Baby Back Ribs and Cherry Barbecue Sauce

Everybody has a favorite barbecued rib recipe.  Whether they be pork baby backs, spareribs, Flintstone-style beef ribs, shortribs, or lamb ribs, each one is the “best”.  The fun of grilling season is to try lots of different variations on the rib theme.  I like my ribs falling-off-the bone-tender and very saucy.  These ribs are not my style, but given it was Father’s Day, I did them in the style that my husband prefers.  Seasoned with a dry rub, cooked slowly on the grill, and sauced sparingly, they were very good, indeed.  I made a cherry barbecue sauce; sweet, spicy, and with lots of citrus to keep it bright.  Along with corn on the cob, it was the perfect finger food dinner.

Baby Back Ribs with Cherry Barbecue Sauce

Baby back pork ribs (allow about 1 pound per person)
Dry seasoning rub
Cherry barbecue sauce

I use a combination of salt, pepper, paprika, mustard, thyme, garlic powder, cayenne, and brown sugar for my dry rub.  For three pound of ribs  I mixed:
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons paprika
2 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix everything together in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the spice mix over both sides of the ribs, and rub it into the meat. ( Any leftover dry rub can be stored in a small jar at room temperature for several weeks).  Wrap the ribs well and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, or as long as overnight.  When it’s time to cook the meat, heat your grill to about 250F.  I used a gas grill with only the front element on; I placed the ribs at the back of the grill.

If you use a charcoal grill, position your coals to one side and cook the ribs over indirect heat.  At 250F, the ribs will take 2 to 2 1/2 hours to become tender.  Check the meat around the bones; you should be able to move the rib bones easily, but you don’t want the meat falling apart.  At this point, raise the heat a little and brush some of the sauce over the ribs.  Allow them to glaze and turn them from time to time, applying more sauce.  Watch carefully as the sauce can burn quite easily.  On a charcoal grill you can move the ribs directly over the coals for this step, but don’t walk away or you will have a burnt dinner.  When the ribs are glazed to your satisfaction, remove them to a large cutting board, and after a few moments rest, carve them into serving portions.  Serve with your favorite rib accompaniments:  corn on the cob, coleslaw, baked beans, corn bread, and extra sauce on the side.

Cherry Barbecue Sauce
(makes about 2 1/2 cups sauce)
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups tomato sauce ( or a 15 ounce can purchased tomato sauce)
1/2 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup cherry juice concentrate ( I use R.W. Knudsen brand black cherry juice concentrate)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar 
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons orange juice
freshly squeezed juice of one small lemon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles
2 tablespoons Crown Royal whiskey or your favorite whiskey, bourbon, or Scotch
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over moderate heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and a big pinch of kosher salt and cook until the onion is softened, stirring occasionally.  Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook until the onion is very tender and the sauce has thickened and reduced a little.  Check the seasoning for salt and sweet-sour balance, adjusting to your taste.  Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Cool slightly before using.  The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.  This sauce is good on all kinds of grilled foods, including burgers, chicken, and pork chops.


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