pass along the recipes for the "Magic Dust" spice mix, and Apple City barbecue sauce from Peace, Love, and Barbecue, which, with the addition of smoke, heat, and time, turn a humble rack of spareribs into one of the most amazing things you'll ever eat. I'm not kidding; and if you've poked around Trout Caviar at all, you've seen that we eat very well here. These ribs are in a league of their own.

Magic Dust
(I'm giving this in parts form, so you can make any quantity simply--for example, if you're just cooking a rack or two of ribs, make 1 part a teaspoon. If you want to make a larger batch to have on hand , make it 1/4 cup. We don't have granulated garlic in our spice drawer, so I just mince a clove of garlic per rack of ribs, rub it on, then coat with the Magic Dust. Many other recipes in
Peace, Love, and Barbecue use this mix. )

2 parts paprika
1 part kosher salt
1 part sugar
1 part ground cumin
1 part chili powder
1 part granulated garlic
1/2 part dry mustard
1/2 part ground black pepper
1/2 part cayenne

Apple City Barbecue Sauce
makes 3 cups

1 cup ketchup (Mike Mills likes Hunt's)
2/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup apple juice or cider
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce or Worchestershire sauce
2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/3 cup bacon bits, ground in a spice grinder
1/3 cup peeled and grated apple
1/3 cup grated onion
2 tsp grated green bell pepper

Combine everything in a suitable size saucepan, bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce thickens slightly. Allow to cool and pour into a glass jar, and refrigerate for up to two weeks. Or you can use it immediately.

Mike Mills notes, "Some barbecue sauce is very thick and just sits on top of the meat. This sauce is smooth and on the thin side, and it seeps down into the meat."

I've never made this sauce exactly as written, though I've come close. I use fresh garlic in place of the powder; I've never made it with the bacon, believe it or not, but next time, I will; I hate green bell pepper, so I leave that out; I use a light rice vinegar in place of the seasoned kind (I'm not quite sure what that is), and a dijon type mustard for the yellow.

When we made the ribs last weekend at Bide-A-Wee, I made the Magic Dust at home, rubbed it on the ribs, stuck them in a plastic bag and stuck that in the cooler. The ribs took up the flavor of the rub for several hours. We were eager to get going, so I decided to make the sauce at the cabin. We don't have a very comprehensive larder there, and the only ingredient I brought specifically to make the sauce was an apple, but I found I had 11 ingredients out of the 14 listed--or a reasonable substitute. I only had a couple little fast-food packets of ketchup, so it wasn't as tomatoey as the recipe. The secret ingredient was our own
homemade hard cider from our own apples, pressed last fall. We also used that to moisten the ribs a couple of times while they were cooking.

The ideal temperature for barbecue is around 200 degrees, and at that low heat it takes hours of cooking, like a good six hours. I use a little cheat that speeds the process somewhat and still produces excellent ribs--and it does not involve a microwave! What we did this night was to smoke the ribs for about three hours, until they were nicely smoked and fully cooked, but not yet tender. Then we wrapped them in aluminum foil and cooked them, with a wee bit more heat, for just over an hour. Finally we took them out of the foil, brushed them with the sauce, and cooked them briefly over direct heat, careful not to let the sauce burn.

They could have used a little more time on the fire, but no one was complaining when we sat down to eat--or if anyone was, it was impossible to hear over all the lip smacking and finger licking, the satisfied moans and groans, the oh-my-gods, and the wow-that's-goods. This picture of gracious living belies the carnivorous, bone-gnawing abandon that ensued.

Oh, we had some carrots from our garden and asparagus from the market that we cooked on the grill, and market new potatoes that we roasted in foil in the coals.

Quantities? Well, one of Mike Mills's mottos is, "Life is too short for a half-rack," but we found splitting a rack of a little over two pounds pretty satisfying. I mean, I won't say I couldn't have eaten another rib or two, but I didn't need to. And, I don't know, maybe if you can get by with a half-rack, you just might live to enjoy a few more nights by the fire ring. It's up to you.

Here's wishing you all a happy Independence Day, and a summer full of peace, love, and barbecue.

Magic Dust and Apple City Barbecue sauce recipes from Peace, Love, and Barbecue, published by the Rodale Press, copyright 2005 by Mike Mills and Amy Mills Tunnicliffe.

Text and photos copyright 2009 by Brett Laidlaw

1 comment:

spice smoke said...

These are incredible!