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Anne Braly

It'll be easy to find your way to Lynchburg, Tenn., this weekend. Just follow the smoke signals and, once you get close, let your nose be the guide to the annual Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue.

The smell of the 'cue as it smokes on the grills wafts through the air and is so enticing, it's easy to find the fairgrounds directly off the town square.

Steve May is the director of the Lynchburg Homeplace, an organization responsible for all things Jack Daniel's-related in Lynchburg, including the distillery, visitor's center, Lynchburg Hardware and General Store and Miss Mary Bobo's, which is now celebrating its 106th year.

May says attendance at the barbecue competition -- which he calls The Jack -- grows at an amazing pace each year.

"Interest in competitive barbecue continues to grow nationwide and we have more teams, judges and spectators who want to be a part of The Jack every year," he says. "The Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue continues to be one of the biggest events of the year for the distillery and for Lynchburg, and our crowds have steadily averaged about 25,000 people."

He notes that they have seen an especially large increase in international teams who want to be a part of the event. They try to accommodate about 20 international teams each year, he says.

Competing teams will begin smoking their meats early Friday and adding the final touches Saturday morning before taking their briskets, ribs and other barbecued items to the judges' pavilion.

But there's more to do than enjoying barbecue. Original games include the country dog contest, butt bowling, and bung and bag toss competitions. There also are cooking and grilling demonstrations, live music and entertainment. The visitor's center is also open for distillery tours from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

While we can't all be invited to cook for the judges -- that's left up to the champions of barbecue teams invited each year -- you can certainly experience the flavor of the competition with this recipe from Jack Daniel's. It's never too late in the season to fire up the grill.

Jack Daniel's Ribs

4-6 pounds spareribs or baby back ribs

1 cup Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey

1 cup ketchup

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

3 gloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dry mustard

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine all sauce ingredients except ribs in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.

Remove silvery membrane on back of ribs (a pair of pliers helps). Rub with your favorite barbecue spices.

Soak wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare fire. When coals have grayed over, arrange ribs around a drip pan for indirect heating method and add 1 cup soaked chips to coals. Place ribs in smoker or on grill. Smoke ribs for 3-4 hours. Add chips as needed. During last hour of cooking, brush occasionally with sauce. Makes 4-6 servings.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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