The vivid, finger-lickin’ flavors of barbecue may be synonymous with summer, but their origins are quite the opposite: common sense says you don’t slaughter a hog when it’s 90 degrees outside. Barbecue was invented for hog-killing day in midwinter—ribs were cooked up while the carcass was broken down, and other cuts were cured for later enjoyment. Yet what carnivore hasn’t come to love a sticky mess of ribs on a blazing July afternoon? To get you primed for such classic summer excess, we offer a recipe from Berlin Reed—a Portland-based butcher, chef, food blogger, and former vegan who’s better known as the Ethical Butcher—that delivers a bloom of flavors every bit as sultry as the season.
Barbecue veterans will tell you that any great marinade requires three things: sour, sweet, and spice. Reed’s unforgettable sauce replaces the traditional “sour” of American barbecue—usually derived from vinegar or tomatoes—with the bright pucker of oranges. On top of this citrusy base, Reed assembles a veritable geography of flavors whose origins map to such far-flung locales as the Antilles and Malaysia: molasses, allspice, cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. The overall effect is a marinade that, as Reed puts it, provides “the perfect dance between protein, heat, and sugars.”
Molasses, a barbecue staple that can veer into cloying heaviness, becomes the perfect foil to the devilish, strawberry-flavored heat of the piri-piri chile. Common in Portuguese cuisine, this African pepper is rare in the United States—but you can substitute a mild variety like the Peppadew in combination with a high-heat cousin like the habanero. (Don’t hesitate to use more peppery heat than you normally would—slow cooking will kill off the worst of it.) And most important, don’t skimp on the time you give the meat to marinate; it will pay you back tenfold in flavor.