In American barbecue, ribs rule, and woe to the grillmeister who doesn't understand the rules. Like never, ever boil. This is the rib crash course, appropriate for all skill levels, and a popular part of the curriculum at BBQ U. The Professor gives you a little background on bones before getting to the meat of the matter. Heres the rest of the lesson plan: Classic spare ribs served with ember-roasted sweet potatoes; Dinosaur Beef Ribs, the biggest and baddest bones of all; finally, the refreshingly different, A-plus Mint Julep Ribs with a healthy hit of Kentucky bourbon.
MINT JULEP RIBS
With Bourbon Mint Barbecue Sauce
Source: Raichlen on Ribs by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing, 2006)
Yield: Serves 4
FOR THE RUB:
2 teaspoons iced tea mix (made with sugar, not artificial sweetener)
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons dried mint (peppermint or spearmint)
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
FOR THE MINT GLAZE
3 tablespoons mint jelly
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup bourbon
2 tablespoons sugar
2 racks baby back ribs (4 to 5 pounds total)
Bourbon Barbecue Sauce (see below)
You'll also need:
2 cups hickory chips, soaked in water to cover for 1 hour, then drained
(optional-only if using a charcoal grill)
MAKE THE RUB: Place the iced tea mix, sugar, mint, paprika, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
MAKE THE GLAZE: Combine the mint jelly, lemon juice, butter, bourbon, and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking often, and cook until the mint jelly is dissolved and the mixture is syrupy, 5 minutes. Set the glaze aside.
PREPARE THE RIBS: Remove the thin, papery membrane from the back of each rack of ribs: Turn a rack meat side down. Insert a sharp implement, such as the tip of a meat thermometer, under the membrane (the best place to start is right next to the first rib bone). Using a dishcloth or pliers to gain a secure grip, pull off the membrane. Repeat with the other rack.
Place the ribs on a baking sheet. Sprinkle the ribs on both sides with rub, rubbing it into the meat. Cover the ribs and store in the refrigerator while you set up your grill.
Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. Brush and oil the grill grate.
Arrange the ribs, bone side down, in the center of the grate over the drip pan away from the heat. If working on a charcoal grill and using wood chips, toss half on each mound of coals. Cover the grill and cook for 1 hour.
Brush the ribs on both sides with the mint glaze. Recover the grill and continue cooking until the ribs are well-browned and cooked through, yet tender enough to pull apart with your fingers, 15 to 30 minutes more, or 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours in all. Brush the ribs once or twice more with glaze, and if using a charcoal grill, replenish the coals as needed. When the ribs are cooked, the meat will have shrunk back from the ends of the bones by about 1/4 inch.
Transfer the ribs to a large platter or cutting board, and cut the racks in half, widthwise, or into individual ribs. Serve at once with the Bourbon Barbecue Sauce on the side.
Bourbon Mint Barbecue Sauce
Yield: About 1-1/2 cups
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup chili sauce
1/3 cup mint jelly
1/4 cup bourbon
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine the ketchup, chili sauce, mint jelly, bourbon, vinegar, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and liquid smoke in a heavy saucepan. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking often. Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer the sauce until thick and richly flavored, 8 to 10 minutes, whisking from time to time. Correct the seasoning, adding a little more vinegar for tartness, sugar for sweetness, and salt and pepper to taste.