All twenty four of them. That’s the number of ribs we all have, despite various perpetuated myths to the contrary. Nor should you have a spare. The terminology is thought to be a corruption of the German ribbesper, meaning to spear meat for roasting. Barbecued, spareribs or otherwise, has a few competing theories of origin. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the route of the word to Haiti. The OED agrees with most lexicologists that barbecue is a derivation of the West Indian term barbacoa, a long slow cooking over hot coals. Other groups claim that barbecue is from the French “barbe a queue”, meaning from head to tail. Personally, they can call it whatever they want as long as I get to have it on my plate.
Stick to your ribs usually refers to deeply satisfying and nourishing foods and frequently suggests hearty winter dishes. Yet in summer, when easy living and dining al fresco can be daily goals, barbecued spareribs qualify in spades. There are statewide contests pitting (intended) barbecue chefs against each other. Every secret sauce has its ardent fans. Every method has its fervent supporters. Every once in a while, one such chef or home cook comes up with a new variation on the theme. Sometimes that is to add a different ingredient to the sauce. Other times it is to adapt the method. Today, we’re doing both.
So we may have to tip our collective hats to Elijah Craig, 1738 - 1808. Elijah was a Baptist minister, distiller and entrepreneur. He was the first to age his whiskey in charred barrels. Among his other accomplishments were the establishment of Kentucky’s first ropewalk, paper mill and fulling mill. A busy man. There is today a Kentucky whiskey or bourbon called Elijah Craig which is produced by Heaven Hill Distillery. Bourbon is one of the not so secret ingredients in many barbecue sauces.
One of the fun things about ribs is that you get to eat them with your fingers. In our recipe for today, we have a variation on both method and ingredients. Before we put the ribs on the grill, we roast them to achieve an even cooking throughout the rack of ribs. Our secret sauce ingredient is Connecticut maple syrup that has been aged in a bourbon barrel. You will need plenty of napkins. Please check our web site for other barbecue recipes and ideas.