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PORK

WHY SMOKY RIBS RULE THE WORLD

PERHAPS the greatest expression of the barbecue master's art is the perfect rack of smoked pork ribs – smoky, richly sauced and meltingly tender. And by following this recipe and using a decent barbecue that will hold smoke, some hickory chips and a bag of Heat Beads, you can achieve this. Here's how:

• Prepare two racks of ribs – ideally baby back ribs if you have an enlightened butcher – by removing the tough membrane from the back of each rack by lifting one corner with a knife, grasping it with the help of a paper towel and ripping it off in one piece. Or if you have a good butcher, ask him to do it for you. This is important because it allows the rub and sauce flavours to penetrate. Coat both sides of each rack with plenty of my all-purpose rub (recipe below), place in a baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

• Prepare a Weber kettle for semi-indirect cooking or, if you have one, fire up a Smokey Mountain cooker or an offset barrel smoker. In the case of the Weber kettle, pile lit Heat Beads to one side of the grate, leaving room on the other side for a large foil tray. This means that, roughly, your charcoal grate will be half coals, half tray. Then, half fill the tray with water.

• Position your rubbed ribs above the water tray. If you have a rib rack, so much the better, but it is not essential. If you don’t have a rack you will have to more the ribs around from time to time. Put plenty of wet hickory chips on the charcoal, cover the kettle and allow to cook and smoke gently for about 90 minutes, topping up the hickory chips at least once. This should ensure the ribs are nicely bronzed by the smoke. At this point, they are about half way there.

• For a Smokey Mountain or barrel smoker, simply continue to cook, easing the heat back a little, for another couple of hours, or until the ribs can, literally, be pulled apart. But for a kettle, take a shallow baking tray with a cake rack that fits inside, and cover the bottom of the tray with water. Position the ribs on the rack and cover the tray (and the ribs) tightly with foil. Return the rack to your Weber, positioning as before, and freshening up the coals if necessary, for at least another hour. Check to ensure the ribs are meltingly tender, and remove from the heat.

• Place the ribs on a board and coat well with barbecue sauce (recipe below). Slice into single ribs and serve with additional barbecue sauce.
Now eat one. And another. So, now, do you understand what smoked pork ribs are all about?
These two recipes deliver products you will want to keep at hand all summer. The rub is superb: this quantity will take care of two racks of ribs. But I suggest that while you are at it you at least quadruple the recipe. It is an all-purpose rub, really. The uncooked barbecue sauce echoes the spice notes of the rub and, again, works on most grill dishes.

Try these:
• For the rub, combine 1tbs dry mustard, 1tbs sweet paprika, 1tbs dark brown sugar, 1½ tsp garlic powder, 1½ tsp onion powder, 1½ tsp celery salt, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, ½ tsp ground allspice.
• For the barbecue sauce, mix 1½ cups tomato sauce with ¼ cup molasses, ¼ cup cider vinegar, ¼ cup water, a splash of liquid smoke and whisk in 2 tbs of the rub mixture.

At this point I also add a splash of bourbon but, please yourself …

BRINED PORK CHOPS

Australian pork is as good as any in the world – simple as that. And pork is one of the great meats to cook on a barbecue.

Chops, however – although they are a great cut – can be tricky because handled wrongly, they can become tough and dry. So to avoid this, cook them carefully and try brining them. This is a popular American approach, used widely for turkeys which also have a dryness issue. It works just as well for pork, and for chicken breasts, for that matter. But back to the pork chops…

Ask your butcher if he sells free-range pork. If not, try another butcher. Forget supermarket pork. Have 4 thick (3cm) chops cut and remove skin (cook it separately if you like). Put chops in a baking dish, top with a thinly-sliced onion, a couple of bay leaves, half a dozen cracked allspice berries, a broken cinnamon stick, a few cloves and plenty of roughly-cracked black pepper corns.

Make a brine: mix 3tbs brown sugar with 3tbs sea salt, add a cup of hot water and whisk to dissolve. Add 2 cups cold water, 4tbs bourbon and 2tbs olive oil. Pour this over the chops and refrigerate for about 4 hrs, turning a couple of times.

To cook, dry chops with kitchen towel and brush off spices. Brush with olive oil and cook. Start gently (indirect method) and use plenty of hickory smoke. Finish over the hot part of the grill to achieve good grill marks. Serve with coleslaw, or similar. Granny smith apples, halved, cored and grilled, are great - especially with a dollop of red current jelly used to fill (after cooking) the indentation left from removing the core.

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