Not-quite barbecued Ribs

I love barbecued ribs, but I have never been happy with making them at home.   While I have a grill, I don’t have the space or time for a smoker.  One of my major influences as a cook is Alton Brown.  The AB method of cooking ribs involves using your oven.  While I respect AB, when it’s ninety, I don’t want to be turning on my oven.  That said, I agree with some core tenets of his ideas of ribs:

  1. Tender ribs require a “low and slow” approach to cooking.
  2. Braising is one of the best ways to make meat tender.

This is not a recipe to throw together and forget.  Neither is it a recipe that needs your attention all of the time.  It takes some patience though, as many good things do.  It all starts with a rub.

Mix together:

  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP salt
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp pineapple sage (or regular sage)
  • 1/8 tsp dried habanero (optional)

Why did I build this rub this way?  The sugar and salt are the base of the rub.  Everything else is balance.  Cocoa gives depth to savory recipes.  Cumin is also a rich spice that really works in spicy foods.  Allspice is a sweet spice that is a staple in Jamaican foods.  Cayenne and habanero add heat.  (Habanero, while very hot, also works well with sweeter foods.)  And the thyme and pineapple sage round things out with that good, green herb flavor.  This is enough rub for about two racks of ribs.  I only had one rack of ribs, so I’ve got about half left over.

Now that you have your rub, it’s time to rub down your meat.  Sprinkle the rub on with a heavy hand.  You’re aiming for a good coating, not a light seasoning.  The bit of moisture on the meat will probably make it into a little bit of a paste on top.  Once you’ve coated your meat, stick it in the fridge to think about what it’s done for an hour.

When those are nearly ready, you can work on the braising liquid.  For that you’ll need:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 12 oz. beer
  • 2 fresh apricots
  • 1 T stone ground mustard
  • 1 T worchestershire sauce
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 T pineapple sage
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp cayenne

I started by blanching the apricots.  Once the skins were soft, I pulled them from the hot water, dumped out the pan & refilled it with the beer.  I used a lager, but you could use any not too strong beer or even a dry cider.  After slipping the skins from the apricots, I chopped them coarsely.  The whole mix went into the pot & simmered briefly.

Preheat your grill (or broiler).  You’re going to want it hot.  I think my grill was in the 450-500 degree range.  We’re not aiming to *cook* these ribs.  Just to give them a bit of char on each side.  A couple of minutes on each side should do.

Once you’ve charred your ribs, you can dump them into a crockpot.  I have a six quart that they fit into easily.  If you have a smaller one, you may need to cut them apart to make it all work.  Pour your braising liquid over the ribs.

I cooked these on high for about  two hours, and then low for about two hours.  I suspect they’d do fine on low for about six hours.  That said, I also flipped the ribs every hour to immerse the top side.

When they were nearly done, I removed the ribs and poured off the braising liquid.  I reduced it by half, then added about half of it to some barbecue sauce that I brushed the ribs with.

Tender, tasty, delicious ribs.


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