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.