24 June 2009

Bitterroot Fest '09: Montana's State Flower & Elk Rib BBQ

On the Butte hill, Bitterroots (Lewisia redivivia; an important root crop for native peoples) bloom with the coming of summer. The exact date for this coincides not with the calendar date for the summer solstice, but with blue sky summer weather. As such, the actual date varies from mid-June to early-July. This year, the Bitterroot blooms DID come with the solstice:

As Montana's state flower, the Bitterroot is well chosen. It grows wisely under harsh conditions. Roots send their energy up as the snowmelts, and the leafy little rosettes begin soaking up the sun. This year, that occurred in early April:

Come 07 May, they carpeted the ground well before most other plants greened up:

But by 02 June, some secret sign told them it was time to let the leaves die away and to concentrate energy in the fleshy root:

Energy that fed the formation of the buds pushed forth over the past few weeks. And will continue to bloom and pollinate over the next week or so, producing seed for future years:

Like the Bitterroots timing their flowering with the coming of summer, we time our Elk Rib BBQ with the Bitterroots.

Steps for an Elk Rib BBQ (after shooting & butchering one elk, of course):

1. Marinade ribs 24 hours in a tenderizing mixture--I like vinegar with some juniper berries added:

2. Boil until tender; I use the marinade with a few bay leaves, a dozen crushed garlic cloves, and a small handful of black peppercorns added. This year it took just 2 hours for the bones to fall out--sometimes it takes nearly 4 hours:

3. Use a dry or paste rub: crushed garlic, minced habaneros (just 3!) & jalapenos, lemon juice, olive oil, and your other favorite rub spices. Let sit overnight.

4. BBQ over slow charcoal heat with splits of a flavoring wood added for smoke. I usually use hickory or apple, but didn't have any so used black cherry from a trip to the Alleghenies:

Easy does it--keep temperature between about 170 and 200 deg F:

Be patient--4 hours is about right for well smoked, tender ribs. Open the grill once each hour to add splits and (if necessary) a few lumps of charcoal. I like to pile ribs on a rack over a pan of water to keep them moist:

5. Meanwhile, make your finishing glaze & mopping sauce (what most people think of as "BBQ Sauce." This year, I made a chipotle with a few pints of Mrs ER's home-canned peach jam:

6. After the slow BBQ, remove ribs, allow the fire to heat up, brush on glaze, and cook briefly turning once:

Enjoy! After eating (and drinking a few pints of the local microbrew), induce as many of your guests as possible to accompany you on a walk to see the blooming Bitterroots (from left: MollyTheDog, Sheila Youngblood, Heather Shearer (recent arrival to Butte America!), EcoRover, Dave Carter, Frank Ackerman, and Grant Mitman [photo by Hwe Ackerman]):

Happy Summer!

PS: I also grilled those Giant Puffballs from an earlier trip--brushed free of dirt, 3/8" slices, lightly coated with olive oil w/ salt & pepper, grilled until brown on each side--DELISH!


Heather S. said...

The food was delish and the company was fabulous!

The Crow said...

The bitteroot is a fascinating plant. Thanks for writing about it, and posting its portrait.

Your BBQ looks absolutely delicious. Is your mop recipe a closely held secret, or will you share it?

Your post here inspired me to post about my Dad and his BBQ methods, something I wrote several years ago. If you visit, I hope you will enjoy it.


Deedee said...

I've always wondered what a bitterroot looked like-now I know!Thanks, Eco.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Gosh Darn... You all had a party and didn't invite me!!!!! What's up with that?????? ha ha

That Bitterroot is gorgeous. AND the Elk Ribs must have been delicious. The glaze with that peach sauce sounds fabulous.

Great picture of you all--but I'm surprised you could 'walk' after that meal!!!! ha


troutbirder said...

What a great feed. Sorry I missed it! The bitteroot is an amazing plant.And the flowers. I'm hoping to spend at least a few days in The Bitteroots near Darby before treking over the Lolo pass on my way to visit a cousin in Portland.

mountain.mama said...

I thought perhaps I had seen a bitterroot flower before, but nope, I haven't. Beautiful pictures. And the BBQ looks like fun.

secret agent woman said...

That's a beautiful pink flower - with a unflattering name!

Tammie Lee said...

I have yet to see a Bitteroot in bloom or else wise. Some day, so lovely. Thank you for the recipe!

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe that something that looks that delicate can thrive in high mountian weather. It makes me think of a cross between thrift and portulaca.

That BBQ looks fine!

Janie said...

Bitterroots are so beautiful. We've only seen them up in Yellowstone. The marinated and BBQ'd elk ribs sound great.

~Sheepheads said...

Man, you are something! I would love to tie into some of those ribs! Going to have to bookmark this page for this fall I guess.