Family food traditions resonate during any season, but perhaps more now as we adjust our lives to deal with challenges. I thought a visit to my North Carolina heritage would bring some of the joys of homecoming. One of my direct ancestors, Colonel Benjamin Cleveland defeated the Bloody British at the Battle of King’s Mountain. His statue graces the city of Wilkesboro, also home to the legendary voice of the Carolinas, Carl White. These are recipes that should be enjoyed while James Taylor’s anthem, “Carolina in my Mind,” fills the room with glorious Tar Heel music.
Benjamin Cleveland’s Revolutionary Carolina Ribs
4 – 5 pounds pork loin back ribs or meaty pork spareribs
2 cups cider vinegar
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 Serrano peppers*, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups hickory or oak chips
Trim fat from ribs. Place ribs in a shallow roasting pan (cut meat in pieces to fit if necessary). In a medium bowl combine vinegar, onion, brown sugar, serrano peppers, salt, crushed red pepper, and black pepper. Reserve 1/2 cup of the vinegar mixture for mopping sauce. Pour remaining sauce over ribs. Turn ribs to coat. Place ribs, meaty sides down in the pan; cover with foil.
Bake ribs in a 350 degrees F oven for 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until very tender, turning ribs once after 1-1/2 hours of baking. Remove from oven. Discard liquid in pan. Pat ribs dry with paper towels.
At least 1 hour before grilling, soak wood chips in enough water to cover. Drain wood chips.
Sprinkle wood chips over medium coals in a charcoal grill. Place ribs on the grill rack directly over the coals. Grill, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes or until ribs are browned, turning once and brushing with some of the reserved vinegar mixture. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Add wood chips according to manufacturer directions. Place ribs on grill rack. Grill as directed above.) Brush ribs with remaining vinegar mixture before serving.
Tar Heel Apple Torte
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
11/3 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
8 to 10 apples
1/8 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
To prepare base: Cream butter and add sugar gradually and cream thoroughly. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and baking powder sifted together. Spread mixture on the bottom of a 9 or 10-inch springform pan. Pare, core and cut apples into eighths and stand on end in mixture until all apples are used. Sprinkle with some cinnamon. Bake at 350¡ for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
To prepare topping: Cream butter and add sugar gradually. Beat well. Pour over top of baked torte and bake for another 30 minutes or until custard sets, reducing oven to 325. V
Wine Suggestion: A North Carolina delight, Shelton Vineyards 2017 Cabernet Franc seamlessly fits with the peppery ribs. Tiger Mountain Vineyards in Georgia has a 2018 Petit Mensung that pairs with lighter dishes and apple pie.
Stay Safe. Eat and Drink Well. Love One Another.