What happens when you put Hank Shaw, Grandma Molasses, and Maker’s Mark Whisky in the same room? You get a really good time. Actually, you’ll have a really good time any time you’re in the same room with Hank Shaw because the guy’s love for life is contagious. Not only is Hank a personal friend and fellow native East Coaster (from Jersey, yo!), but he’s also a remarkably talented chef, blogger, and cookbook author. So when I was searching for Tennessee-style whisky BBQ recipes and came across Hank’s Barbecue Sauce recipe on Simply Recipes, I looked no further. You shouldn’t either.
Made with ketchup, bourbon, molasses, and butter, this sauce is tantalizingly tangy and sweet. So, go on, and have a good time.
Oven-Baked Baby Back Ribs with Hank’s Whisky BBQ Sauce
Makes 6 servings
5 lbs spare ribs
1/4 cup of your favorite dry rub, or a simple blend of salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup butter
1 chopped chile pepper
1 medium yellow or white onion, grated
1 cup Bourbon or Tennessee whisky (I used Maker’s Mark whisky)
1/2 cup ketchup or tomato sauce (I used ketchup)
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup molasses (I used Grandma’s molasses)
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 to 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Salt, to taste
1. Heat the butter and oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Grate the onion through the coarse grate of a box grater, or finely mince the onion if you don’t have a grater. Add grated onion and chile to the oil/butter combination and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, or until onions turn translucent. You do not want the onions to turn color. Take the pan off the heat and add the bourbon. Return to the stove, turn up the heat to medium-high again and boil down the bourbon for 5 minutes. Add the ketchup, lemon juice, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, and the sugar. Mix well and return to a simmer. Cook the sauce for a few minutes to combine the flavors and then taste test it. Is it salty enough? (It should be from the Worcestershire sauce). If not, add salt. Is it spicy hot enough? If not, add a little cayenne powder. Is it sweet enough? If not, add some molasses. Let the sauce cook down slowly until it thickens, about 20 minutes. Keep it on low heat while your ribs cook. Alternatively, you can make this sauce ahead of time and reheat it when you cook the meat. It will stay good in the fridge at least a week; I’ve held mine for two weeks with no problem.
2. For the ribs, cover a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Check the back side of the ribs. If you see a thick white membrane, you’ll want to remove it. Using the tip of a knife, slide it under the membrane and pull off. Using your hands, massage the dry rub into the meat until coated all over. Cover with plastic wrap, place on the prepared sheet, and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or up to overnight. Remove plastic wrap. Place ribs back on the sheet, and cover with more aluminum foil, sealing the edges closed.
3. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Bake ribs in the center of the oven for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until very tender. Be careful when opening the foil as steam will escape. The meat should be cooked through, white with no pink showing. Grab the bottom of a bone and gently tug; the meat should be tender and start to pull away from the bone. After baking, remove ribs from the foil and discard the pan juices.
4. Return ribs to oven uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the sauce begins to bubble up, thicken, and brown. Transfer ribs to a large, clean platter, cover with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice the ribs, and serve with extra BBQ sauce and lots of napkins.