Smoked Ribs w/ Orange Tamarind BBQ Sauce

The fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays, but that has very little to do with independence and very much to do with potato salad and ribs. My favorite potato salad is made by a friend’s mom and contains eggs, a mess of spices, and a number of other things I can’t quite put my finger on. Since I know I can never match these potatoes, I’ve worked up a recipe for ribs I can offer as my trade bargain for the gallon or two of potatoes I’ll inevitably inhale over the course of the weekend. I recently got an electric smoker which I’ve created this recipe around but they’re just as delicious when cooked on a gas or charcoal grill. I’ve offered an alternate recipe for grilling. I make my own barbecue sauce with tamarind paste and fresh orange juice, but you can really use any brand or recipe you like. Happy fourth, and may the potato salad be bountiful! 

 
 

Yields 3-4 servings

1 rack pork spareribs (3-4 pounds) 

Rib spice blend (recipe and ingredients below)

BBQ sauce (recipe and ingredients below) 

Apple cider (optional)

Rib Spice Blend

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin

Combine the spices. If smoking the ribs, get them going before you start the BBQ sauce. If grilling, start the sauce before the ribs as they cook much faster on a grill.

BBQ Sauce

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped roughly
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 3 packed tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon peach or other sweet liqueur (optional) 
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1/4 teaspoon tamarind paste (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 3 large Roma tomatoes, cut from their cores and chopped roughly
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • Juice of 1 large orange, heaping teaspoon zest reserved

1. In a medium sauce pot over a medium flame, warm several tablespoons of olive oil. 

2. Sauté the onion and garlic until the onions are translucent and their liquid has cooked down. 

3. Add the brown sugar and salt and continue to cook the mixture for several minutes.

4. If using, add peach liqueur and allow to boil down for several minutes.

5. Add the ketchup, tamarind paste, dijon mustard, and cook until thick bubbles form at the top of the simmering mixture. 

6. Add the tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, orange juice and turn the flame to low. 

7. Simmer the sauce for 40 minutes to an hour, until it has cooked down by about a quarter and thick bubbles are beginning to form again. 

8. Add orange zest and cook for five more minutes. 

9. Allow sauce to cool completely and blend until smooth.

 

To smoke ribs:

1. Slice through the membrane between each rib parallel to the bone. This prevents the ribs from seizing up and getting tough when they hit the heat. It also makes them easier to eat. 

2. Rub the ribs liberally with the spice blend. 

3. Place the ribs bone-side down in a smoker registering 200-250 degrees, and cook for 4 to 5 hours. 

4. Every hour brush the ribs liberally with barbecue sauce. 

5. The ribs are done when the end of each rib bone is poking through the meat and wiggles easily when you move it.

6. In the last hour of cooking you may choose to place the ribs on a sheet pan, pour apple cider over them, and wrap them with tin foil. If using apple cider, uncover 15 minutes before serving and let a crust form on the surface of the meat. Let ribs rest for several minutes before serving alonside remaining barbecue sauce.


To grill ribs: 

1. Slice through the membrane between each rib parallel to the bone. This prevents the ribs from seizing up and getting tough when they hit the heat. It also makes them easier to eat. 

2. Rub the ribs liberally with the spice blend.

3. If using a charcoal grill, set up a coal fire and when the coals are red-hot, spread them evenly. 

4. If using an electric grill, turn the flame to medium-high. 

5. Place the seasoned ribs bone-side down on the grill and let them caramelize on both sides (5-6 minutes per side).

6. Remove the rack from the grill and cut into quarts. Tightly wrap each quarter with aluminum foil. 

7. If using a charcoal grill, move the coals to one side of the grill and place the wrapped parcels over indirect heat. If using an electric grill, turn the flame to medium low and place the parcels back on the grill.

8. Cook the ribs for 30-35 minutes before removing to a platter, brushing with BBQ sauce, and resting for several minutes.