Our preference for barbecued pork ribs is oven-baked, with a wood chip-smoked finish on the grill. We like the combination approach after finding that cooking them on the grill alone doesn't seem to ever make ribs tender enough, and cooking them in a slow cooker lacks the necessary crispy finish.
At the original Golden Rose Park on Hilton Head Island, owner Gene Wiley and his wife Clothilde produced some of the best oven ribs imaginable back in the 1970s. Folks drove over from Savannah, or sometimes from much further away, for their specialty.
It was an eclectic place at the time, a sprawling cinder block building under a giant oak by the beach, with a very popular jukebox and pool tables and a long bar. Folks from everywhere seemed to find their way there. You might run into a touring tennis star like Bjorn Borg drinking a beer in the dirt parking lot with group of restaurant waiters, or Capricorn Records founder Phil Walden holding court at the bar. It really rocked on Saturday nights after the other nightspots closed, with a spillover crowd milling outside under the stars, and the ribs were ever a centerpiece of the action.
Clothilde was a marvel in the kitchen, and knew how cook ribs to perfection. Here is the SouthernAirs recipe inspired by her artistry:
4-6 pounds fresh bone-in ribs, rinsed under cold water
1 quart cider vinegar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon medium cayenne hot sauce (we prefer SouthernAirs ORIGINAL Hot Sauce)
Mix the dry and wet ingredients well in a large bowl. Place the ribs in a large dish, pour the mixture over them, and marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the ribs in a baking pan, and pour most of the marinade over them, but not enough to cover the tops of the ribs. Bake, turning once or twice, for 30 minutes or until the ribs are brown on both sides. Then turn the heat down to 350 degrees and cook, basting occasionally while turning once or twice, for 60-90 minutes until done and the ribs fall off the bone properly.
Pre-heat a grill on high until it reaches 450 degrees or more. Wrap dry wood chips (we prefer hickory)in tin foil, punch holes in the foil, and place on the grill. Keep the grill on high, but turn one side lower and place the ribs there in a pan containing the juices from the oven. Ignite the wood chips quickly and smoke the ribs briefly. Cut the ribs up and serve hot.
SouthernAirs developed some of these recipes, aiming as always for authenticity. Others are on loan from cited friends and relatives, or from authoritative sources with permission.