- Mike Mills is the only person to win three Grand World Champion titles at the Memphis in May International Barbecue Festival. He is also barbecue guru and partner at Danny Meyer's Blue Smoke restaurant in New York City and owner of six notable barbecue joints, two in Southern Illinois and four in Las Vegas.
Amy Mills Tunnicliffe is a journalist and publicist. She also conducts training seminars and is a sought-after public speaker. She lives near Boston.
- I love to read cookbooks and some are better for reading than others. If you are looking to sink your teeth into a great cookbook read this summer (pun intended!), look no further than Peace, Love and Barbecue: Recipes, Secrets, Tall Tales, and Outright Lies from the Legends of Barbecue by Mike Mills and Amy Mills-Tunnicliffe.
- 12 jalapeño peppers
- 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- Wilton Golden Yellow paste food coloring (or yellow food coloring)
- 3 pounds spicy bratwurst sausage, casings removed
- 17th Street Special All-Purpose Dressing, optional
- SERVES 12 TO 18
More of a story with recipes woven into it, this book is perfect for enjoying in the hammock in the backyard ... if you can resist the urge to get up and build a pit for barbecuing there! From childhood stories of growing up in southern Illinois to the humble beginnings of the Apple City Barbecue team, you'll see beyond the recipes -- although they are reason enough to get this book -- to the special community of family and friends that this kind of comfort food brings together.
You'll also learn a thing or two about barbecue and all the folklore, fun and "rules" that go along with it. If you're new to it, you'll be drawn in quickly. If you're a seasoned pro, you'll love the unusual amount of secret-telling that goes on. Either way, you'll be thrilled to get insight from Grand World Champion pitmaster Mike Mills. Here's an excerpt from the book on developing barbecue sauce:
- One Way to Develop Barbecue Sauce
Many people start with a bottled sauce and doctor it up. You can cut the thickness (bottled sauces are usually too thick) and boost the spice fairly easily. My favorite bottled sauce is Maull's, out of St. Louis, and here are some ideas on how to doctor it. Start by simmering a bottle of sauce over low heat. Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup of cider vinegar or rice vinegar. Or put in the same amount of beer. A lot of people use Pepsi, which gives a sweet, caramel flavor. Add a tablespoon of granulated or fresh garlic. Throw in a little chili powder for an outdoorsy quality. Maybe add a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. A tablespoon of butter or prepared mustard tastes good, too. And you'd be surprised by how many sauces have a little chocolate in them.
Woody Wood and his wife, Cecelia, out of Waldenburg, Arkansas, came up with their barbecue sauce years ago using Wicker's as a base."Whatever did happen to Wicker's?" I wonder. "They used to be going like a house afire. There was a time that all winning barbecue teams used Wicker's. Let me put it to you this way: if they didn't use Wicker's, they didn't win." "I used to buy it in 55-gallon drums." Woody tells me. "Well, the old boy who run it, the manager, me and him had a real close working relationship. He ended up quittin', and when he did, I thought, 'Man, this is not good.' They could have me over a barrel and raise the price of that to where I can't afford to buy it. Or they could say, 'Hey, we're not gonna sell you any more of this.'" "That could be a problem," I agree. "I had tried and tried and tried to make it. This here on the bottle says 'vinegar, salt, and spices.' That covers a lot of territory." "You bet it does," I laugh. "Actually, I think I have a recipe for Wicker's; someone gave it to me a long time ago." "Yeah, that old man who started Wicker's a long time ago, he was very loose-tongued with his recipe. But the only thing about it, he never told the same thing twice. I can't tell you how many people over the years that I've run into would say, 'Well, I know what's in that! Me and that old man used to go to barbecue cook-offs and we used to make that stuff.' "So I'd say, 'What's in it?' And he'd say, 'Well you've got this and this and this.' So I'd try it and then pour it out. Then I'd run into somebody else and get another recipe. And none of 'em was ever the same. I even got a recipe for Wicker's off the CB radio going down the interstate. "I worked on this recipe on and off for 10 years. Finally, I sat down and took all of these recipes that people have give me and I said, 'Well, I know that's not in there.' I kept working back and forth and finally, one day, I come up with it. Now we sell it as our Marinade and Baste."
It's a fun read that will leave you eager to try your own hand at barbecue and, of course, the wonderful sides, sauces, rubs and treats that go with it. To whet your appetite for more of what Peace, Love and Barbecue has to offer, here is a selection of some of the recipes you'll find in this treasure chest of stories, insights, recipes and good ol' fashioned barbecue:
Cut the stem ends off the jalapeños and use a small knife to cut the seeds out. Keep the peppers whole.
Put the cream cheese into a small bowl and use a toothpick to add a tiny bit of the paste food coloring (this paste is very concentrated, so a little goes a long way). Mix the coloring thoroughly into the cream cheese. Add more, if you need it, to achieve a bright golden color, like the yolk of an egg.
Transfer the cream cheese to a pastry bag fitted with a wide tip and pipe the cheese into the jalapeños. (You can make your own pastry bag by using a small zippered plastic bag and snipping off one corner.)
Divide the sausage into 12 pieces. Flatten each piece into a disk, place a filled jalapeño in the center, and wrap the sausage around it, pressing the edges to seal. Form the sausage into the shape of a large egg.
Smoke for 1 1/2 hours at 250 degrees.
Slice to serve. The slices will resemble sliced hard-cooked eggs, with the colored cream cheese looking like the yolk. Serve with the dressing, if desired.
- 2 1/2 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
- 5 pounds chicken wings, rinsed and dried
- 1 cup honey
- 1/2 cup hot barbecue sauce (or more to taste; use your favorite, the hottest sauce you can stand)
- 3 tablespoons apple juice
- SERVES A CROWD
- 1 pound dried great northern beans
- 4 to 6 slices bacon
- 1/2 cup chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 cups ketchup (I like Hunt's)
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard (I like French's)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 tablespoons Magic Dust (recipe below)
- SERVES 8 TO 10
You'll need apple wood chips and a disposable foil pan.
Make a dry rub by sifting the pepper, onion powder, chili powder, garlic powder, and seasoned salt into a bowl to blend.
Place the chicken wings in a large zippered plastic bag. Pour in the dry rub and shake to coat the wings well. Marinate for at least 30 minutes (at room temperature) or as long as 24 hours (in the refrigerator).
Prepare coals using 3 pounds of charcoal. Make sure the coals are in a pile to one side of your grill or smoker. After the coals have turned white, place 2 cups of soaked and drained apple wood chips on the pile of coals. Set the wings on the grate so they will cook by indirect heat -- in other words, not over the coals -- and smoke for 25 minutes. Turn the wings and smoke for another 20 to 25 minutes.
Mix the honey, barbecue sauce, and apple juice together in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until warmed through.
Place the wings in a disposable foil pan and pour the warm sauce over the wings. Toss to coat evenly. Cover and smoke for another 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the glaze is finished the way you like it. If you're using a grill, you can move the aluminum pan directly over the coals while you're glazing the wings.
Judy wrote out the recipe for me, and I've altered it, using dried beans. The color will be lighter since you're starting with white beans, and the texture will be just a little firmer. You'll have to start a day early to soak the beans, but I guarantee the end result will be worth the extra time and effort.
Place the beans in a large saucepan and cover with salted water by 2 to 3 inches. Soak the beans overnight.
The next day, drain and rinse the beans. Return the beans to the saucepan and cover with fresh water by about 4 inches. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender but not bursting open.
While the beans are cooking, mix the ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, chili powder, and Magic Dust together in a large bowl.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon. Drain the bacon on paper towels, crumble it, and set aside. Add the onion and garlic to the bacon drippings and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. The onion should still be a little crunchy.
Drain the beans, reserving 2 cups of the bean water. Pour the beans and bean water into the bowl with the sauce. Add the bacon and onion and stir to combine well. Pour into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish and bake for 1 hour or until bubbly. Will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 week.
- 4 racks of ribs (about 2 pounds each)
- Magic Dust (recipe below)
- 4 cups apple juice in a spray bottle
- Apple City Barbecue Sauce (recipe below)
- SERVES 4, OR YOU CAN CUT THE RACKS IN HALF TO SERVE 8
- 1 cup ketchup (I use Hunt's)
- 2/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup apple juice or cider
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/3 cup bacon bits, ground in a spice grinder
- 1/3 cup peeled and grated apple
- 1/3 cup grated onion
- 2 teaspoons grated green bell pepper
- MAKES 3 CUPS
- 1/2 cup paprika
- 1/4 cup kosher salt, finely ground
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons mustard powder
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 1/4 cup ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup granulated garlic
- 2 tablespoons cayenne
- MAKES ABOUT 2 1/2 CUPS
Let me caution you right up front to mop the ribs with sauce no more than 10 minutes before you take them off the grill. Saucing the meat too early is a mistake many people make when smoking or grilling. Virtually all barbecue sauce contains sugar, and your meat will have a burned crust around the outside if you use sauce too soon in the process.
Ribs are readily available in most grocery stores. When selecting ribs, try not to buy ones that weigh less than 2 pounds. A true baby back rib weighs about 11/4 to 1 1/2 pounds; they are very fragile and dry out quickly. This recipe calls for a meatier rib. A loin back rib is preferable; they're easier to cook, less fragile, and have more meat.
Once you start smoking ribs, you can't leave the smoker unattended for any more than about 20 minutes. You'll need to continually check that the temperature in the grill remains between 200 and 210 degrees at all times. If it gets too hot, open the lid and allow some of the heat to escape. Coals that appear to be glowing red will cause a hot spot. Don't cook the ribs directly over the hot spot; move the ribs to a different, cooler part of the grill. If the temperature dips below 200 degrees, move the ribs to a hot spot for a while. If the temperature gets too low, add some more coals.
You'll need about 4 cups of apple wood chips to be authentic; you can use hickory, pecan, sweet maple, or cherry, but the ribs won't taste as sweet. You'll also need a chimney starter or another small covered grill or bucket to keep extra hot coals.
Sprinkle the ribs liberally with Magic Dust, coating both sides. Put them in a shallow pan or on a cookie sheet and cover them with clear plastic wrap or a lid. Refrigerate them until you're ready to use them. I recommend letting them marinate for at least an hour. At the restaurant, we dust the ribs up to a day in advance.
Soak the apple wood chips in water for half an hour. Drain.
Remove the grate and arrange the medium-hot coals in a grill or smoker. If you are using a grill, it must have a lid. Set an aluminum pan next to the coals as a drip pan. Spread out the wet wood chips on the coals. Replace the rack, close the grill, and check the temperature. It should be between 200 and 210 degrees. If the temperature is too high, open the lid to allow some heat to escape.
Notice that the meat on a rack of ribs is on the top. The bottom, where you remove the membrane, is called the "bone side." Once the temperature is steady, place the ribs on the rack, bone side down. You want to cook them bone side down as much as possible. Turning them dries out the meat. If necessary, you can cut the racks of ribs in half to comfortably fit your grill.
Cover and smoke the ribs for about 1 1/2 hours or until the ribs are done and tender.
You'll want to check the ribs every 20 minutes or so. Examine them to see if the surface of the meat looks dry or moist. Ribs "sweat" about three times during the smoking process. The pores of the meat open, and this allows moisture to escape. This is when the seasoning from the dry rub and the smoke itself are reabsorbed into the meat. When they're sweating, mop or mist them with some apple juice and sprinkle them with a little more Magic Dust. Opening the lid will lower the temperature; add more coals and wood chips as needed to maintain the temperature.
About 10 minutes before you remove the ribs from the pit, mop them with the sauce. When you take them off the pit, mop again with sauce and sprinkle some more Magic Dust on them. Serve immediately.
- When I bought 17th Street Bar & Grill in 1985, Mama Faye was 82 years old and in excellent health. For several years, she made gallons of our family's barbecue sauce each week, but once the place got going, the amount I needed for the restaurant and for competition quickly got to be overwhelming. I had to cook hundreds of batches myself.
To Mama Faye's dismay, I did alter our recipe ever so slightly. I only added some apple juice and a few different spices, but she never let me forget it. "This isn't the original sauce," she'd tell anyone who'd listen. "Mike veered off the recipe."
She was awfully proud, however, when the sauce won the Grand Sauce Award at the Jack Daniel's World Championship International Barbecue Cook-Off in 1992.
Combine the ketchup, rice vinegar, apple juice or cider, cider vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic powder, white pepper, cayenne, and bacon bits in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the apple, onion, and bell pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, 10 to 15 minutes or until it thickens slightly. Stir it often. Allow to cool, then pour into sterilized glass bottles. A glass jar that used to contain mayonnaise or juice works real well. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
VARIATION: To make this sauce a little hotter, add more cayenne pepper to taste, approximately another 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon. Be careful; a little cayenne goes a long way.
To make it a little more hot and spicy, increase the mustard powder and black pepper to 1/4 cup each.
Mix all ingredients and store in a tightly covered container. You'll want to keep some in a shaker next to the grill or stove. Keeps indefinitely but won't last long.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, finely ground
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, plus additional for brushing
- 1 pound strawberries, sliced
- 1 pound rhubarb, chopped
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Vanilla or buttermilk ice cream
- SERVES 6 TO 8
Make the biscuit topping: Mix together the flour, brown sugar, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, ginger, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Add about 1 1/2 cups heavy cream and mix until it forms a dough (you might not need all the cream). Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
Make the fruit mixture: Combine the strawberries, rhubarb, granulated sugar, and vanilla bean in a large bowl. Let stand for 1 hour. Remove the vanilla bean and pour off half of the liquid, then stir in the cornstarch and vanilla extract. Pour the fruit into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thick and cut into circles or any desired shape. Place the dough on the fruit mixture without overlapping any pieces. Brush the top of the dough with heavy cream and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake the cobbler for about 25 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling in the center.
Serve warm with ice cream.
If these recipes haven't inspired you to learn a little more about barbecuing, you haven't been paying enough attention! Whether it's for an inspiring summer read or a guide to the art of barbecue, Peace, Love and Barbecue is a book that deserves some shelf space with your cookbook collection.
- If you are interested in purchasing Peace, Love and Barbecue by Mike Mills and Amy Mills Tunnicliffe, you can buy it online right now for 30% off the list price by clicking here. The publisher's list price for the cookbook is $19.95.