August 28, 2009
Applewood-Smoked Country Ribs
by Gareth Mark
Country style pork ribs have great flavor, but they can be difficult to cook well. Hot smoking is an excellent way to prepare country style ribs or any other protein.
Start the ribs by brining them for better flavor and to retain moisture. I used enough apple juice to cover the ribs in a bowl, then added a splash of chardonnay, about a teaspoon of sea salt, and a pinch of garlic powder. I let them sit in the brine for about an hour. Larger cuts will require more time and more salt. The rule-of-thumb is 20 parts liquid to one part salt, by weight.
Smoking doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment. You'll need some sort of heat source--a barbecue grill, stovetop, or oven will work fine. If you're smoking on the stovetop or in the oven, you'll also need some sort of covered pan to use as a smoker. If you don't have a dedicated smoker, simply cover all interior surfaces of a pan and lid with foil. Any bit of pan not covered will be discolored by the smoke, usually permanently.
You'll also need something to generate flavor--wood chips, herbs, or tea, for example. If you use wood chips, start by soaking them in liquid for about half an hour. I used applewood chips and soaked them in apple juice and chardonnay. If you're using dried herbs or tea, you'll need to add sugar to generate plenty of smoke.
Hot smoking cooks food rather quickly because of the use of high heat, while still imparting good smoky flavor. If you're using an outdoor grill, get it warmed up and get the smoke going before you begin to cook your food. If you're doing it on the stovetop you'll put the flavor components on the bottom of the foil-lined pan, then put the protein on a rack over the flavorings, then cover and apply heat.
Smoke the food on a rack until it reaches an appropriate internal temperature--170°F/77°C for pork. The color of smoked meat doesn't change nearly as much as with more direct cooking methods. Pork, for example, remains pink in the interior.
To finish the ribs, I made a simple apple glaze by reducing until nicely thickened about 2 cups of apple juice, a splash of pinot gris, a pinch of garlic powder, and a cinnamon stick. After the thickening, I removed the cinnamon and added the ribs to glaze them. Served at room temperature, the ribs made a sweet and smoky appetizer.