Ribs and Collard Greens

Okay, now that I’ve reviewed one of the local BBQ places, it’s my turn for BBQ and Greens. I’m a just little hesitant to share this to be honest. Every time we’d have a cook out, everyone asked for the secret to my ribs. But I figure at this point, what the hell. To be honest. it’s really nothing more than technique, no secret recipes or anything. I do have a killer rub for ribs, but for this discussion, I’ll stick with store bought. Come on, I need to have some secrets. 🙂

Okay, this is all done at least the day before you are going to make the ribs. Got that? The day before. Not 8 hours, not 2 hours. You need at least 24 hours of prep time. First order of business is get to know your ribs. In the land of the mighty hog, there are 3 types of ribs, baby backs, which are from the loin area, close to the spine(Not from little tiny cute pigs people, baby refers to size here), and St Louis and spare ribs which are around the side and close to the belly. For BBQ, baby backs seem to be the hands on favorite, but it’s still a matter of personal preference. Once last thing to know about pork meat in general. Many many moons ago, the government in it’s never ending quest to make sure it takes care of us, decided that the pork being produced was too fatty. An edict came down from on high, and pork farmers had to come up with leaner pigs. Okay, fine. Less fat. Yeah for health. But less fat = less taste and moisture content, so the processing plants started injecting salt water and other chemicals into the meat to make it taste better. Nature or man made additives. You pick the healthy.

For our ribs, we are going to use baby back ribs that have no additives at all. Look for it on the package, if the ribs have been modified, it will say additives added or some such rot. Don’t want those. We are going to add our own moisture and tasty bits. Now, first step in preparation is to remove the silver back from the ribs. The silver back is that membrane that stretches across the bone side of a rack of baby backs. If you neglect to do this step, the ribs will be ruined. Well, that’s a little harsh, but honestly, if you want to move out of the beginner BBQ ranks, remove it. To do so, lay the ribs meat side down. You should see across the bones, this shiny plastic looking membrane. Insert a sharp knife at one end of the ribs, between the membrane and the bone and lift until you get a good piece to hang on to. I use pliers for this step, just tons easier. Then gently pull the membrane away from the ribs. If you take your time it should come off in one piece. If it breaks, just start over again at the break point. Now, cut the sheet of ribs into sections, I usually have 4 bones to a section. If you have a glorious walk in fridge and an 8 foot smoker, then by all means leave them as a solid rack. I’ve found that when space is at a premium, 4 bone sections are just as juicy as full racks, just not near as dramatic when serving. Pat the rack or sections, and set aside.

In a non-metallic container add the ribs. You must use a non-metallic or you will get an off taste imported to the meat. Once all the ribs are in, you will want to have about 3″ of lip left around the container to prevent sloshing. Right, ribs have silver back removed, trimmed and in a container, on with the show! Pour catsup over the ribs and toss them to make sure all are coated. Pour in 1-2 bottles of nice dark porter per every 1-2 racks. If you insist on using a pilsner, don’t bother. Honest, it has to be a dark porter. Then fill the container with root beer until all the ribs are covered. Place the container in the fridge for at least 12 hours. Every couple of hours move the meat around to get rid of air pockets forming. Key to this part is all the meat must be in liquid.

After 12 hours take the container out and remove the ribs. Pat dry and set aside. Drain, rinse and dry that same container. Place the ribs meat side up in a single layer on the bottom of the container. Rub in some store bought dry rub, then sprinkle a little brown sugar over it. Add the next layer of ribs and repeat as needed. If you want my dry rub recipe, email me. Like I said, I need some secrets. 🙂 Place the container of ribs back into the fridge for 6-12 hours. What’s that you say? Why the big time difference? Well look, it all depends on the dry rub itself. If you have one that’s a little on the salty side, it will start pulling out too much moisture. The way to tell when you are good to go is if the rib meat almost feels cooked. In other words there is some firmness to the meat. If unsure, and your timing requires 12 hours, use less rub.

Okay, now the cooking. The is BBQ people so what does that mean? Cover with tin foil and place in an oven??? AUGH!!! You’ve learned nothing!! Sorry, Hell’s Kitchen moment there. If you read the last post you know BBQ is meat cooked and smoked over a wood fire at very low, around 220 F temps. Gas grillers, make sure you have a full tank and have some hickory chips soaked and ready to add to the grill to keep a nice slow smoke going. Charcoal cats, have some extra charcoal ready, not the self light, and chunks of hickory wood ready. You really should have an oven thermometer as well. I can’t drive this point home hard enough. You must keep the temp low. If your ribs are done before 8-10 hours of cooking, they will in no way shape or form be as good as those that cooked the entire time. Move the meat around on the grill. If it’s getting too hot, take the ribs off and let them rest in a turned off oven for a while. Patience people. Patience.

Speaking of patience, start the greens about 6 hours before serving time. If you can, use fresh whole collard greens. If you can’t find them fresh, frozen works okay. Chop up the fresh greens into good sized pieces. In a large stock pot over medium high heat, brown off about 6 slices of bacon. Once you get some bacon fat rendered out, add 1 good sized white onion, diced. Stir this around until the onions wilt, then add in 1 good sized ham hock. Stir it around a bit letting it soak up some of the bacon fat. Add in the greens and enough cold water to cover. Let it come to a boil, then turn the heat down to the lowest setting possible. Do not cover, let it just slowly cook away. The smell filling the kitchen will be incredible. Every once in a while check for seasonings and just add salt and pepper to taste. Nothing else. The meat on the ham hock will slowly cook off the bone, and the flavor is….man I’m droolin’ right now. Serve the greens with a shaker of hot vinegar sauce. To make it, just heat up equal parts white and rice wine vinegar. In a small glass shaker, like you use for Italian dressings, add 2 jalapenos, 2 banana peppers and 2 habaneros all cut in rings. When the vinegar gets to a boil, using a funnel pour the hot vinegar into the shaker. let it come to room temperature then cover and let it set. This will keep for weeks. Awesome over greens man, just frickin’ awesome.

So, what have I forgot? “Gregor,” you all ask at once. “What about the sauce man? Where’s the rib sauce?” Ah, you caught me. See, I like ribs without sauce. To me, if prepared correctly, you just don’t need any. If you must be up to your elbows in sauce for it to be a true BBQ, I recommend a good store sauce, like Montgomery Inn. I have some recipes for sauces, but to be honest you end up spending 4 times the cost of a jar. If you want some, please email me or leave a comment. Just do me a favor and use it sparingly at first. You might be surprised. Okay, aside from sauce, bring some of your favorite potato salad, some cast iron skillet corn bread, and beer. Lot’s of ice cold beer. Oh, and Blues coming out of the music box. Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor and a little Jonny Lang.

Call me when it’s ready!

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