All across America, Outdoor Channel viewers are gearing up for a day of celebrating all things red, white and blue as Uncle Sam celebrates his 238th birthday.
And while the usual Fourth of July cuisine often centers around grilled burgers, hotdogs and brats, not every backyard meal comes that way.
In fact, after polling some of the anglers, hunters and outdoors enthusiasts I’ve been privileged to know around the country, it seems apparent that Independence Day meals are as varied as the American people and spirit are from sea to shining sea.
Sample a few of these recipes – on either store bought domestic fare or from venison, game birds or fish obtained from the wild – and see if you don’t agree:
KVD’s Citrus Soda Rib Recipe
Kevin VanDam is arguably the best bass fisherman of all-time, powering his way to seven B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year titles, a FLW Tour AOY title, four Bassmaster Classic triumphs, 20 B.A.S.S. tournament wins and a Major League Fishing Summit Cup title.
He got there by often thinking outside of the box. So it shouldn’t be surprising that he has an out-of-the-box recipe for his family’s annual Fourth of July celebration.
“My favorite Fourth of July recipe is one for ribs,” said VanDam. “It’s very easy and it’s super good.”
To prepare these Independence Day ribs, KVD says to take a few racks of baby back ribs and cut them into smaller sections that can easily be managed with a pair of cooking tongs.
Then add your preferred rib seasoning: “I like a rub called Patty’s that is from the Kentucky Lake region,” said VanDam. “But you can use your own favorite rib rub or something like Tony Chachere’s.”
Once cut and seasoned, VanDam will put the ribs into a throw-away aluminum cooking pan and submerge them with a two-liter bottle of a lemon-lime soda: “Cover them with Sprite, 7-Up, Squirt or some other citrus based, non-diet soda. It’s got to have the real sugar in it.”
Then KVD will cover the aluminum throw-away pan with tin foil and put it in the oven for three to three and a half hours at 350 degrees.
“By doing that, it boils most of the fat off of them and they become fall-apart tender,” said VanDam. “When they are finished in the oven, I put them on the grill over low heat for a just a little while – not very long – to finish them off. All you need to do then is add your favorite barbecue sauce.”
VanDam says that this rib recipe is something that has been a holiday staple in his family for a long time.
“They come out very tasty and fall-off-the-bone tender,” said KVD. “It’s not a very time consuming recipe; you don’t have to watch them and cook them for hours on end. They turn out super good and I’ve never had anyone I’ve shared this recipe with say otherwise.”
After finding VanDam willing to share his favorite rib recipe, I couldn’t help but ask him about desert. Would he be willing to share his wife Sherry’s recipe for the famed “KVD Cookies” that he carries on his bass boat?
“Nope,” KVD laughingly replied. “Not a chance.”
Pappy’s Lone Star Smoked Ribs
Pappy’s Lone Star Smoked Ribs
If KVD’s ribs recipe doesn’t strike your fancy, maybe the delectable ribs from the smoker of Outdoor Channel viewer Pat Lovera will do the trick.
The Tom Bean, Texas barbecue expert – his smoked brisket is as good as any in the Lone Star State – was reluctant to give up his ribs recipe.
But since I’m married to his daughter, he finally agreed to reluctantly give up his secret recipe, which can be used on pork, beef or even wild feral hog ribs.
“The first thing that I do is cut the ribs in half,” said Lovera. “Then I season them with cayenne pepper, some fajita seasoning, Lawry’s seasoned salt and some garlic salt.”
Once the ribs have been seasoned, Lovera will go to work on getting the smoke in his smoker just right – he starts with oak, and then adds mesquite.
“Once I get the fire ready, I put the ribs on the smoker, bones up,” said Lovera. “I’ll cook them at 250 degrees for right at two hours. Then I will cut them up into individual serving sizes and put those 10 per pack into aluminum foil packets. I’ll cover the ribs in the foil packs with barbecue sauce and Italian dressing, wrap them up tightly, put them back on the smoker and cook them all night long over the low heat.”
Do they come off the smoker good? Let’s just say that if I had one meal left on earth, Pappy’s ribs (and brisket) are what I would choose.
Armstrong’s Porky Pig Glazed Ribs
Like a little sweet, smoky tang added to your holiday cooking?
Then give Brian Armstrong’s pork rib recipe a try, especially if you’ve got some wild hog ribs in the freezer.
“This is one of my favorite recipes,” said the Texas bowhunter, duck hunter, and dog trainer. “I take two racks of ribs and marinate them overnight in red wine, olive oil and black pepper.”
After the overnight soak, Armstrong puts them in the oven at 250 degrees for two hours. At that point, he’ll flip them over for 30 minutes to get the grease and fat drained off the ribs.
“I’ll let them cool afterwards and rub them dry with black pepper, garlic powder, brown sugar, onion powder and red pepper,” he said. “Then I’ll put them in the smoker over very low heat and smoke them for six hours, turning them every hour. At the third hour of smoking, I’ll glaze them lightly with honey.”
“They are delectable,” he added. “I promise you’ll enjoy them.”
Johnston’s Pure Michigan Venison Backstrap
Jere Johnston is a Michigan man through and through. From fishing for smallmouth bass near his boyhood home of Alpena to chasing deer near his current home in Kalamazoo, Johnston loves to sample all that his home state has to offer.
Especially when that Pure Michigan sample includes some venison backstrap pulled hot off the grill.
“I take a 14-inch section of backstrap and slice it about every inch or so about two-thirds of the way through,” said Johnston. “I’ll sprinkle Worcestershire sauce on the backstrap and then sprinkle some garlic powder, ground pepper, ground thyme, some sage and some crushed rosemary on the meat.”
Johnston lets that sit in the refrigerator for a half-hour or better while he gets the grill going.
“At the grill, add some mesquite smoke chips with some being wet-soaked in warm water and some being dry,” he said. “When I’m ready to start cooking over a medium heat – don’t get it any hotter because you want the strap to stay moist - I’ll do so with the sliced side down over the coals for about five minutes.”
Johnston will rotate the backstrap a quarter at a time, adding a few more dry smoke chips at each turn.
“I’ll finish with one more handful of wet chips, then lightly salt and cook with the sliced side up for about five minutes or less,” he said. “I’ll slice through the rest of the sliced spots and serve hot off the grill.”
Dakota’s Lil’ Smokies Bacon Bites
Want a great appetizer while the main course is on the grill or smoker? Then give Texas duck hunting guide Dakota Stowers’ Lil’ Smokies Bacon Bites a try.
“You take a pound of bacon, a pound of Lil’ Smokies, one stick of butter and two cups of brown sugar,” said Stowers. “Cut the bacon into thirds and wrap each small sausage. Put all of the Lil’ Smokies into a baking dish in a single layer, melt the stick of butter, add the brown sugar, stir until well mixed, and then pour evenly over the bacon-wrapped sausages.”
At that point, put the baking dish into a hot oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Then Stowers says to turn up the heat to 400 degrees and bake for another five minutes until the bacon gets crispy.
“These little sausages are amazing,” said Stowers. “Try them, I promise they are great!”
Defoe’s Homegrown Creole Burgers
For Bassmaster Elite Series and Major League Fishing pro Ott DeFoe, nothing says the Fourth of July like a backyard grilling session with homegrown hamburgers.
“My dad raises our own beef cows, (so that’s where our beef comes from),” said DeFoe. “We like our hamburgers marinated in Dale’s Sauce and seasoned with Tony Chachere’s Creole spices.”
Simple or not, DeFoe’s homegrown Creole burger recipe is big on taste.
“Throw those on a grill and they are the best burgers known to man!”
Moore’s Wizard of Oz Grilled Salmon
Kansas deer and pheasant hunter David Moore and his wife enjoy the usual flavors that come with the Fourth of July.
But occasionally, they like a little more exotic flavor off the grill behind their Heartland of America home.
“We’ll take some thick salmon filets and top them with a tablespoon of dill and black pepper to taste,” said Moore. “Then we’ll put a light coating of olive oil on the top of the filet.”
At that point, Moore will put the salmon on the grill and cook over medium heat for 20 to 25 minutes for a medium rare finish.
“We warm up some honey and drizzle it over the top of the salmon filets after they are done cooking. It’s a great, healthy taste hot off the grill.”
Woodruff’s Independence Day Balsamic Chicken
Rob Woodruff, the Orvis endorsed bass guide who specializes in catching Lake Fork lunkers on the fly rod, loves to cook.
Since most Fourth of July recipes center on beef or pork, the Quitman, Texas, resident opted to share his favorite grilling recipe for a different meat – the veritable yard bird, the chicken.
“I’ve got a really good basil balsamic grilled chicken recipe that is a big hit at backyard cookouts,” said Woodruff. “I start with eight large chicken thighs that are skinned.”
Next, he will take three cloves of garlic (crushed), two tablespoons of chopped basil, a ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar, two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, a ½ teaspoon of salt and a ½ teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper.
“I’ll combine the garlic, basil, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper into a large bowl,” said Woodruff. “Then I will add the chicken thighs, cover and marinate them in the refrigerator for two to six hours. After that, grill them over a charcoal fire until they are fully done and you’ve got a perfect, healthy Fourth of July meal.”
Horton’s Pickled Bama Beans
Bassmaster Elite Series and Major League Fishing pro Timmy Horton hails from Alabama, so he knows a thing or two about a good Independence Day meal.
Even if that holiday meal turns out to be a fish fry for crappie, bluegill, or catfish instead of the usual barbecue offerings at most Fourth of July cookouts.
“I’ve got a good recipe for beans,” said Horton, a former B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year. “It’s called Bama Beans and you start off with a pint of pork and beans that you have drained.”
At that point, Horton takes a ½ cup of chopped dill pickles, a ¼ cup of chopped Vidalia onion, a ¼ cup of mayonnaise and a dash or two of salt and pepper.
“You stir it all in, mix it together well and chill,” said Horton. “It’s awesome with a fish fry!”
White’s Big Tex Guacamole Egg Salad
Chris White is a San Antonio fly fishing enthusiast who loves to wade fish the Texas Gulf Coast looking for redfish and speckled trout on the fly.
While most of his fishing centers around catch-and-release, when he does put together a good meal of fresh fish on the grill, he’ll often add a Lone Star State inspired compliment.
“It’s called guacamole egg salad and it’s great,” said White. “You start off with several hard boiled eggs that you cool down in ice water.”
At that point, White gets the other ingredients together including one avocado, a ¼ cup of finely chopped white onion, a ¼ cup of chopped tomato, one chopped Serrano pepper and one garlic clove that has been finely chopped.
“I’ll mix all of the ingredients together and add the juice of a fresh squeezed lime and salt and pepper to taste,” said White. “If you want, you can add some feta cheese for a non-paleo taste.”
White will then peel and half the hard boiled eggs: “Add the freshly prepared guacamole salad to the peeled egg halves and enjoy.”
After enjoying one of these entrees or side-dishes at your Fourth of July cook-out, all that’s left to do is to provide a little something for the sweet tooth that is hoping for desert.
Do these recipes get your taste buds going?
Good! After enjoying the main course dishes and a side or two, all that’s left to do is add watermelon, homemade ice cream, or a good old fashioned apple pie for desert.
Do so and you’ve got an all-American meal fit for a king.
Or a group of American patriots enjoying Uncle Sam’s 2014 birthday bash and all things that are red, white and blue.