Blueberry Bourbon Smoked Baby Back Ribs have incredible rich and savory flavors. This is a fun take on a smoked baby back rib recipe to try if you want to change up from traditional BBQ flavors.
- Sauce Ingredients
- How to Make Blueberry Bourbon Sauce
- Buying Baby Back Ribs
- How to Prepare Baby Back Ribs
- What Temperature Do I Cook Baby Back Ribs
- Do I Need a Water Pan When Cooking Ribs?
- Using the 3-2-1 Rib Method to Cook Blueberry Glazed Ribs
- Wine Pairing for Blueberry Bourbon Smoked Ribs
- Other Rib Recipes
- Smoked Baby Back Ribs with Rosemary Bourbon BBQ Sauce
Blueberry season in the Pacific Northwest runs from late spring to mid-summer. I friggin love blueberries, especially since they are all around us. To me, they’re the perfect berry – not too sweet, not too messy, they hold up well, and they freeze like a champ.
Plus my kids look forward to berry picking all year. Granted this is likely because they eat more berries off the bushes than we actually collect and take home (shhh don’t tell this to our favorite farm we go to). But berries are also something that can be added to any number of recipes, like this barbecue sauce.
The idea for this blueberry barbecue sauce is to add rich blueberry flavors and balance it with some bourbon because, well, bourbon. The rosemary adds an herbal savory touch. It’s such a fantastic mix! This is a winner and I’m excited to share it with you.
We decided to feature it on ribs because it really adds a great dimension with pork, and specifically blueberry grazed baby back ribs.
How to Make Blueberry Bourbon Sauce
- Cook: To make this sauce just heat up everything in a small to medium size pot and bring to a simmer, and then lower heat for about 8 minutes to cook down.
- Mix: either crush the berries with a fork or blend with a food processor or blender.
- Adjust Flavors: Berries not quite ripe? Add cane sugar. Want some citrus if too sweet? Add some lemon.
- Set Aside: This is meant to be more of a finishing glaze rather than a thick BBQ sauce, so it may be thin at first, but will thicken up as it comes to room temp or in the fridge.
A note on texture – we like most of our berry sauces with a smooth texture. The only way to achieve this is to blend. An immersion or full size blender work great. If you want a more rustic look, feel free to just crush with a fork.
Buying Baby Back Ribs
We used baby back ribs versus spare ribs. They come from further up the rib cage, closer to the spine, and have a distinct curve to them versus the flat spare (though you can use this glaze on either type). Baby Backs will have less meat than the spare, so pay attention to the amount of meat on your ribs when purchasing.
How to Prepare Baby Back Ribs
Remove Silver Skin – Remove any silver skin that is on the bone side of the ribs. Silver skin will get a crispy texture that is not pleasant if you leave them on. Use a sharp boning knife to lift a corner of the silver skin, grab and pull off. If it’s slippery (and likely it will be) use a paper towel to help have more friction.
Slather Ribs – Start by coating the ribs with Dijon mustard so the dry rub will stick, and then apply your dry rub. You are going to be adding that semi-sweet and savory sauce at the end of the cook, which will add additional flavor, so keep that in mind. For our rub, we went heavier on savory flavors (like onion powder, dry mustard, and paprika) to offset the typical mix of sugar, and to compliment the savoriness in the sauce.
Rest to Set: Let the rub sit awhile before placing on the smoker. In this case just 15 minutes to let the rub set. You’ll see the sugar and salt begin to dissolve and liquefy, which is getting into that cut of meat. If you have a few hours, then put that rub on a few hours before you cook (and season it up to 6 hours prior to cook). Be sure you let it season in a refrigerator if you go long on the seasoning.
What Temperature Do I Cook Baby Back Ribs
Cook baby back ribs at 250 degrees Fahrenheit during the entire cook, using fruit wood (like cherry) for ribs. We live in Oregon, this is where most cherries in the US come from, so we like to cook with cherry wood! Any fruit wood will work.
Do I Need a Water Pan When Cooking Ribs?
We always cook with a water pan on our pellet grill or offset. We don’t use a water pan when cooking on our Big Green Egg. The added moisture to the cooking chamber really helps with color on the ribs in my opinion and keeping the texture moist because pellet grills and offsets tend to loose a lot of moisture. Kamado grills are very efficient and tend to keep a good amount of humidity in the grill.
Using the 3-2-1 Rib Method to Cook Blueberry Glazed Ribs
We used a variation of the 3-2-1 method for our blueberry glazed ribs recipe. Simply put, you smoke for 3 hours, then wrap for 2 hours, and then uncover and sauce for up to an hour letting the sauce tack up. With baby backs, often you don’t need all six hours, so it’s about texture and feel.
3 — During the first 3 hours smoke and spritz meat occasionally to keep it moist. We use a mix of apple cider vinegar and water (or apple juice). It adds a touch of sweet due to the apple, so a nice way to offset a savory rub. So will put the ribs on, smoke them for one hour, and for the last two spritz.
Spritzing after that first hour every 15 minutes helps lock in flavor. Moisture helps that smoke influence stick to the meat. And with the sugar, helps with the caramelization.
2 – Now we focus on wrapping. By now the bones from the ribs should start to show.
The wrapping will allow the meat to baste with a modest liquid to create tenderness. Lay out aluminum foil and place 2 tablespoons of butter and some agave nectar (or honey). Feel free to add some of the spritz liquid too. Then enclose the ribs in a foil pouch and place meat side down your cooker.
Over the two hours it will steam and baste in the liquid creating that soft texture. Remove the foil after two hours; you’ll see that the bone in the rib is showing more. This is where that butter and honey basted the ribs and added a ton of flavor.
Smaller ribs? Then check at 90 minutes to see if the foil needs to come off. Tug the bones, they should wiggle but not come out of meat.
If your ribs are on the small side (as in less meat) then you likely only need 1 hour of wrap.
1 – The last hour is unwrapped. Here is where you apply that blueberry bourbon bbq sauce. Apply the sauce when you unwrap the ribs and continue cooking.
Some say that ribs are overcooked if the bones come right out with an easy pull. That may be the case for competition-style ribs, but for the backyard, you get to decide. It will still taste amazing if the ribs just fall out.
Voila! Look at the richness of the color! It’s dark and intense looking, but the flavor is out of this world. You have the savory pork and the flavors of the rub and then the sweet blueberries and the savory rosemary. It’s fascinating and incredibly delicious.
Wine Pairing for Blueberry Bourbon Smoked Ribs
I had a feeling this might be a tricky pairing. The smoky ribs, with the savory rub mixed with the rich bold flavors of the sweet and savory BBQ sauce. I didn’t want to just go with something refreshing to contrast the richness. Instead I really wanted to find a wine that could stand up to the boldness and complexities of this sauce. But not too bold. Remember, this sauce isn’t super sweet, nor is it spicy, or too acidic. It’s complex and deep. I’d been curious about Petit Sirah. Again, this could have been tricky, as it could have been an inky intense wine. You never know. But hot damn, if ever I was happy to go with my hunch!
Alright, so this wine is big, but it has so many things going for it besides its weight. It’s complex for starters, with gorgeous and lush boysenberry and blueberry (yes, blueberry!) notes to compliment the berry fruit from the sauce. There’s also some interesting chocolate and mocha flavors to add some depth, and savory herbs that mingle and match with the sauce. It was really quite a beautiful pairing, and a beautiful wine. A good example of how rich and rich can not only cooperate together, but elevate each other.
Zinfandel is another wine that could work well with blueberry glazed ribs.
Other Rib Recipes
- Smoked Baby Back Ribs
- Pellet Grill Ribs
- Keto Friendly Ribs
- Smoked Spare Ribs with Vinegar Sauce Mop
- Honey Dijon Smoked Ribs
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Smoked Baby Back Ribs with Rosemary Bourbon BBQ Sauce
For the Ribs:
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water or apple juice
- Place into a food safe squeeze bottle
Blueberry Bourbon Rosemary Sauce
- 1 pint blueberries
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon rosemary finely diced
- Preheat smoker to 250 degrees (F)
- Prepare ribs by removing membrane off of the bone side of the ribs using a paper towel, then rinse under cold water and pat dry.
- Coat the ribs with the Dijon mustard and then liberally apply your favorite dry rub. Let sit at least 20 minutes or let rest for several hours seasoned.
- Place ribs on the smoker for about 60 minutes. After 60 minutes, you’ll start to see the color of ribs darken, this is a good time to spritz the ribs. Spray liberally after quickly lifting the smoker door every 15 minutes for another two hours. (3 hours total time)
- When the bones start to protrude from the ribs, you are going to wrap in foil. Layout your foil and place 2 tablespoons butter and a drizzle of honey (or agave) along foil.
- Then place your ribs meat side down, on top of the butter and honey and wrap tightly. Place back on smoker for roughly 2 hours. Check at about 90 minutes to see if you need to unwrap, you are ready to remove the foil when the bones are loose as you pull on them, but not coming out of the meat.
- After removing the foil, place ribs meat side up onto the smoker and apply your glaze. Let sit another 20 – 30 minutes or until the glaze has tacked up.
- Remove from smoker and let rest for 10 minutes loosely tented in foil. Then cut up and serve.
For the Blueberry Bourbon Rosemary Sauce:
- Add blueberries, bourbon, rosemary, sugar, and salt to a small pot and bring to a simmer.
- Crush berries as it first comes to a simmer. Lower heat to keep a small simmer and stir frequently for another 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.