The smell wafted for hours while they were smoking and lingered long after they were done. I guess they were Memphis-style, but I grew up in Mississippi, and as far I as knew they were just ribs. Dry. The thinking being that if you smoke ’em right, sauce would just cover up the goodness. My papa (pronounced paw-paw) was quite the accomplished pitmaster. And good with things that grow. He was also unexpectedly mathy. Good at Tetris, Rubik’s cubes, that kinda thing. For years, I was worried I would never be able to achieve barbecue as good as his because I have a black thumb and zero math skills. I still have to cross out the number and carry the one when I attempt subtraction. Fortunately, at least some of it must be genetic, or at least it gets in your bones and you can’t shake it. I’ve tried to mix up the recipe about a thousand ways, but (with just a couple of exceptions) I always come back to Papa’s.
Pecan-Smoked Dry Ribs
2 racks spare ribs (8 to 10 pounds)
1 C distilled white vinegar
1/2 C yellow mustard
3 T packed brown sugar
2 T salt
1 T hot Hungarian paprika
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
1 T ground cumin
1 T ground coriander
1 T cayenne
1 T dried thyme
4 cups 1″ pecan wood chunks
The day before you plan to smoke the ribs, trim the racks of excess fat and remove the membrane from the underside of each rack using a dinner knife to pry it loose, then a paper towel to give a little purchase to yank the whole thing off. Cut each rack in half. Place racks in one or two large pans and pour the vinegar over, turn to coat and let sit, five minutes or so, turning often. Pour off vinegar. Coat the racks in the mustard.
In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients (except wood chunks). Sprinkle over the mustard on the ribs and rub in to coat well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.
Soak wood chunks in water for an hour and prepare the grill for smoking, at 225. Once you have a good fire, add the wood chunks to the charcoal and place the pork on the grill, with a drip tray underneath. For this smoke, I had a lot of ribs to cook in a little space, so I made a pork teepee. Roll up the ribs and join with a bamboo skewer. Stand them up on the grill and lean them all towards the center. Smoke 4 to 5 hours, until a nice smoke ring has developed and the meat is not quite falling off the bone.
Cut into racks, or into individual ribs.
So make some memories, and enjoy!