It began as a stop gap. The Boys & Girls club had pulled out of Ribfest and the fear of being denied smokey ribs was too much for my group of friends. So it was planned we would host our own backyard ribfest. The official Ribfest did continue, but a new ribfest was born - one that would put more than out eating skills to the test.
The Second Annual Backyard BBQ Ribfest was held this year in our good friends new home and backyard. This year, it was to be a competition - four of us competing for taste, for honour, for the Targ Cup. Seasoning, smoking, mopping, saucing. Excitement was in the air as we prepared for pork glory.
Ricky acted as our pitmaster, smoking ribs for hours and hours, tending the coals, the flames, the ribs. As we walked into the backyard, the wondrous smell of smoke and pig wafted and enriched the nostrils. Glorious!
Four of us competed for the Targ Cup: Ricky, Brad, Alysia and myself. Each had a different rub and a different sauce we made. However, I had to forfeit a rub (and some games of badminton) as I could not arrive on time when the ribs first went on. My bad, but rules are rules. But dang those ribs pre-sauce look good enough to eat as they were. The ribs were all sourced from a local pig farmer, so they all started the same, and each person's flair with their rub and sauce would make the difference.
Low and slow the only way to go. You can see the meat slowly pull away from the bone, but not fall off the bone. You want a little tear - you want to work a little bit. The sacrifice of labour for swine love.
While Ricky tended the ribs, Alysia gets the prep table ready (after serving her own BBQ antijitos). Because the grill is not that big, it was decided that each rib would take a rest in tin-foil. Then individually each was put back on the grill, flames a little higher, and then sauced so that the fire kissed each rib. Meanwhile, Brad had the gas grill going up on the deck. Amanda was busy preparing side dishes.
Ribs + Sauce = A Beautiful Thing
The first rack of ribs to be sauced were Alysia's. She called them something along the lines of "Never Going To Have Again" Sauce. "I want to make something kind of edgy, something unique, something a little spicy and sweet, just like myself. So I opened my fridge, and I pulled out the prime ingredients that I could ever think of that would be in a BBQ sauce . . . I opened my fridge door and said 'Dear Jesus, make me a beautiful sauce.' " Last year Alysia brought salmon, but this year she had to prove herself with her ribs.
I had no idea what was going on with Brad's ribs, visually. He had a thick paste that was orange totally unique. When we all sat around the dinner table, he told what it was and how it came to be: "So I thought, last year I went all crazy with all these spices and stuff and it was just, it was too much. I wanted to go very simple sauce but something that was just crazy with flavour and awesomeness but also something that would enhance the flavour of pork ribs. So I thought to myself, what does everybody love more than anything? BACON. People love bacon." That's right, he whizzed together a package of bacon, some maple syrup, and a few spices. Bacon. Awesome.
Last year Ricky`s ribs were the highlight of our backyard Ribfest. He described them as what he though it if ribs would be like if his Indian mother made them. This year was similar: "So I built on the theme from last years ribs, that Indian flavour. So instead of last year, I went more flavourful with the rub, with fresh ginger, and garlic, chili pepper. I backed off on that a little bit, put more effort into the sauce. So the sauce was made from scratch. I used tamarind paste and jaggery . . . so my rub is jaggery plus a host of standard Indian spices."
This is how I would sum my ribs up: "My goal was to make edible ribs, because last year the heat was off the scale. This sauce started . . . it got the heat to much at the start, but I really wanted to come up with something more sweet . . . there was some jalapeno and onion and garlic . . . some chili sauce, some ketchup, a few spices here and there. But the dominant sweetness there is grape jelly . . . I was worried it would be too grape like . . . people can eat it, that's the important thing."
It wasn't long before the pitmaster had finished the ribs and they made their way into the kitchen. Eating time was sooo close.
Rick cut each individual rib so that we could all do some tasting and sampling. Just like at Ribfest. Look at how fast he is with a blade.
While the ribs were getting their final touches, the gas grill was busy. Above are Bacon wrapped jalapenos with a really tasty cheese mixture. Ricky's recipe.Spicy, creamy, baconey goodness.
LJ was having chicken 'tournados' from the grocery store. They were boneless chicken breast wrapped in bacon, and marinaded in sauce. One was a BBQ while the other was a sweet and sour. By the time they were cooked, she said she couldn't tell the difference between the two, but that they were really good.
Grilled corn. Husk on. Slightly charred, they way they should be.
Amanda's coleslaw. Freshly grated cabbage (two kinds) with a really nice creamy dressing. I love the colour combo!
Brad had made many months ago some pickled asparagus. Two kinds, one full of Indian spices, the other, his 'suicide' asparagus that was mixed with all of his hottest spices. I really liked them and while the heat took a while to kick in, the did give a kick. It's not often I voluntarily eat asparagus, so you know they must have been good.
My plate. Very full, yet missing more of the bounty that was on the table. Corn, coleslaw, jalapenos, BBQ beans (my recipe), bread. Oh and ribs, can't forget the ribs. Two of each kind (to start with anyway).
And of course dessert. LJ and I made up a caramel/cake/brownie dealie (which was very tasty if I do say so myself). Amanda and Brad also had grilled fruit kebabs. Is there anything a BBQ can't do?
I have to say, the ribs were freak'n awesome. Each was unique, full of flavour, and I was in pork heaven. But this was a competion, and there were honours to be had. We each filled out a ballet, which was entered into a computer and calculated to see whose ribs won. Of course if it was one-to-one vote, it could potentially be a four way tie, but with a ranking out of ten, we were able to get a clear score.
And the winner was . . .. (video to come)
Ricky! Again, the ribs were all good, but his had that special zip that put him over the top. He was winner, and anointed with the newly coveted Targ Cup (anybody know what a targ is? 500 points to the first person who does). Glory to you Rick, well deserved.
What a great time. Nothing better than sitting in the backyard, up on a deck, holiday weekend, BBQ smoke in the air, and a generous feast, eating, hanging out. Enjoying ribs. Thanks to everyone for all the hard work, great food, and of course, the ribs. I can't wait until next year.