Inspired by our most recent trip to Tennessee, and a chance meeting with moonshine-supping ‘Sleepy James’, here’s a Memphis-style baby back ribs’ recipe for you to worship in your own backyard….
MEMPHIS DRY RUB
250g Soft dark brown sugar
125g Caster sugar
125g Kosher Salt
50g Cracked Black pepper
25g Ground ginger
50g Garlic Powder
25g Ground Cumin
25g Cayenne Powder
Weigh out all ingredients, add to bowl and mix well with hands, breaking up any clumps of sugar. You can store in an air tight container in a cool dark place (stores for up to 1 month – sweet!).
KENTUCKY BOURBON DIPPER (makes 200ml, 50ml each)
25ml Wild Turkey 81
50ml Apple cider vinegar
100ml Apple juice
1tsp Worcestershire sauce
1tsp Memphis dry rub
Mix all these together in a small saucepan and warm through to dissolve fully. Leave to cool to room temperature.
BABY BACK RIBS
2 racks of baby back ribs, about 600-900g each
50g Memphis dry rub, plus 25g for finishing
30ml American hot dog mustard such as French’s
Spritz Formula: 200ml apple juice and 200ml apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle or squeeze bottle.
Rinse the ribs in cold water.
Using a butter knife, prise away the back membrane by inserting the knife along the end bone.
Now use a sheet of kitchen paper to help grip the membrane and pull it away from the rack, until it’s fully removed. We do this to allow flavour to impart into the meat from the rub and smoke, and removes the membrane which can be unpleasant to eat as it becomes leathery.
Slather each rack with 1 tablespoon or 15ml of mustard.
Wrap each rack in cling film and put into a fridge and leave to marinade for at least 4 hours, or better overnight.
Now prepare your barbecue for indirect heat to cook at a constant 250F/120C by pushing the coals aside, and placing an aluminium tray containing water, below the ribs and between the coals to catch any drippings and help create a moist environment for the ribs to cook in. Soak wood chunks in water.
Take the ribs out of the fridge and bring to room temperature, remove cling film and add a little more rub.
When you hit a consistent temperature of between 100C-140C, add 2 soaked wood chunks to each hot coal mound and leave to smoulder before adding the ribs. Place ribs into smoker on the top rack/shelf meat side up. If you’re stuck for space, you can roll the ribs into coils, meat side facing outward and secure with a skewer. Close the lid of the smoker and leave to smoke for the first hour.
Remove the lid, spritz each rack on both sides with the cider and apple juice baste, returning them to grill meat side up. Whilst doing this you can learn about “bendiness” by picking up the racks by their first three bones. At this stage the ribs won’t bend much. They’ll remain pretty straight at this point as the meat has not yet tenderised. You’ll use this same technique towards the end of the cooking process to test for bendiness. Close the lid and add more wood chunks (and coal if needed to maintain temperature).
After another hour of smoking, double wrap each rack in tin foil with a fresh spritz meat side down with the shiny part of the foil facing outwards. Add back to the grill for another hour.
Remove the racks from the tin foil wrapping using some tongs. Close the lid. Add remaining chunks of wood.
After another 30 minutes, remove the lid and test for bendiness by picking up the racks by their first three bones. You’ll notice they bend significantly more than before. This means they have started to tenderise. Add back to the grill, close the lid, grill for another 30 mins then remove from the smoker, sprinkle a little dry rub on the meaty side and rest for 20 minutes, still covered.
Once rested, slice and serve with a tangy slaw, smoked sweet potato (with sour cream, bacon and spring onion topping if you want to step the game up!) and the Kentucky bourbon dipper. Amen.