Your ribs may already be trimmed, or you can ask the butcher to trim them. To do it yourself, place the ribs meat-side up on a cutting board. There is a line of fat at the base of the ribs; cut along it to remove the cartilaginous rib tips. Turn the meat over, rib-side up. Cut off the flap of meat on the inside of the ribs. (The reason to remove these pieces is that they will burn, well before the ribs are done. You can season them and grill them over direct heat for about 15 minutes, turning once. They are delicious.) With the rib-side up, finesse a sharp knife under the tough membrane that covers the bones. Working from one rib to the next, pull the membrane off the rib. (For a better grip, grab the membrane with a paper towel.) The membrane may tear and you may have to start over, but be patient - removing the membrane allows the spices and smoke to penetrate the ribs, and makes the ribs much more attractive and easy to eat.
In a shallow, non-reactive pan large enough to hold the ribs, mix together 1 cup cider vinegar, 1 cup cider, garlic, bay leaves, 2 tablespoons hot sauce and the salt. Put the ribs in this marinade, turn to coat, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 16 hours, turning once during this time.
Remove the ribs from the pan 2 hours before you are going to grill and pat dry. Discard the marinade. Sprinkle the ribs all over with 1/2 cup of the rub, patting it on with your fingers. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the ribs from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 1/2 hour before grilling.
Mix the remaining 3/4 cup cider vinegar, 3/4 cup cider, and 1 tablespoon hot sauce. You will apply this mixture to the ribs once every hour or so with a spray bottle, a barbecue mop, a pastry brush or a long-handled spoon.
Soak about 3 cups of wood chips (hickory, oak or apple) for at least 1/2 hour in cold water.
Prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill for indirect grilling over low heat. Drain and add 1 cup of the wood chips.
Grill the ribs, covered, until they are crispy, and the meat has pulled back from the bone, 3 to 4 hours, depending on the heat of your grill. Spray or baste the ribs with the vinegar-cider mixture every hour, and turn them once during grilling. Don't forget to add more wood chips--and, if using charcoal, more coals--as needed (check every hour or so). You should have enough soaked wood chips for about 3 hours of cooking time; if your ribs take longer, you will need to soak more chips.
If the ribs are done before you are ready to eat, wrap them in heavy-duty aluminum foil and leave them over very low, indirect heat for up to 1 hour.
Remove the ribs from the grill, spray or baste with any remaining basting liquid, and sprinkle with the remaining the 1/4 cup of rub. Serve as is, or with Vinegar Sauce.BBQ Rub:
6 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons coarse salt, such as kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Mix together all of the ingredients in an airtight container and store at room temperature. The rub will keep for several months.
Yield: about 1 cup, enough for 8 pounds of Memphis-Style Ribs.
Excerpted from "Al Roker's Big bad Book of Barbeque" Scribners 2002. Copyright 2002Vinegar Sauce:
2 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon Louisiana-style hot sauce
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
In a medium bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Use immediately, or cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Yield: about 2 1/2 cups
Excerpted from "Al Roker's Big bad Book of Barbeque" Scribners 2002. Copyright 2002 Al Roker