Quick Aromatic Barbecue Ribs

This recipe uses a cherry juice and beer "sauna" to accelerate the cooking process as much as possible without sacrificing much tenderness. The intense, distinctive flavors of cherry, cinnamon and allspice are incredible. The only way to cook fall-off-the-bone-tender ribs is "low and slow." The traditional smoking method is done at about 225°F for many hours, but it can be difficult to find that much time on a busy holiday weekend.

By Russ Faulk, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet
Serves 8
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  • 3 slabs St. Louis-style ribs (baby back ribs will work) with the membrane removed
  • 1 batch Not-So-Basic Barbecue Rub
  • 3 cups cherry wood chips
  • Aluminum foil for smoking envelopes
  • Foil turkey roasting pan
  • 1 cup beer (Hacker-Pschorr Weiss is a good flavor choice)
  • 1 cup unsweetened (tart) cherry juice
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 batch Barbecue Finishing Sauce

Soak 2 cups of the cherry wood chips in water for about an hour.

Prepare your grill for indirect cooking at 325°F. Rinse the ribs under cool water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut each rack into two half-racks (or have the butcher do it for you). If the butcher did not remove the silvery membranes from the bone side of the racks for you, remove them now.

Rub the "bone side" of the racks with about a quarter of the Not-So-Basic Barbecue Rub. Rub the remainder into the "meat side," and let rest for about 20 minutes.

About 15 minutes before you put the ribs on the grill, create two foil smoking envelopes (see instructions below), and put one on the grill to get started. If you have a Kalamazoo offset smoker box, use it rather than making foil smoking envelopes.

Add the ribs to the grill with the "meat side" up in the indirect cooking zone. If your grill is too small for all the racks to lay flat, use a rib rack to hold them on end.

Cover the grill and cook for about 90 minutes at 325°F. Add the second smoking envelope after the first 30 minutes.

Place 1 cup beer and 1 cup cherry juice in the foil pan. Remove the ribs from the grill. Baste both sides of the racks with honey and place in the pan with the "meat side" up. Overlap the racks a little if necessary to make them fit, or use a rib rack. Cover with foil and return to the indirect zone of the grill.

Cook with the grill closed for another hour until tender and cooked through. Test to see that the meat pierces easily with a toothpick. Cook longer if necessary, adding more cherry juice if the liquid runs too low.

Transfer the racks from the foil pan onto the direct grilling zone. Baste with Barbecue Finishing sauce and cook for about 2 minutes per side. Baste with a little more sauce and repeat.

Cut the ribs apart for your guests convenience and serve on a large, pre-warmed platter.

Foil smoking envelope instructions: Spread a layer of dry wood chips in the center of a large foil sheet. Top with a layer of wet wood chips. Fold and seal the foil closed into a flat envelope, and then perforate the top with holes using a wooden skewer or fork.

Place the smoking envelope directly on the cooking surface above the fire, or place it on top of the gas grill diffusers below the cooking surface and above the burner.

Note: This recipe is great for bringing to barbecues away from home. Cook the ribs in advance up to the point where they should come out of the foil pan. Wrap the racks tightly in foil and refrigerate until it is almost time to serve. Borrow your host's grill for a few minutes to reheat the ribs and baste with the finishing sauce as described above, but do it for a little longer to allow the ribs to reheat.