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Rooted in Tradition

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Jimmy Hagood and his wife, Anne Marie, gather with daughters Catherine and Mary Neill, granddaughter Louisa, and a young friend on the river. Photograph by Mac Kilduff

August 30, 2017

Rooted in Tradition
Food for the Southern Soul owner Jimmy Hagood serves up juicy ribs for a Labor Day cookout in Rockville

Written by Lauren Johnson & Marion Sullivan

While Charleston has gone hog-wild for barbecue over the past few years, when Jimmy Hagood was growing up here in the ’70s, there weren’t many places to get it. Despite its rarity in the Holy City (or perhaps because of it), smoking meats became a hobby for Hagood, and by the early ’90s, he was traveling to amateur barbecue competitions across the country.

Then in 2002, as Hagood’s talents began earning him championship ribbons, he quit his desk-bound insurance job to start up his BlackJack Barbecue catering company, which later branched off into a specialty product line, Food for the Southern Soul. “It all centers around people coming together to cook creative menus with good manners,” he says. And for this native son, it’s rooted in Rockville get-togethers.

In the same spot where they spent their childhood summers, Hagood and his three brothers now assemble their families every year for summer’s grand finale, Labor Day. “Not much has changed in 45 years,” he laughs. “Everyone still heads out on the boat until the dinner bell rings—only now, I stay to tend the food.” The pitmaster doesn’t seem to mind standing watch over the charcoal chimney. “I love cooking outdoors, in the wide-open space, where I can sip a cold beer and walk out on the dock.

When the midday heat begins to ebb with the late afternoon breeze, Hagood deems the ribs just right, the spicy rub having formed a sort of bark along the outside. “People like to use the expression ‘falling off the bone,’ but in the barbecue world, that is overcooked. I like for the meat to pull down on the bone about half an inch,” he explains, holding a rack by one end and explaining that it should bow but not break. This Labor Day, try his mouth-watering recipe for yourself!

Slow-Cooked Dry Ribs
(Serves 6)

  • 3 racks baby back pork ribs or trimmed spare ribs, about 1 lb. each
  • 1/4 cup dry rub (BlackJack Dry Rub preferred)
  • 6 oz. Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (BlackJack BBQ Sauce preferred)


  • Heavy duty aluminum foil
  • 10- x 12-inch aluminum pan
  • Rib rack that elevates ribs off the grill
  • Covered kettle grill
  • 4-6 lbs. hardwood charcoal
  • Charcoal chimney
  • 8 wood pieces approx. 3- x 3-inches (hickory, pecan, or apple),
    • soaked in water overnight and drained

Prepare the ribs by pulling off the thin, silvery membrane on their underside. Run a knife between the membrane and each rib to remove as much of the film as possible.

Wash the ribs in cold water, pat dry, and lay them on a baking sheet, then sprinkle dry rub on each side. (For extra spicy ribs, rub the seasoning into the meat.) The ribs should sit at room temperature for one hour.

Light the charcoal in the chimney according to the manufacturer’s directions. The coals will be ready when they are covered in a gray ash.

Once the coals are ready, place the aluminum pan in the center of the grill’s lower grate and fill it halfway with water. Distribute the hot charcoal evenly on two sides of the pan. Place two wood chunks on top of the charcoal on one side. Put the cooking grate in place. Initially, the heat inside the grill will hover around 275 to 300°F. Position the ribs on the rib rack and place it in the center of the cooking grate, above the aluminum pan with water. Put the lid on the grill with the top vents two-thirds of the way open, and cook for about three hours.

When the temperature falls to 250°F during the cooking period, add more charcoal, lighting it first in the chimney. You may also add more wood chunks. Remove the ribs from the grill when the meat around the bone ends has shrunken approximately 1/2-inch on each end.

After taking the ribs off the grill, brush them with barbecue sauce and wrap them in aluminum foil. Allow them to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to an hour. Remove the ribs from the foil and cut them along the bone into individual servings.

For more of Hagood’s Labor Day recipes, click here.

To read more from the new September issue, click here.