Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Moonshine for Meat, and for Me!

Over the holidays I traveled with my family back to east Tennessee, where I spent most of my teens and where I went to college. While visiting, we had a "white Christmas," which is rarity for the Southeast, but I welcomed the blanket of snow. It reminded me of what I had left here in Montana. The snow also made a nice backdrop for the hot tub at the cabin we rented near the entrance of the Smoky Mountain National Park. Jealous? You should be.

During our stay, we took our daughter to the Ripley Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It had been over 10 years since I visited Gatlinburg, and I thought the town had cleaned itself up a bit - not as many "touristy" t-shirt shops and cheap souvenir stores. The Aquarium was terrific - I highly recommend it. Before we left Gatlinburg, my sister asked if I had heard about Tennessee's first legal moonshine distillery, and I had not. But there at Traffic Light #8 was Ole Smoky Distillery serving up free samples of their 100-proof White Lightenin', Moonshine Cherries and famous Corn Whiskey from their 100-year-old recipe. My sister and I had grown up hearing stories from our mother about how she was responsible for helping our grandfather run a moonshine still in South Carolina in the 50s, and I've always been intrigued with this uniquely American (and Southern) pastime. So after a thorough and thoughtful sampling of their products, I settled on the original White Lightenin' and brought that back with me to Montana.

After I got home, I still had two weeks of hunting whitetail does in a late season for which I had archery tags. Although I wasn't lucky (or warm) enough to bag some additional meat, my friend got a few with his muzzleloader. The does in this particular area are just as good as being farm-fed, and I've never tasted any deer as good as these. They're plump and tender, and they actually have meat on their ribs. So to honor my winter travels, my grandfather's history and my friend's bounty, I present to you a recipe for Moonshine BBQ Venison Ribs. Let me know what you think!

Moonshine BBQ Venison Ribs
4 lbs. venison ribs
1 lemon, cut in half
Salt and Pepper

For BBQ sauce:
1 c. diced yellow onion                                  
1 Tbls. chopped garlic
1 Tbls. chopped horseradish
1/2 c. 100-proof Moonshine (you can substitute Vodka if you must)
4 c. diced pineapple (canned is fine, but fresh is best)
4 c. diced tomatoes
1/4 c. molasses
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 Tbls. dried mustard powder
2 Tbls. dried oregano
3 bay leaves
1/2 c. Worcestershire sauce
4 c. ketchup

To initially prepare venison ribs, rinse under cold water, wipe dry with a paper towel, then rub with lemon halves and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Coat a roasting pan with cooking oil, place the ribs in the pan and roast in an oven at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, turning once. 

To prepare Moonshine BBQ Sauce, saute onion, garlic, and horseradish over in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Then add moonshine and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Next, add the pineapple and tomatoes to the mixture and bring to a soft simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add molasses, vinegar, honey, sugar, mustard powder, oregano, bay leaves, Worcestershire sauce and ketchup. Allow this to slowly simmer for up to two hours.

Now for the fun part. After the ribs have cooked at 450 degrees, remove from oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. Pour about half of the BBQ sauce over one side of the ribs and bake uncovered in the oven for one hour. Then remove, flip and spoon about another half of the BBQ sauce over the other side of the ribs. Be sure to save some sauce for dipping! Bake uncovered for another 45 minutes. Let it rest before cutting into individual portions and serving with your favorite sides (like corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and collards!). 


  1. Sounds like a fun trip and a fun recipe! We found some meaty ribs this deer season, so cooked some up. There were some of them that were quite tender, but most were tough, so we probably won't mess with them again. I bet the doe ribs were nice and tender.

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