Southern BBQ for summer |

Southern BBQ for summer

Marialisa Calta
United Features Syndicate
United features syndicateBarbecue ribs are a summer staple for pork lovers.

Come summer, some of us think of eating light: salads, grilled fish, fresh fruit.

Others, however, think only this: pork. We think of slow-cooked pork shoulders, “pulled” and dressed in barbecue sauce. We think of the whole hog, pit-roasted for a “pig pickin'” that we saw on a show on television and hope to get a chance to experience in person someday. And we think of barbecued ribs.

James Villas thinks of pork all the time. His last cookbook was “The Bacon Cookbook” (Wiley, 2007), and his newest one is “Pig: King of the Southern Table” (Wiley, 2010). He is to pork what Julia Child was to French cooking.

“Pig” is not solely about barbecue, although “barbecue” in the South means pork “99 percent of the time,” Villas says, grandly dismissing such delights as Texas brisket.

The recipes that get a pork lover salivating in summer are the recipes for barbecue. And by “barbecue,” Villas specifies “the age-old method of cooking whereby a whole hog or specific cuts of a hog are roasted slowly anywhere from several to 12 hours over glowing charcoal and/or hardwood coals, basted with a mopping sauce, possibly chopped or sliced, and enhanced with more barbecue sauce.”

The recipe below is for Memphis-style barbecued baby-back ribs, from a restaurant named Corky’s, which Villas calls Memphis’ “major exponent” of the dish. “Naturally, the recipes for Corky’s rub and sauce are big secrets,” he writes, but he says his own “approximations” come close to the originals. If you want to use larger, tougher but (some argue) more flavorful spareribs, you can; the overall cooking time will be about 30 minutes longer. And if you insist on using a gas grill, set it up for smoking (add soaked wood chips to the smoker box, if you have one, or create a foil packet of wood chips; the owner’s manual -or an Internet search – will tell you how).


For the rub:

1⁄4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons paprika

2 teaspoons dried thyme, crumbled

2 teaspoons dried oregano, crumbled

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the moppin’ sauce:

1⁄2 cup cider vinegar

1⁄2 cup tomato sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon molasses

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

For the ribs:

3 racks of baby-back ribs (4 to 4-1⁄2 pounds)

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Set up the grill: Soak two to three handfuls of hickory chips in a pan of water for 45 minutes. Arrange a thick layer of charcoal briquettes over the bottom of an outdoor grill, ignite, and when the coals are ashen (30 to 45 minutes), sprinkle the soaked chips evenly over the coals.

Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the dry rub in a bowl and mix until well blended. In another bowl, combine all the ingredients for the moppin’ sauce and whisk briskly until well blended. Using a sharp knife and, if necessary, a pair of pliers, cut and pull off the membrane from the back of each rack of ribs. (Using a dish towel to grab the membrane as you pull also helps.)

Season the ribs with salt and pepper, then rub each rack with about 2 tablespoons of the dry-rub mixture.

When ready to cook, position the grate of the grill four to five inches from the heat, brush the grate with oil, place the ribs on the grate bone-side down, and grill for about 15 minutes. Turn the ribs over with tongs, and grill for 15 minutes. Brush with a little moppin’ sauce, turn the ribs over, and grill 15 minutes more. Brush again with the sauce, turn, and grill for 15 minutes longer or until very tender and glossy. (Replenish the coals and chips if necessary, and if the dripping fat or sauce causes flare-ups, move the ribs around or flick a little water over the coals.)

Transfer the ribs to a cutting board, brush them with more sauce, and then sprinkle enough dry rub over the surfaces to form a crust. Serve as whole racks or cut into sections, with a little extra dry rub on the side.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Recipe from “Pig: King of the Southern Table” by James Villas (Wiley, 2010)

• Marialisa Calta is the author of “Barbarians at the Plate: Taming and Feeding the American Family” (Perigee, 2005). For more information, go to http://www.marialisacalta