Sunday, October 25, 2009

Apple City Ribs and Pulled Pork

Saturday I revisited a favorite ribs recipe from Mike Mills. According to his book Peace, Love and Barbecue, the Apple City Ribs recipe was developed for Mills' competition team. The centerpiece of the prep is the sauce, which includes grated apple, onion and bell pepper along with apple cider vinegar and a healthy shot of cayenne pepper. It's a great combination of sweet, mouth puckering vinegar and spice. After trying this recipe, I can understand why it took first place in the 1990 and 1992 Memphis in May competitions.
I used baby back loin ribs instead of the St. Louis spareribs Mike recommends because I was able to locate some especially meaty ribs at a great price. Plus, I was interested in seeing how the baby backs would come out. After applying a liberal coating of Magic Dust rub, I smoked the ribs on a super low fire (210F) of charcoal briquettes and apple wood chunks for six hours. After basting the ribs with the sauce and giving them a good coat of apple juice at the 5:30 point, I foiled them for the last 30 minutes.

Here's the ribs just after I put them on the smoker. I rubbed them with Mike Mills' Magic Dust rub:

The finished product:

A few observations:

  • I think I went just a wee bit heavy on the rub. The heat was just a little too prominent for my taste. Even so, they were still delicious.

  • I had to step away from the smoker for several hours, so I was unable to spritz the ribs with apple juice during the whole cooking process. They seemed a little dry on the outside; however, the sauce/juice/foil step seemed to moisten them up noticeably. Plus the simultaneous sauce/juice application made the sauce a little thin and it didn't give me the nice coating I usually get with this recipe.

  • Next time, I will stay by the smoker and spritz with juice at regular intervals so I don't feel the need to foil. And I'll go a little lighter on the rub.

Saturday night I smoked a 6 lb. Boston Butt. I used an injection marinade from a Chris Lilly recipe and coated the butt with a liberal dusting of Pork Barrel BBQ rub. I smoked the butt for 13 hours over charcoal and apple wood chunks at 210F. I foiled for the last hour and increased the smoker temp to 250F to push up the internal temp of the butt before I had to go to work. I would've preferred to let it stay on the smoker a little longer, but due to time constraints I pulled it at 188F.

I have to say the Chris Lilly marinade/Pork Barrel BBQ rub combo was awesome. I got great color, excellent texture/moistness and the taste was more well rounded and less salty than other rub/baste combos I've tried recently. I also sent a Tweet to the Pork Barrel BBQ guys to compliment them on the rub, so hopefully they got the message and I'd be really happy for them to check my blog out. Would love it if you leave comments Brett and Heath.

The butt on the smoker at 7:30 AM:

Pulled pork:

Andy about to attempt to put the whole pan in his mouth:

A few things I noticed on the Boston Butt. This is the second time I've used this Chris Lilly marinade recipe, and both times I noticed the meat had a purplish tinge below the bark that I don't get when using other bastes or marinades. It tastes fine, but it looks a little unusual (almost like it's the meat was "bruised"). If anyone has any ideas on what's causing this, please send comments.

Here's the recipe and products links:

Apple City Ribs

Chris Lilly injection marinade

3/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Pork Barrel BBQ Rub


  1. Kit - you are a good American - the pulled pork shining in the morning sun is an inspiring photo! Thanks for using Pork Barrel BBQ and for sharing the photo and blog post! That is a SERIOUS smoke ring.

    Heath and Brett

  2. Heath and Brett,

    And thanks right back at ya for producing such an awesome rub. As I said in my post, I was very impressed with the well-rounded flavor profile I got from your rub. And that was a truly beautiful piece of pork glistening in the morning sun. Now all I've got to do is go out and buy more, since I suspect I'll soon be running out........