While I have chosen a Caribbean groove for these ribs, you can apply the technique to any recipe in your repertoire. But you definitely want a combination of smoke, spice, and sauce. Take one of these three away, and your spareribs will only be fair. If you prefer back loin ribs (a.k.a. baby back ribs), smoke them for 20 minutes, wrap, and cook for about 45 minutes, or until the meat pulls back from the bones.
Note: Guava jelly can be found in the Latin section of most supermarkets. If you can’t find guava jelly, substitute pineapple preserves or apricot preserves.
- To make the rub: Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Season the ribs all over with the rub. (The ribs can be stacked, wrapped in aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
- To make the glaze: Melt the butter in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in the jelly, rum, soy sauce, mustard, ketchup, and vinegar and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about one third to 1¼ cups, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely. The glaze will thicken as it cools. (The sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
- Prepare an outdoor charcoal or gas grill for indirect cooking over medium-high heat. For a charcoal grill, let a charcoal chimney of charcoal burn until covered with white ash. Pour the coals on one side of the grill. Place an empty 9-by-13-inch aluminum foil pan on the other side of the grill and add about 3 cups of water to the pan. Let the coals burn to about 400ºF. (Use an oven thermometer placed on the grill grid.) Sprinkle the wood chips over the coals.
- For a gas grill, preheat the grill with all burners on. Turn one side of the burners off and adjust the heat to 400ºF. Wrap the wood chips in an aluminum foil packet, and tear open the top of the packet. Place the packet directly on the heat source and let heat until the chips are smoking.
- Place the unwrapped ribs on the cooler side of the grill, not over the heat source. Cover and grill with indirect heat for 30 minutes. Transfer the ribs to a platter. (If using a charcoal grill, add about 10 more briquettes to the coals to maintain the heat and leave the lid off while wrapping the ribs in the next step to help them ignite.)
- Wrap each slab in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Return to the grill, with the foil seams facing up so the juices don’t leak out. Cover and continue grilling until the meat has shrunk and exposed about ½ inch from the rib bone ends (open a packet to find out), about 45 minutes. Remove from the grill. Unwrap the ribs, discarding the juices, and set aside. (The ribs can be cooled, stacked, wrapped in aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 8 hours.)
- The ribs will now be browned over direct heat. For a charcoal grill, remove the cooking grate, add about 20 briquettes in a mound to the grill, and let them burn until they are covered with white ash. Spread the coals in the grill and let burn to about 400ºF. (This takes about 30 minutes from adding the charcoal to the fire.)
- For a gas grill, maintain 400ºF heat.
- Place the ribs on the grill over the heat source. Cover and cook, turning occasionally, until the ribs are browned, about 5 minutes. If a flare-up occurs, move to the cooler area on the grill. Brush the tops with the glaze and continue grilling, turning occasionally, until the glaze is reduced and set, 3 to 5 minutes more, moving the ribs to the cooler area of the grill if needed to keep the glaze from burning. Transfer to a cutting board. Let stand 3 to 5 minutes. Chop the slabs between the bones into individual ribs. Serve hot.
Recipe by Rick Rodgers
Rick Rodgers is an award-winning cooking teacher and the author of over 40 cookbooks on a wide range of subjects, including The Big Book of Sides (Ballantine). In addition to writing the TasteBook.com column ‘”Tips from the Test Kitchen,” Rick works with entertainment figures, corporations, and celebrity chefs on their cookbooks. His clients include Tommy Bahama, Frankie Avalon, Patti LaBelle, and Williams-Sonoma. See more of his work on www.RickRodgers.com.