To me the Fourth of July means ribs. Memphis-style if you please. My mom is from Memphis and growing up, barbecue meant pulled-pork sandwiches piled high with cole slaw (although if you must know I prefer mine on the side), and dry ribs with a side of sauce if you like it that way (I prefer mine “dry,” meaning without a sauce…if done right they’re still moist). Real barbecue means slow smoking over indirect heat. I often hear people saying they are going to “barbecue” when what they really mean is that they are going to “grill” or “cook out.”

So, today I’m going to try my hand at smoking some ribs on my Weber kettle grill. I’ve successfully smoked Boston butt for pulled pork but never tried ribs. One of the things I love about cooking is finding out what other people do and then discovering what works best for me. Of course I do this by reading cookbooks and looking online, but I also make phone calls. Last night I talked to my Dad and my Uncle James, who’ve both been known to cook some mean baby backs. I also looked on several websites including Simply Recipes, where Hank, the new contributor gives some guidelines on smoking on a Weber grill.

Both my dad and uncle use store-bought seasonings, but I chose to make my own rub. After being shocked that Gracious Goodness, the cookbook for the Memphis Symphony League didn’t have a dry rub recipe, I turned to The Barbecue! Bible by Stephen Raichlen. This book has a wide scope (it’s more international than regional), but it does have some good basic recipes for “Memphis-style ribs” or “North Carolina pulled pork,” even if I don’t always agree with his cooking techniques (often higher heat than should be recommended to someone wanting true ‘cue). If someone knows of a good cookbook for Memphis-style barbecue please let me know!

In the meantime here’s the recipe for the rub:

1/4 c. paprika
1 1/2 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tbsp. firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. celery salt
1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

I bought three racks of baby back ribs, somewhere around 6 lb. all together and used about 2/3 of the rub. You may need to pull off the silvery skin on the back of the ribs (I bought mine from Whole Foods and they’d already done this for me). If so, then just grab the skin on the bone side of the ribs with a paper towel and pull it off in a sheet. The paper towel should help you get a firm grasp. Rinse the ribs well and pat dry with a paper towel.

Sprinkle ribs with vinegar in a non-reactive roasting pan (not cast iron or aluminum), I used unfiltered apple cider vinegar but you can use whatever kind you have. Then rub the rub into the ribs with your hands. This is the fun part. Just sprinkle on with a spoon and get to rubbin’. Then, marinate covered in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours.

Alongside the ribs we’re going to serve garlic mashed potatoes (I’m going to boil the potatoes in the garlic broth I made the other night), baked beans (out of a can, sorry), corn salad, and a watermelon. I’ll post about the cooking tomorrow since I will have actually done it by that point. I’ll also post the recipe for the corn salad.

I hope I’m not jinxing myself by posting about the meal before I actually cook it; I’ll let you know how it turns out.