The Fourth in KY: Impromptu Cocktails, Stegosaurus and Brother K's Ribs

Spider webs after a Kentucky rainstorm
My mother once told me I didn't nap as a child. I am just now appreciating how exhausting my childhood must have been for her. Today is my fourth and final day in Kentucky where I'm visiting Brother K and his family, which includes my niece (age 2.5 years), nephew (5 weeks), two cats (young and spunky) and one large German Pointer (who happens to be freaked out by the fireworks that Kentuckians have been launching every night since Wednesday to zealously celebrate their independence).

At this moment, both kids, the cats and the dog are napping. We are all hoping this peace will last a few minutes longer. My sister-in-law is catching up on laundry. My brother is mowing the lawn. And I'm working on our evening cocktail--because what kind of aunt would I be if I didn't at least contribute a few simple and delicious drinks to help the adults recover from the impending chaos of a house all awake.

I have actually just arisen from my own half hour of afternoon shut-eye (catching up on those lost childhood naps). This morning, my niece and I spent two hours doing all of the following: drawing with sidewalk chalk; riding a tricycle; "mowing" the lawn; looking for butterflies and creek creatures; and blowing bubbles only to stomp on them and squeal with delight. After lunch, I took a shift with my nephew, who has been fussy with colic (though still over-the-top adorable) and spent some QT with the nearly forgotten dog on the deck in the hot sun.

Soon both kids will be up, and I'll be making clay animals or coloring Dora pictures with my niece (thank goodness the markers are washable). Or, I might even be looking for worms in the closet to put in the plastic tea cup (don't ask).

Grapefruit-Basil Martini (in-progress)
With all this activity, I've had to think fast when whipping up our nightly libation. One night, I looked around the kitchen and found chopped watermelon, gin, and a lime, which I threw into a blender with ice. The result was a frothy and delicious seasonal drink. I'm now ready to explore every summer fruit with a variety of liquors (and possibly herbal syrups) throughout the rest of the summer.

This evening, we mixed up a grapefruit and basil martini. My sister-in-law was inspired by these flavors after a visit to local favorite Mitchell's Fish Market. Our hope was to squeeze in a martini at the bar, but we had our hands full. I'm still working on the recipe, but you'll be the first to know when I've worked it out. 

Despite all the craziness, brother K managed to make his famous ribs for our Fourth of July celebration (recipe below). Those ribs are, hands down, the best I've ever had. I will keep flying to KY just to eat those ribs--and of course to look for creek creatures and build clay animals!

Brother K's Amazing Ribs (Eastern North Carolina Inspired)
Adapted from Jurassic Pork's Eastern North Carolina Pulled Pork

Notes: The original recipe is for pork butt/roast, but Brother K uses this rub on ribs--baby-back ribs to be specific. (K says he doesn't bother with anything else.) The sauce for the original has more sugar and Worcestershire sauce than Brother K's adaptation. We made two racks of ribs for seven people, and there was plenty of rub and sauce left over for more meat.

Dry Rub
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup paprika

3 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups water
Less than 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/8 cup black pepper
1/8 cup crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

For the Grill
Hickory-Smoked Wood Chunks (to taste... more chunks = more smoke)

Leftover ribs with smoked gouda on whole wheat bread
--Rub liberally all over ribs, wrap and refrigerate overnight.

--Place a handful of lit charcoal on each side of your grill.
--Add water-soaked hickory wood chunks on lit coals.
--Try to maintain 225F in your grill.  You will need to add more charcoal as needed.  It's better to be under 225F than over.
--Grill ribs 2 hours at least.  Basted every half hour.