It was a smoke of many rains. Some times it fell from the ashen sky like pitch forks and hammer handles. Other times like puppies and anvils. And if it weren’t doing that, it generally sailed side-ways on a tempest’s fist, for to kiss you kindly on the face. Oh yes, it was a sporty day on the BBQ front. The storms drummed with great frequency over the land, washing the infinite contours there, and rushing the sodden gullies. For some this equates to borrowing indoors to stare glumly out the window, our plans awash, whilst the watery, wind-driven pellets tamp over the glassy pane. But I for one have always fancied a good rain. There is just something contenting about it. Something eternally right in its rhythmic splatters. About the way it sounds on the roof of a good home, whilst dozing under your favorite grandma blanket. Or the way it dapples over the surface of a pond, water-on-water. It’s beautiful. And like-wise, what a privilege to emerge from our cozy dens after the storms have tapered. To pad about a world renewed, and wet. To boyishly stroll a land so freshly cleansed.
When the rain lightened up a tad, I did just that, sidling out the patio door to inspect the day, and lo, to check up on my beloved Weber Smokey Mountain. There it stood as it should, stalwart, with faint-blue tendrils of hickory smoke puffing from its top vent. I had to smile. Oh how I adore the aromas of damp earth and gently rising wood smoke. There’s nothing like it, patron to the pit. It stirs me. An ambiance of quietude and well-being to aptly lift the wrinkles of a harried soul. The very occasional waft of beef ribs coming to perfection, doesn’t hurt none either. Man! This is good eating today! It truly is. So grab yourself a lovely beverage and pull up your poncho, and we’ll tell you how it went and came to be.
Taking a peak under the bonnet for you is a pit master no-no, but I don’t care and I’ll tell you why. They say, and this is old pit jockey lore, but every time you raise the lid on your smoker, things cool off in there tremendously. Your thermal inertia, as it were, takes a firm whack to the private parts. End result is you add 20 minutes to your cook time. To which we proudly bellow – bravo! Those long-standing in the readership know full well how we feel about taking our time around here. About the pleasure of the wait. Hark, we are the Lieutenants of Leisure! The Lords of Loitermanship! This is what we do. This is what we love. And if for any reason we can extend the joy another 20 minutes, well, let it be said, we will! So take a gander folks, as this portly rack of hickory smoked beef ribs, sporting a mahogany bark upon its fatty flanks. The meat has pulled back some now, about three hours in, and it’s time to transfer them to the foil. And there they’ll tarry in a splash of BBQ sauce for another hour or maybe even two. This, of course, at the discretion of the pit master’s instincts.
We’re not so much about recipes around here. No, you can find plenty of those elsewhere. There are many fantastic sites out there that do a better job of it anyways. Nay, we’re more about ideas and having fun. About crafting some quality time in a hurried day. Once you get the basics of spice rubs down, they’re generally the same anyways. So for our seasoning today, we just tossed a few odds and ends together from the old spice rack. Things like, but not limited to: garlic powder, onion powder, salt, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. We opted to steer clear of sugars, as beef seems to do better with out them. If these were pork ribs, however, you might want to add a little sweet to the flavor list. But that is the inherent joy of cooking, and spice rubs in general, and that is the freedom to experiment. To come up with brain thrusts, try them out, and see what happens. This beef rub turned out pretty tasty, by and far. Some garlic goodness in the front, with a little heat in the backdrop to keep things interesting.
THE ORNERY MULE!
About the membrane on beef ribs. Reminiscent of a tick on a hound dog. I don’t know about you guys, but I find them to be a son-of-a-gun to remove. I’m talking about the membranes on beef ribs, people, not ticks on your hound dog. Unlike pork ribs, of which the membranes are generally an agreeable entity, the beef rib is a different customer. And whoa be it to the pit jockey engaged in a tangle with a stubborn beef rib membrane. Usually we tell you to peel that thing off, but in this case, if it’s as ornery as your uncle’s senile mule, well, it ain’t worth losing your mojo over. So we employed the age-old pit keeper’s trick of scoring a cross-hatch all over the membrane. When it cooks, it usually breaks up reasonably well. Some times beef membranes come off easy, but this one had, shall we say, undeniable resolve. So we let it win. Where not here to “rough it” people. We get it rough enough away from the pit.
So about three hours into it, like I said, we wrapped the ribs in foil. Before you wrap, you’re looking for some meat pull back, and the general color pleasing to your eye, what ever that might be. Three hours , at 250 degrees, usually gets you there. We wrapped them good with a shot of BBQ sauce for a little moisture and added flavor, and then placed the rack tenderly back in the smoker for another hour or so. Long about this time, the rains moved in again, tho it never really stopped I guess. It was one of those forever, soggy days, patron to the pit. And I loved it. Not one to cower from our appointed patio time just because of a little inclement weather, we patrons of the pit instead find a way. So I rigged up a little blue tarp over the patio, pulled my chair under it, and simply sat there, and listened to the rain. Content not to do anything, or go anywhere. Oh how I do fancy a rainy day. The semi-enforced respite of it all. Listening to a million and one falling drops of rain gently pattering like Beethoven over a well-strung tarpaulin, glory be, I had found my rainy day paradise. And as the wood smoke curled into a gray, Minnesota sky, and a damp breeze mingled through the spruce unto which tender rain drops clung, I knew as surely as I had known anything that day, that I was precisely where I wished to be, doing exactly that which was well with my soul.
I tarried beneath the old tarp for a while, soothed by the rain, and the slow-curling tendrils of hickory smoke. The ribs, pampered in foil, would come to a tender, and most succulent end game after around 90 minutes or so. Of course this can vary dependent on your cut. So from time to time, check in on them, and when they are tender enough to your liking, nod to the heavens, cast your worldly inhibitions aside, and dive henceforth and face-first into your smokey spoils. And care not what your people may think. You’ve earned these ribs, today. You’ve held their hand through a long and dampened campaign. You’ve sat in the rain, pit keepers, and you’ve reveled there. Amen.
I don’t care what you say, this is delicious! Four and one-half hours, low & slow beef ribs. Yum people! Kissed in hickory, nurtured to succulence, and every minute of it, patron to the pit.
A thin-blue smoke, patron to the scent of hickory, curled serenely from the pit damper and dissolved into a pastel-gray, Minnesota sky. It is beautiful here today, as I stroll in the back yard, somewhat labored through the deep snows. Like walking on the white sand beaches of Waikiki, but without the hassle of sunburn, and crowds of oil-slathered humans, or sand taking up roost in your nether places. Indeed, here at the pond-side pit, the snow drifts have conspired tall, wrought from a winter ever-lasting, yet business anyhow, and steadfastly, carries on. Like the stately Cardinal, beautiful in his red and black plumage, making the acquaintanceship of the bird feeder, pecking through the safflower seeds there, as it dangles and swings above the pit. Or the tracks of the local rabbit, hopping through the deep snow. I do not know what he finds to eat in a land so harsh and bare, but he does alright I guess, doing what ever it is that rabbits do in the winter months. And then there are the leaves of the sturdy old oak near by, which I have always held an admiration for. Here is leaf that which turns but does not easily fall, clinging on through the winter months, like the last illuminated photons at the tail of a rainbow. A reminder that another season does exist. And that the sun will rise again over fields of green.
I trudged back through the snow to the pit, hands warm in the pockets of my old woolen smoking jacket. I startled up some Black capped chickadees as I rounded the corner onto the patio, where upon I assessed the pit. 250 degrees and holding. A thin smoke gently wafting. It’s ready, I thought. Time to put the ribs on. And speaking of ribs, let me tell you a little more about them, and how they came to be, this lovely winter’s day at the pond-side pit.
Today, a real treat, and one of our very favorites – hickory smoked beef ribs. If you haven’t yet had occasion to enjoy a good beef rib, rest assured it is a veritable no-brainer very much worth your time. They’re real easy to do too. To start, we ripped the membrane off the back side. Beef rib membranes can be tighter than a tick to a hound dog, but persevere and you’ll get it. Then we rinsed the ribs under the tap for to wash clear any bone fragments or the like. Then hit them both sides with some Famous Dave’s Steak and Burger Seasoning. Or you can just use a salt and pepper if you’d like. Or what ever elaborate rub you may have in mind. But if it’s a good cut of beef, simple is often all you need on the matter of seasoning. As usual tho, the pit master has the final say, along with the token first bite to see if he actually knew what he was doing or not. Anyways, that is about it for prep on these ribs. We thus put them on the pit, bone side down, and got along with the all important business of drawing a manly beverage from the ice box and taking up residence someplace cozy.
Two hours passed, and maybe a little more than that, before I made my way out to the pit again, can of Coke in hand, to check in on things. The pit temp held stalwart, like Webers do, the smoke had mostly faded off, and the meat had pulled back a half-inch or so on the bones, which was right on schedule. Thus, and with little fan fare, the ribs were wrapped in aluminum foil, along with a splash of Coke for a steaming agent. Just a tablespoon or two is all that was needed. The rest was for the pit keeper! Foiled ribs and back on the pit, big lid replaced, and I was off again, striking an azimuth for my favorite man chair, remaining beverage in hand. I assumed the proper BBQ posture, and let the next hour or so take its course on me, as I dosed on and off, the Olympics bantering on the big screen, whilst the savory aromas of BBQ beef waft amid the patio environs. Dang people. I love smoking ribs!
About an hour and a half in the foil is all it took. They were done. Once out of the foil, you can sauce it if you please, but we are so smitten with the flavor of beef, we left it just like it was. And it was spectacular. A deep red smoke ring, married with a robust beefy flavor. A touch of garlic from the seasonings. Very nice. And just what we needed up here on the 45th parallel. A little something savory to take the edge off a long, and very keen winter. A statement if you will, to old man winter’s steely grip on the land, that we keepers of the flame will carry on despite. Like the leaves of the old oak tree, we hang but on slight tendrils, quivering, waiting for the rising sun. Amen.
Savory Slow Smoked Beef Ribs over a Hickory/charcoal fire, sided with home-made garlic mashed potatoes, and a lovely vegetable medley for to please the lady folk. Yum is in effect! If this don’t help pass a winter day it’s probably too late!
Game day in the National Football League Playoffs. 9 degrees of mercury registering. What do you think we’re going to do! Lets light the smoker!
There are a precious few alignments in the human condition so fine, as football and BBQ. Don’t ask me why. All I know is one shouldn’t tamper with the good things in life, nor try to analyze it much, less it evaporates, like the morning mist over still waters. No, we shall not try to figure out why, but instead be emboldened to embrace it. To put meat to flame, and declare the day is well. Thus to salute the rising smoke, and for a while at least, maybe even to live the dream.
As I repair by the fire-place, in my favorite man chair, the game quietly on the TV, a glance out to the patio sees the brand new 22 1/2 inch WSM puffing gently that fine-blue smoke patron to a good and established, hickory fire. It’s maiden voyage, if you will, like a big ship slipping slowly out to sea. On board today, a rack of maple syrup glazed beef ribs, and a good matter of country-style pork ribs, both dusted in a sweet but spicy, home-made rub. The country-style ribs, which are really cut from a pork butt, took a bit further journey tho, pampered long over-night in a custom marinade adept at improving pork. Like all good journeys, the journey of BBQ starts with an idea, and is done when it is done, never quite positive of where you may end up. Or how you may get there. And I do not think we would have it any other way.
The spoils are on the smoker now, for a two and one half hours I should wager, bathed in light hickory smoke, at a modest 250 degrees. The keen wind chill, of which it must be subzero, slices with ease, and not-so-compassionately through the trees, and over the frozen land: but the WSM holds stalwart in the face of bitter inclement. A victory affording myself the high pleasure of taking up residence “belly up” in the man chair, feet propped up by the fireplace, dosing peacefully amid the banter of Sunday football. There are few naps finer than football naps, save for perhaps golf naps, tho that would probably be up for debate I suppose. My brother likes to take naps under his truck, but that’s a different story. At any rate, as cozy as I was, eventually I knew I had to get up and foil the ribs, of which I did. A labor of love, by and by. It was no big deal.
Another hour and half in the foil, with a dose of BBQ sauce and splash of Dr Pepper, just cause. This loosened up the meat with aplomb, and took it by the hand, escorting the unruly meat to the next level. Taming the beast, as it were, swaddled in tin foil. Pampered with love.
Lastly, a toasting of the french bread, over the remaining, tho still softly-glowing embers, for that finishing touch savored by the lady folk.
After the bones pulled freely, we then plated the ribs, and chopped them into lovely man-sized chunks, and served them lightly basted in BBQ sauce on the toasted french bread. This was it. We had arrived. The maiden voyage of the new smoker had landed, nudging the fateful shores of a meat utopia. A land where the slobbers run freely, and a good burp is considered high praise. If ever you want to one-up your standard pulled pork sandwich, this is how to do it. Man!
Next time you’re in the mood for some tasty football food, and wanna do something a little different, try yourself some slow-smoked rib sandwiches. Ain’t too many things finer.