Thursday, May 31, 2012

Loss and barbecued ribs…really?

It seems a bit odd to talk about the death of a family member and barbecued ribs in the same breath, but as food bloggers, that’s what we do, isn’t it? Food goes right along with happiness and everyday life just as much as it goes along with sadness and tragedy. I won’t pretend like I’m going to transition from death to ribs seamlessly, so this will be a two-part post wrapped into one, with no attempt to link the two.

Part I:
My grandma passed away on Friday. She was 90, although according to her, she was perpetually 39 (and had naturally brown hair). She had a very short illness and left us much more quickly than any of us could have imagined. And while I’m relieved that she wasn’t long-suffering, I’m also kicking myself for not seeing her more during these last years. I can offer no good excuses for my lack of visits, just life and laziness, really. I’m sure this feeling of regret is a fairly standard reaction to the loss of a loved one, wishing you had given more now that you don’t have a chance to anymore.

But in her last days, I was able to spend time with her, and on her last night, my cousin and I gave her a very fitting sendoff, in a way only we could (in that obnoxious granddaughterly way). For that, I’m glad.

Part II:
As promised, there is no transition here, although my grandma did recently tell my dad she loved his barbecued ribs. That’s as good a reason as any for a post, I suppose…

I’ve been meaning to post these ribs again for a long time. See, I’ve already blogged about them here, but since my prior post was lacking an actual recipe and included photos that are incredibly embarrassing, it needed revamping. And chances are, since that post was only about a month into my blogging adventure, you probably didn’t see it anyway (unless you were my mom or one of the nine incredibly awesome people that threw me a bone with a comment on such a horrible post). So, here’s the new and improved version. I think it’s a little better…

This has become our go-to rib recipe and the results are perfect every time.

Barbecued Pork Ribs with Spicy Barbecue Sauce

1 3-lb rack of pork ribs
pecan wood chips, soaked in water (optional)

Spice rub:
onion powder
garlic powder
ground mustard
chili powder
cayenne pepper
ground chipotle pepper

1 6-ounce can tomato paste
3 ounces cider vinegar
8-10 ounces water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper 

For the spice rub:
Mix equal parts of each ingredient together. (For these ribs, 1 teaspoon each yields about the right amount of rub. Make a bigger batch to have leftovers.)

For the sauce:
In a small saucepan, whisk all ingredients together and bring to a simmer. Let simmer and reduce to a consistency you like. (I like it on the thinner side.) 

For the ribs:
Trim excess fat from the ribs and remove the membrane from the underside. Sprinkle the spice rub generously over both sides of the ribs and rub in. Keep ribs in the refrigerator until ready to grill. (I usually do the rub several hours in advance.)

If using wood chips, place in a smoker box and into grill. Heat the grill to 325 degrees F.

Place ribs meat side up on grill over indirect heat and don’t touch them again for 90 minutes. After 90 minutes, glaze both sides of the ribs with sauce, starting with the rib side, and ending with the meaty side up again. Close the grill and let the ribs finish cooking for 15 more minutes.

Transfer the ribs onto a baking sheet and cover with foil for 30 minutes. When ready to serve, cut between each bone. Serve with extra sauce on the side for dipping.


  1. I'm so sorry Karen! My grandfather, also 90, was put into a hospice last week. I've been pondering a food post for him myself.

  2. Ribs are indeed comfort food. Such a heavy loss, but what delight to have happy and well for most of her years.

    Just love the rib recipe. i am a long slow and low temp cook myself, but will give this a try next time i so not have the patience.

    Thanks for sharing
    Dave at

  3. So sorry to hear about your grandma... even after 10 years I still miss mine.

    Thanks for the recipe. Our family barbecue sauce is similar to yours, but we don't usually do a rub; I'm going to try it your way tonight!


  4. I'm sorry about the loss of your grandmother. I think it's col that you made a food that she would have loved to eat with you. It's a fitting tribute.

  5. I thought of you all yesterday and am sorry I couldn't come to the service. She was certainly a force in all our lives! Thank you for being there for her.

  6. I'm sorry for your loss, Karen. I am glad you got to spend more time together. I won't try to transition nicely into complimenting your food, although the ribs really do look good.

  7. Thank you for being such a good granddaughter.
    We love you.

  8. Karen, I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm sure your grandmother would have been thrilled that you dedicated this post to her :)

  9. Oh Karen! I'm so sorry to hear about your grandma! Its sweet of you to dedicate this post to her!