Barbecue gets the treatment in new cookbook
Many rub recipes are for particular kinds of meat, but here’s an all-purpose rub that’s good with everything from chicken to pork, beef to bologna. Shoot, it’s even good on popcorn.
Makes a bit less than 3 cups
• 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1/2 cup kosher salt
• 1/2 cup sweet paprika
• 1/4 cup seasoned salt (such as Lawry’s)
• 1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
• 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
• 2 tablespoons onion powder
• 2 tablespoons garlic powder
• 2 tablespoons chili powder
• 1 tablespoon ground cumin
Mix the ingredients thoroughly. This keeps indefinitely, sealed and refrigerated.
Although there are exceptions, most Southerners cook pork ribs “low and slow” and put sauce on them. Cooked that way, any advantages of baby back ribs disappear, so get some proper spareribs (not “country ribs”—which aren’t actually ribs). Spareribs are cheaper and more flavorful, and, besides, baby back ribs sound like they’re for sissies. A rack of ribs can be manicured “St. Louis style” to make it prettier and the ribs more uniform. If you want to throw good meat away for cosmetic purposes, you can buy it this way or do it yourself (Google “St. Louis style trim”).
This is one of the few cases where you can’t use a meat thermometer to decide when you’re done, because the meat is too thin. So pick up the rack with tongs or gloves and see if it flops. When the meat cracks a bit, you can stop — or not. Competition barbecuers say ribs that “fall off the bone” are overdone, but don’t let them boss you around: Some people prefer them that way.
You can choose your rubs and sauces to cook ribs Alabama, Memphis, or Kansas City style.
• 3- to 5-pound rack of spareribs for every 1–2 eaters
• Cooking oil
• Rub of your choice (2–3 tablespoons per rack)
• Sauce of your choice
Rinse the ribs and pat them dry with a paper towel. Remove the membrane from the back: just stick a screwdriver or butter knife under it and wiggle it off. Coat each rack with cooking oil, sprinkle the rub over both sides, and rub it in. Let it sit, refrigerated, for at least 2 hours (overnight is fine).
Barbecue, meat-side up, with indirect heat and wood smoke at approximately 225 degrees for about 5 hours. Check for doneness (see above). When done, paint with the sauce while still hot. Serve with additional sauce on the side.
Kaycee “Red Menace” Sauce
Barbecue sauce is important in Missouri. St. Louis leads the nation in per capita sauce consumption, and Kansas City even hosts an annual sauce contest. Perhaps that’s why when most Americans hear “barbecue sauce” they think of the Missouri version — what you find at your grocery store, at chain restaurants, and on a McRib, for that matter. Oddly, you don’t find it at the Kansas City place that local boy Calvin Trillin famously declared to be “the single best restaurant in the world,” Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue, where the idiosyncratic sauce is long on the flavors of vinegar, black pepper, and onion. For a “Kansas City–style” sauce — tomato-based and very sweet, with a touch of heat — check out Bryant’s longtime rival, Gates and Sons Bar-B-Q.
Ollie Gates says his sauce tastes good on broccoli. Cynics would say it tastes good on cardboard, and that’s why some of us don’t quite approve of it: You really can’t taste the meat it goes on. As Gary Wiviott says, sauces like Gates’s “can cover a multitude of sins,” so this is what to use if you’ve burned the chicken or undercooked the ribs. Food writer Hanna Raskin calls it a “sauce comb-over.” Barbecue blogger Meathead Goldwyn agrees; he says that sauces like these (“ketchup on steroids”) don’t penetrate the meat and “sit on top like frosting.” But he adds that when used as mops in the final minutes of cooking they caramelize well and add a nice glaze to ribs and chicken.
Here’s an utterly typical Kansas City sauce, a lot like what Gates and Sons has served since 1946. (The bourbon’s not typical, but makes the sauce a lot more interesting.)
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts
• 1 quart ketchup
• 1 cup water
• 3/4 cup white vinegar
• 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
• 1/2 cup bourbon whiskey (optional — see above)
• 2 tablespoons chili powder
• 2 tablespoons molasses
• 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and bring them to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25–30 minutes, stirring often. This freezes well.
All recipes from Barbecue: a Savor The South cookbook by John Shelton Reed. Copyright 2016 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. www.uncpress.unc.edu
By Deirdre Parker Smith
Barbecue, according to John Shelton Reed: “That means meat cooked for a long time at a low temperature with heat and smoke from burning wood or wood coals.”
It does not mean hot dogs on a gas cooker. So there. Leave it to Reed to lay it on the line and tell us what is and what is not barbecue. As usual, he’s pretty direct.
Barbcues probably came from the West Indies, and were an arrangement on which fish and small game were cooked.
The Spanish called it a barbacoa, which is where we get barbecue today — so it is acceptable to throw something on the barbecue.
The concept migrated to the Eastern Seaboard with the colonists, Reed tells us, and barbecue days became big feasts of celebration, with people from every class — but the lower classes had to do all the heavy lifting. There were card games and dice and plenty of drink.
That same colonial era brought the flavors of lime and pepper from the Caribbean to flavor the meat, which evolved to vinegar — much easier to find than limes —and pepper. For most of America’s history, barbecue was pretty much the same wherever it was eaten, says Reed.
Not until the 20th century did things start to change. In some areas, only a certain meat was consdered barbecue, in others, only a certain cut of meat. You may cook ribs on a barbecue, but it is not barbecue.
Then the sides came into question, from cole slaw to breads to stews.
And then, Reed writes, in the Centennial Expo of 1876, bottled ketchup was introduced, and it, like kudzu (introduced at the same expo) took over the South.
Reed says pork is the only meat for barbecue in eastern North and South Carolina, still with an emphasis on the whole hog cooked for a long time in a vinegar and pepper sauce.
Who knew Germans played such a large role in what we now call barbecue? Reed say that by adding ketchup to the sauce, the dish becomes very similar to a German one. Same goes for that weird yellow-mustard sauce in part of South Carolina — both Piedmonts were settled by Germans.
And they headed into Kentucky, where around Owesnboro, mutton is the only proper barbecue.
Barbecue owes much to the African Americans who cooked the whole hogs for the big house. The enslaved people took the shoulder (called butt) and ribs and that became the preferred cut.
Memphis became a barbecue mecca, with a lot of different styles of cooking and cuts and sauces. And Kansas City owes its barbecue heritage to Memphis, as well.
Reed makes a great analogy about barbecue men (nearly always men, he says). They are “like Orthodox icon painters.” Some have done it more, and some were better, but they were all following the same pattern or tradition.
Reed also sets out to tell us what he’s not going to cover. First of all, real barbecue is not something many home cooks can do. Few have the correct setup. Forget a whole hog. That’s for the professionals.
If you want to attempt to cook barbecue at home, you must use indirect heat — no meat directly over the hot coals.
And you must have certain tools, which Reed lists in his introduction. You cannot expect precision, especially in temperatures, as if it were cooked in an oven.
So, what Reed is trying to say is this: This ain’t for sissies. Real barbecue takes experience and commitment. Don’t mess around.
After his warnings, admonitions and tips, Reed does include recipes. You know what barbecue pizza is? A pizza shell with pulled pork and barbecue sauce on it. Elvis loved it.
In the mood for a St. Louis Hog Snoot? Look no futher.
The real meat of the book is in the rubs, sauces, mops and dips, which range from the sweet Memphis flavors to the vinegary North Carolina flavors to the odd North Alabama White Sauce.
He gives a nod to bread and even stoops low enough to find the traditional desserts (who has room for dessert?). Dori Sanders Peach Cobbler is in here, and the original recipe for Nilla Wafer Banana Pudding.
To drink? Well, beer is nice. But Sweet Tea, the “house wine of the South” is just the ticket.
With the seasons changing, it won’t be long before barbecues will start heating up back yards. Just be careful about what you call it.
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