My Brother-In-Law’s BBQ Ribs

by Jenn on December 12, 2013

in Dairy Free,Dips and Sauces,Gluten Free,Meats,Photography

Willimantic River

I never know what to expect when we make these big trips back home to see family. How will the baby handle the 8+ hr plane ride over the ocean? Will she get into a normal-enough sleep schedule okay after a 6 hr time zone shift? Will she make the connection that even though she’d never met my father, sister, brother-in-law, or nephew before, that these were the very same people she’d chatted with through the computer (thanks, Skype) her entire life? Would this place I used to call home, that still makes my heart sing – would this place become special to her as well? And most importantly (ok, not really, ha) could Ryan and I ever enjoy enough Mexican and BBQ food during our short stay to make up for the depressing dearth of such cuisines in Europe? :)

It may have been quite a grand holiday out to the US, but we kept life simple. We hung out with family, enjoyed a couple Thanksgiving dinners even, went for walks out in the chilled morning mist, watched some much-missed American football, and spent as much time as I could with my sister and her family after not being able to see each other in person for over two years. Oh yes, and we had to go out to eat to order fajitas just a few times :)

I did not always appreciate all the things that I love about New England. Growing up, especially as a teenager, I remember thinking about how boring everything around me was practically living in a forest, and how I couldn’t wait to get out and explore the world. Now that I’ve lived on two continents and traveled to a grand total of four, I can come back and notice all the wonderful things about New England that give the place and culture a special spot in my heart – whether that be the natural beauty, the food, or just all the great company of family and friends that I’ve missed for so long. One thing about living abroad that no one ever seems to mention is that it can be incredibly lonely. Sure we have some wonderful friends here en Suisse, and some pretty awesome experiences up in the Alps are just a short train ride away, but there’s that network of close community back home that can never be replaced.  Skype and Facebook and all these great virtual ways to connect with those we love just can’t ever seem to be a suitable replacement for a good old fashioned hug.

New England Woods

So when my brother-in-law invited us all over for his homemade smoked BBQ ribs one fine football Sunday (and to watch the game together, of course), we were super excited.  He is quite a good cook, and can throw together some mean BBQ. It was one of my favorite days over our Thanksgiving holiday – nothing fancy or frou frou was planned, just some soul-warming home cooking and getting the kids together while we all enjoyed each other’s company. And really, what could be a better way to spend a holiday than with great food, family, and football? For me, it’s  perfect. It’s only been a few days since we arrived back in wintry Switzerland, and I already miss everyone so much, I can’t wait until the next time that we can all get together as a family :)


New England Woods _DSC8550LR-2

I’m very excited to be able to share with you all brother-in-law’s recipe for his famous (well, at least famous in our family) BBQ ribs.  The key, of course, is to make an incredible sauce. I love that his recipe is actually quite simple – all he did was marinate the ribs overnight, wrap them up and stick them in the smoker, and then of course we all lathered on more BBQ sauce once they were done and ready to eat. The gluten-free folks in our family enjoyed the ribs with one of my favorite kinds of hard cider, and it ended up being the quintessential “football game-day meal”.

Brother in law's Homemade BBQ Ribs

My Brother-In-Law’s BBQ Ribs

Cook Time: 6 hours, 30 minutes

Total Time: 24 hours

My Brother-In-Law’s BBQ Ribs


    For the BBQ Sauce
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon gluten free onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon gluten free garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • For the Ribs
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon gluten free garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon gluten free onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon gluten free chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • Racks of BBQ beef ribs (1/2 - 1 rack per person)


    The Day Before:
  1. In the morning, combine the sauce ingredients together in a bowl, and then transfer to a medium sized saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down until the sauce is at a simmer, and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, storing in the fridge for the day to let the flavors come together.
  2. That night, combine all the seasoning ingredients together and rub liberally over the ribs. Pour some of the BBQ sauce into a separate bowl, and then from that bowl brush some sauce on the ribs (this will prevent contaminating the original batch of sauce with raw meat). Let the ribs sit overnight in the fridge to allow the flavors to develop.
  3. The Day Of:
  4. Wrap ribs in foil and cook for 6 and a half hours at 225ºF (110ºC) in a smoker, using desired amount of applewood chips (for these ribs, he says hickory tends to be a bit strong so he prefers applewood). My brother-in-law only actually smokes them for a couple of hours, using the smoker to let them slow cook the rest of the time without any smoke. He then applies more BBQ sauce to the ribs once every couple of hours while they cook.
  5. Once they are done, take them out, unwrap them, serving with the rest of the sauce for people to add as they wish.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving, and here’s to only two more weeks until Christmas!

White Pine


Rosa December 12, 2013 at 8:56 am

Wonderful shots and tasty ribs! It looks like you had a great time with your family.



Jenn December 16, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Thanks so much Rosa, we did!

Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch) December 12, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Yay for baby girl! :) And beautiful photos. One of these days, I’m going to make myself learn how to make ribs. Think I’ll wait till we’re out of the deep freeze.

Jenn December 16, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Aww thanks!

Priscilla | ShesCookin December 16, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Even living in another state, far from the closeness of the family and friends you grew up with can be filled with times of utter loneliness – especially when you’re raising young children. Glad you were able to come back to NE to be with yours, Jenn :) I adore your travel documentaries with a mix of food and landscape photos (which have a beautiful painterly quality). I was really happy to read Tim’s suggestion of Aperture priority since that’s what I use. Happy holidays!

Jenn December 16, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Thanks so much Priscilla!

Barbara | Creative Culinary December 17, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Lovely photos Jenn…especially of that baby girl…but then I’m so lucky to get to Skype with her and see her in action with that hat; she is quite the character!

All I can say is…’COME TO DENVER!’ Or at least Boulder. :)

Jenn January 3, 2014 at 12:03 am

Aww thanks Barb, wish I could come visit!

Ashley Vos January 3, 2014 at 12:25 am

Pinning this!! YUM!!

RobynK January 3, 2014 at 1:03 am

Looks yummy!
I’m glad you got a visit with family over the holidays, it always makes visits more special during times of celebration :)

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