Summer’s coming to a close. But, hey, don’t be sad about it – it’s Labor Day Cookout Time! So, what are your plans for this holiday weekend? If you’re anything like me, you’ll be raising the roof – in the great outdoors! And you know what that means — when there’s technically no roof to raise, the sky’s the limit! Just like we do every year at this time, we’re planning a huge gathering at the lake with family, friends, and even crashers who simply cannot resist our fall off the bone good baby back ribs. All that mouthwatering, juicy sauce dripping over each and every flavorful chunk of succulent pork – heavenly! 

You know, I remember when I was a kid at Labor Day. My eyes were always a bit misty about summer ending, friends from other schools going off until next summer, those long days lazing by the lake now but a memory – until we do it all again next year! Sure, my friends and I were always a little down in the dumps about the close of another summer vacay, but we were also anxious and excited about embarking on a new school year. The possibilities that came with a whole new session were endless. And there was that crispness in the air that could only mean autumn was right around the corner. There we all were – my whole family, my besties, and I – all taking advantage of the last sun of summer. Taking dips in the lake, us kids soaking up the rays until our backs pulled in one final bronze – what wonderful memories! 

But, as I sit here in recollection, I can see that the best memories of all always seem to include those tender, luscious baby backs. If I close my eyes, I can still taste how fall off the bone good they were! And there was Dad, standing at the grill with his state-of-the-art tools (that none of us kids were ever allowed to touch!), cooking up his magic that had become famous nearly statewide, haha! There wasn’t a dry mouth among us! 

Okay, so here’s a story I think you’ll like, and if you’ve got a big family like mine, you’ll probably relate to it, too. One particularly memorable Labor Day weekend, we were all doing what we always did at that time of year. Every family member was there – it was like a traditional family reunion that no one would dare miss. Friends, neighbors, and even folks from a couple of streets over – they had all shown up for another end-of-summer holiday party that would close out the summer with good fun, great company, and amazing food. 

Picture this – us kids were all doing what we always did on a beautiful sunny day – we were swimming in the lake, getting even tanner, and splashing each other like kids do. We were laughing and playing like it was going to be the last time we saw each other. We didn’t have a care in the world, as our Labor Day celebrations had just gotten underway. And, aside from paddling, free-styling, and romping about in the lake, we also were dreaming of the moment we would first taste Dad’s savory baby backs. 

As we were doing what we always did, so too did the parents do what they always did. Some of them were dangling their feet over into the warm, glistening water. A few were splashing about in the lake with us kids. But most of them were standing over by my dad as he grilled our feast. Dad was, after all, cooking up the best and juiciest pork ever! Oh, and you know how men often debate about the proper ways the grilling should be done? “You’re cooking it too long!” “You’ve got to wait a little longer before you turn it over!” Well, there was none of that ever going on, on that Labor Day. Why? Because my dad was the best griller our town had ever seen! Seriously, folks would come from miles on this special last-days-of-summer blowout just to sample that exquisite grilling. 

Anyway, we were all doing what we always did on a day like that, and there I was, just about to take a leap off the dock into the lake. I could almost feel that balmy water floating off my hot back. I remember that I was thinking about two things – jumping straight into that glimmering H2O so I can splash my cousins as I bounce back to the top, and the sumptuous grilled banquet I could smell all the way to the edge of the water. 

I was ready. I was standing on the dock, steeling my eyes toward the water. I started up. I ran. And, just as I got to the edge of the dock, I heard, “Shark!” 

Say what?! A shark? This is a freshwater lake – there are no sharks in here! It didn’t matter, though. There was so much panic you’d think Jaws himself was swimming right up to that dock, ready to open his mouth wide. So what did my crazy uncle do in the midst of all the mayhem? Do you remember the scene in Jaws when the two guys are fishing at night and that enormous shark chases them to the shore? You guessed it! My uncle grabbed the biggest hunk of baby backs my dad had grilling, ran to the edge of that dock, and tossed it in! On his way back to the grill, he matter-of-factly stated, “Hey, if there really is a shark out there, he can smell it just like we can. He’s just looking for some of your dad’s awesome ribs!” 

I’ll never forget that Labor Day weekend as long as I live. I’ll never forget how my cousins and I cracked up like we never had before or since. I’ll never forget the shock on my mom’s face as all that food went flying off into the lake for some phantom shark that was supposed to be living and swimming in fresh water. And I’ll surely never forget watching half our guests, all who had been waiting patiently for my dad to serve the first succulent ribs of the day, as they nearly jumped off the dock to wrestle that ghostly predator for that meat! Good thing my dad had plenty more where that had come from. 

There you have it. My best Labor Day celebration story of my days growing up and taking trips up north near beautiful Michigan lakes. None of us will ever forget it, and we wouldn’t ever want to forget. And now it’s time to make new memories to add to the old. So grab your friends, your family, some baby backs, and your best recipe for a wonderful holiday weekend – and make yourself some new lifelong memories. Happy Labor Day 🙂




Ingredients For Rib Rub:

  • One Slab of Baby Back Ribs (12 Ribs or 2-3 Pounds)
  • Lemon (Half Juiced)
  • Dark Brown Sugar (Packaged) (1/4 Cup)
  • Chili Powder (1 Tablespoon)
  • Paprika (2 Tablespoons)
  • Salt (1 Tablespoon)
  • Garlic Powder (1 Tablespoon)
  • Onion Powder (1 Tablespoon)

Ingredients For Rib Sauce:

  • Ketchup (2 Cups)
  • Dark Brown Sugar (Packaged ) (1/3 Cup)
  • Honey Dijon Mustard (2 Tablespoons)
  • Paprika (1 Tablespoon)
  • Chili Powder (1 Tablespoon)
  • Onion Powder (1 Tablespoon)
  • Garlic Powder (1 Tablespoon)
  • Dry Parsley (1 Tablespoon)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar (1 Tablespoon)
  • Hot Sauce (Franks Hot Sauce or Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce)


  1. At one end of the rack, slide a dinner knife under the membrane and over the bone. Lift and loosen the membrane until it tears. Get a good hold of the edge of the membrane (works best with a paper towel) and pull it off. The membrane may come off in one whole piece, or you may need to remove it in smaller pieces.
  2. Take your pork and cut it up in between the bone and it should come out to 12 to 13 individual ribs.
  3. Squeeze half of a juiced lemon.
  4. In a deep medium sized bowl. Add all of the ingredients for the rub.
  5. 1/4 Cup dark brown sugar.
  6. One tablespoon chili powder.
  7. One tablespoon paprika.
  8. One tablespoon salt.
  9. One tablespoon garlic powder.
  10. One tablespoon onion powder.
  11. Mix everything then rub it on the ribs.
  12. Place the ribs meat side down.
  13. Cover with an aluminum foil very tight.
  14. Set the oven on 300º and place the ribs in the oven for 2.5 hours.
  15. While the ribs are cooking, work on making the sauce. In a medium deep bowl, add all of the sauce ingredients.
  16. 2 cups of ketchup.
  17. 1/3 cup of dark brown sugar.
  18. 2 tablespoons of honey dijon mustard.
  19. One tablespoon of paprika.
  20. One tablespoon chili powder.
  21. One tablespoon onion powder.
  22. One tablespoon garlic powder.
  23. One tablespoon dry parsley.
  24. One tablespoon apple cider vinegar.
  25. One tablespoon hot sauce.
  26. Mix everything together.
  27. After 2.5 hours, take the ribs out and toss the excess water.
  28. Rub the sauce on the ribs and grill the ribs for 3-5 minutes each side.

***TIP*** Cutting the membrane makes the ribs very moist and juicy… If you like to fight with your ribs as some people do (HAHA) then you do not have to get rid of the membrane.