Like many parents, my husband and I encouraged our young children to leave milk and cookies for Santa and carrots for his magical beasts of burden on Christmas Eve.
But did we get it wrong? In hindsight, I bet that jolly old elf would have appreciated a smoky slab of barbecued ribs (not reindeer ribs, of course) and an ice-cold beer to wash them down.
The cookies and milk tradition has its origins in Scandinavia, where during the Yule season, children would leave treats for the Norse god Odin and his powerful eight-legged horse, Sleipnir. But the offerings, history.com tells us, needn’t be cookies and milk. Irish households leave a pint of Guinness for Father Christmas, Swedish children leave rice porridge, and English tots offer mince pies and sherry.
So it appears there’s some latitude in defining the word “treats.” Which brings me back to ribs. But how to put a holiday spin on them?
I found the answer in my well-thumbed copy of Steven’s book, Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades. Cranberry Barbecue Sauce, with its sweet, tart, fruity flavor profile and glossy sheen was exactly what I was looking for. Brushed on smoke-kissed baby backs the last 30 minutes of smoking, it’s just the thing to convince the jolly elf in red to take a load off and give his little deer a rest.
Happily, these festive-looking ribs will make a great addition to your Christmas Eve buffet, as either an appetizer or main course. The recipe calls for four racks, but can easily be halved or doubled as needed. If you don’t have enough space on your grill or smoker for more than one or two racks, use a rib rack.