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When it comes to KC barbecue, trust Pokey

It’s hard for me to even remember what I’ve written about and what has eluded the clicking of keys under-hand. I feel that I have so much to say, but that so very much of it is uninteresting. I know my stories drive my kids insane, and I often get the courtesy laugh paired with deep sigh from my amazing wife, much in the same way that my Aunt Naomi shrugs and rolls her eyes when Uncle Tom gets on a roll of puns.
I guess it’s in the blood and I have learned not to fight it too terribly much. After all, as we get older, we start feeling the finality of life around us and it thus becomes our responsibility to keep our family memories alive, generation after generation.
For one, my nickname as a child was Pokey; a gift from my father still used by some of my siblings at holiday-time. I much prefer Pokey to Pablo and Pauly, so feel free to use it if you like.
Another memory that brings great joy to me is travel. In our childhood, we saw a great deal of this country, from Texas to New York, Florida to Arizona. But mostly we saw the Skyline Drive. It was so drastically different from Annapolis that we loved the adventurous feel as we sat in the suicide seat of our oversized Polara station wagon, making faces at the cars behind us as we were facing backwards. It wasn’t unusual, after we had raised enough hell, to warrant “hands on the back of the seat where I can see them” treatment for hours on end when my dad had had enough.
But we never learned. And just as our parents took us on trips, so do we at least try to take our kids on as many trips as possible. While we don’t travel as much as I would like (it is expensive, isn’t it?), there are a couple of places that are on the list; New Orleans and Kansas City.
Our youngest son is completely into a road trip to the Big Easy, after watching the movie “Chef” and falling in love with the idea of wanderlust, music and food. From there, or at least for me, a natural progression is just to head northwest through Texas and on to Kansas City so the family can see how barbecue is really done.
After a national conference in 2014 and five days of meat sweats, I find it imperative to offer up the city to my family as I remember her; a city slathered in smoke and barbecue sauces of many flavors.
And hopefully there will be some good memories that they will be able to hand down to their kids as time goes on. Time is a funny thing. It takes so long to make a good barbecue, but as soon as you’re done, you’re wondering how it went by so fast. Reminds you of life, doesn’t it?

KC Barbecue Country Ribs
Enough for four
10lb Country-style pork ribs
For the brine
1/2 gallon water
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1/2 cup Salt
1 Tbsp. Dry thyme
2 Tbsp. Granulated garlic
2 tsp. Onion powder
1 Tbsp. Black peppercorns
1 Tbsp. Paprika

1 quart KC Barbecue sauce (recipe follows)
1 quart Pokey’s Homemade Hot Sauce (recipe follows)
Hickory and Oak wood chips for smoking

1. Make your brine and pour over the ribs. If you can vacuum-pack them, all the better. Otherwise, just cover and refrigerate for eight hours
2. Rinse thoroughly and place on a cookie rack to drain. If you have enough time, allow to dry in the refrigerator, uncovered for about four hours. This extra step helps to make the pellicle, which is a tacky surface that allows the chemicals in the smoking process to adhere to the pork
3. Smoke at 220F in a good smoker for at least three hours, checking to see if more time will tenderize the pork. You want it to have a bite to it, but you don’t want rubber erasers. You’re looking for that middle ground
4. Meanwhile, prepare the BBQ sauce and in the last hour of smoking, baste the ribs
5. Serve slathered with sauce and don’t be shy. In Kansas City, it’s all about the sauce!

KC Barbecue Sauce
Makes about 1 quart
1.5 cups Ketchup
1/2 cup Molasses
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1 cup Cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dry mustard
1 tsp. Chili powder
1 tsp. Paprika
1 Tbsp. Granulated garlic
1 tsp. Onion powder

1. These are the usual suspects in a standard KC BBQ sauce. Combine in a sauce pan and bring to a low simmer
2. Cook for about an hour and a half, and adjust for thickness and personal preference. It is a very sweet-tart sauce, which I absolutely love. You can take it wherever you like

Pokey’s Homemade Hot Sauce
Makes about 1 quart
1 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce
1.5 cups Cider vinegar
3 Garlic cloves
1 Shallot, halved
2 Tbsp. Granulated Sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 whole Roma tomatoes
Water to thin

1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer
2. Cook for about an hour and transfer ingredients to a good blender
3. Carefully blend until perfectly smooth and adjust seasoning to your preference
4. Set aside until ready to use