All right folks, here’s my entry. Hope you made a pit stop before starting this, cause you’re in for a long ride.
First, on Tuesday, 3/13, I made my sauce. Well, I made two. I had an idea for a variation in the recipe that worked out pretty well, IMO.
Step one, get all my stuff together. Note the recipe in the lower right portion of the picture.
Step two, the variation. For a second batch of sauce, I left out the lemon zest and juice, and instead used the following ingredients:
I followed the base recipe exactly for my lime sauce (except the lemon), but I added the following ingredients:
1 teaspoon grated lime zest
9 tablespoons fresh lime juice (*please* start with 6 or less and add from there)
3/4 teaspoon allspice (could’ve used less, maybe 1/2 tsp, can always add)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves (could’ve left this out altogether, with the allspice)
I started out with more lime juice because I had trouble tasting the lime with just 6 tbsp. At 9 I noticed roughly the same level of lime flavor that I had with the lemon flavor, but a smoother bite. The lime sauce came out a little thinner than the lemon sauce. Not super thin, just a little bit thinner. I may not have cooked it long enough, but I was having some spatter problems while trying to cook both sauces at once. (Of course I was wearing a white shirt at the time, so I had little dots everywhere.)
And what did the final sauce look like?
I had my wife taste both sauces. Her response was, “It’s sauce.” To her it didn’t really taste much different from a commercial sauce. To me, the citrus was a bright note, but I expected it to mellow. It was smoky and sweet, without being overpowering in any area except the citrus. The lime had a smoother flavor than the lemon, and the allspice added a flavor that reminded me of cooking sweets, like lime cookies.
I bought a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce for a taste competition with the ribs. To me, SBR’s sauce was too smoky for me. I couldn’t taste anything past the smoke. I preferred my sauces to that one, but it’s still only Tuesday. We’ll see what happens when the sauces mellow and I make the ribs.
Wednesday, 3/14, I had a bit of a taste test at lunch. The lemon sauce had mellowed quite well, with only a bright lemon touch at the end. The lime, on the other hand, hadn’t mellowed much at all. The lime still was a strong overall flavor, and the extra allspice and cloves were a touch more powerful, it seemed. It wasn’t bad, but a much different flavor than the lemon sauce. I decided to give the lime a real test with some baked pork loin for lunch. Yes, that’s corn on top of mashed potatoes.
I liked the flavor, but you have to like lime with this one. I think the lime was a great idea, but could use some tweaking. Less lime juice and cloves/allspice.
Thursday, 3/15. The big rib day. I volunteered to make ribs tonight for my in-laws and some friends, both as a reason to do this recipe and as thanks for all the meals they have us over for. Marie and Susie volunteered to make sides, leaving me to provide the meat. Can do!
Step one, make the rub. Again, note the recipe. If I’m not careful, people might actually think I’m organized and planned ahead for this!
What a color! I’m planning on making 5 racks, so this recipe is 2.5 times the normal recipe. Except for the black pepper. I could only double that, cause my hands just couldn’t run that grinder any more.
And now, the ribs. 12 pounds of baby backs! I found these ribs at a local Tom Thumb grocery store. They’re not enhanced, so all flavor will be strictly the recipe.
After removing the membrane (sorry, folks, I just couldn’t figure out how to get a pic of that step), I seasoned generously with the rub . . .
. . . and threw them on the grill. I’m at the in-laws, so I am using their Weber Summit Platinum. (Oh, I want one!!!) It’s got a built-in smoker box, so I have my hickory chips in there.
A few things here, some you may notice, others you won’t. I’m using Steven’s Rib Rack to cook these puppies. Now, it’s only got 4 slots, so I improvised by laying the 5th rack on top of the other 4. No worries there, but notice the position of the rack. See how it’s running sideways in the grill? There’s a simple reason for that. The grill isn’t big enough for the rack! I tried laying the rack in there running front to back, but I couldn’t close the lid! Even sideways, I could only get the lid closed by pushing it all the way to the back. It’s just slightly too long for this grill, at least it is with the ribs in it. Ah, well, I can make it work. Only problem will be the burners run front to back, so the ends are being exposed to the heat more than the middle. Not much I can do about that. (Yeah, I probably could have tried a different technique. Hindsight’s 20/20, and it’s easy to be the QB on Monday morning.)
Here we are about 15 minutes into the cook. The smoker box is on the far left of the picture, so I rotated the rack to try and even out the smoke.
Here’s the mop sauce. I used apple cider, butter, and a shot of Bushmill's. The chunks you see are butter melting into the mop sauce.
And we’re done! Looks pretty good to me. Time to sear a little sauce into a couple of racks.
Off the grill and resting a bit. If you look closely, the rack on top is pulling apart. That happened as I took it out of the rack. They are so tender just the weight of the ribs caused them to pull apart.
And a rack sliced for serving. You can see a sample rib is missing near the middle. That one was quality control. My wife stole that one off the board before I could finish carving.
The proof’s in the tasting, right? Well, all I heard was “Mmmmm!”, “Ooooh!”, “Wow, Rob, these are *good*!” and similar comments. Some were slightly chewy, but not extremely so. The only negative comment I heard was from Karen. “Rob, you went a little happy with the rub. Your son won’t eat these.” And she was right. Apparently, Nathan took one bite, said it was “too spicy”, and was done. Didn’t phase the adults, though. They had 2 racks gone before anyone decided they maybe oughta sit down and eat from a plate, maybe have some sides.
Now, remember the sauces? I brought 3, the lemon brown sugar sauce, my lime variation, and SBR’s sauce. In a blind tasting, the overwhelming favorite by unanimous vote was . . . Rob’s lime special! Woo Hoo!!
Lemon was second, and SBR came in a (very) distant third. In fact, other than the small sample I poured, it was never touched, and probably will *never* be touched.
Now, when I seared the sauce into the ribs, I used the lime sauce. Wow, was it good! It had mellowed a bit, but still had a definite lime taste. When seared, it left just a hint of lime sweetness to the meat, but what a wonderful, different flavor! The ribs were good enough on their own to not need sauce, but the sweet helped round out the spiciness of the rub. Definitely a keeper.
Some of you may remember a pic of my wife, Karen, eating a rib while my baby, Clarissa, screamed. Perhaps she wanted one?
Yep, she did! My, how times change! She gnawed on that bone like it was the last rib bone on the planet. Definitely not too spicy for her!
The sides were a Greek salad with cucumber, black olives, tomatoes, and feta cheese and steamed carrots with a touch of maple. I wish I could show you pics of these, or make a plate, but I had to get to work. All the above work, and all I got to eat was 2 ribs! I couldn’t even really enjoy them much cause I was already running late. I’m hearing all these great comments while I get ready, people fighting over the ribs as they’re cut, and I get to leave. Sometimes it’s lousy being a responsible adult.
But, y'know, it was a real rush to hear all the comments, see the faces, and know I put them there. That was cool.
Rob – TX Sandman
Edited to correct some misspellings and insert spacers for the days.