Labor Day Doesn’t Mean the End of Grilling Season

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I enjoy Labor Day. It is the chance to recognize everyone for
the hard work they contribute to their employer and society.
I enjoy Labor Day. It is the chance to recognize everyone for the hard work they contribute to their employer and society. For a few, it still means working. For others, it is a chance to have a day off, spend time with family and enjoy what some consider the last great grilling weekend of the year.

Many wouldn’t dare to wear white after Labor Day. Those are probably the same people who clean the grill, cover it and store it for the winter. It is packed and ready for storage much like some individuals pack away their summer clothes. If you are one of the people who does this, it is worthwhile to make Labor Day weekend the great end to the summer that it should be.

I would like to suggest that you do not put away the grill or the summer clothes just yet. As with many years, we will have a hot weekend just before and even after the autumn officially begins. Because of this, you will not want to put the grill and summer clothes away too soon. That is especially true of the grill. I have plenty of great ideas and recipes in the weeks ahead. You may regret storing the grill as each week passes and you read my column.

We live in California. Grilling might dwindle during the autumn months and even more during the winter months. However, we are a hearty bunch who continue grilling when it is cooler and seek shelter from the rain just to enjoy the flavor of summer grilling all year long. Nothing can beat a great grilled steak in the middle of those winter blues. It can be a great change from winter stews and soups that may start getting a little tiresome around late January.

If this will be the last grilling day of the year for you, one of the best things to have on the grill are pork ribs. It doesn’t matter if you have spare ribs, St. Louis-style ribs or baby back ribs. The cooking method is the same for all of these cuts and takes advantage of low heat over an extended period of time.

This method is often referred to as “low and alow.” Slow indirect grilling, or even barbecuing ribs as some would say, is the perfect way to relax and enjoy a good meal. Once the ribs are placed on the grill, or in a rib rack if you are cooking many of them, they require very little attention – just the occasional fire check and turn ever few hours are all you really need to do. It is a great method for cooking when you want to enjoy the company of family and friends. It can become a great “day off” from cooking.

If you have a gas grill, all you have to do is light a side burner. If you choose, you may want to add water soaked woodchips to a smoker box directly over the heat. If you are using a charcoal grill, you only need about seven charcoal briquettes on opposite sides of the grill for a total of fourteen. Once the briquettes are added to the charcoal grate, add an additional four unlit charcoal briquettes over the burning ones. Repeat this every few hours. They will help to keep the fire going. If the hot charcoal briquettes become too cold, you can always light an additional few more in a charcoal chimney or an old metal coffee can that has holes in the side for better air circulation. Either way, keep the heat of the grill maintained between 250 and 300 degrees.

Two slabs of ribs will fit fine on most gas or charcoal grills. For more than two slabs, you will want to use a rib rack. The ribs still cook very evenly in this device since the hot air is allowed to circulate between the individual slabs. You will want to turn them every hour and a half to two hours. This will allow the fat to naturally baste the outside of the ribs. Use a sturdy pair of tongs and be careful when turning. The meat will become so tender; it may tear if not handled gently. Indirect grill for six hours.

My recipe this week is for a simple rub. The cinnamon adds a little sweetness and earthiness. If you prefer to use a barbecue sauce on your ribs, but not sure which to choose, you are in luck! I compiled a review of bottled sauces, which I will feature in next week’s column. Either way, watch out for that sauce if you decide to wear white one last time.

Simple Dry Rub Ribs

From Mitch Mariani

Makes one slab

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 slab of ribs

Step 1: In a bowl, mix all dry ingredients.

Step 2: Remove the membrane on the back part of the ribs as it is unpleasant to eat. Using a pair of pliers will make this task very simple. Wash and pat them dry.

Step 3: Distribute half of the dry rub mixture evenly on each side.

Step 4: Indirect grill ribs on a very low fire for six hours. If you choose, sauce may be added during the last half hour of cooking. The sauce will cook into the ribs and develop an amazing flavor.

Step 5: With a very sharp knife, gently cut the ribs with a sawing motion. Arrange on a large platter and serve.

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