Engineered Spare Ribs

Glossy rich Kentucky spare ribsI never loved the bony parts of meats when I was a kid growing up on a farm. The bones reminded a squeamish girl of the animals that had recently been sharing our lives, and eventually helped propel me into a couple of vegetarian stints.

For some years now, I've held the squeamishness in check by thinking of the arguments of Michael Pollan and Joel Salatin about the ways land benefits from proper animal agriculture. And I've worked to learn to cook and eat more parts with bones, gristle, and all the evocative animalisms that put me off in the past.

Last fall we bought half a Kentucky hog. As the packages in the freezer dwindled, I finally had to face up to the two packages of spare ribs, objects that delight most members of my present family. I do not remember ever cooking them before.

Scrounging around for recipes online, I found one from the reliable Cooking for Engineers that met my needs: no tomatoes, specific instructions, cookable indoors. I primarily needed the cooking instructions, since I intended to make the basting sauce from whatever ingredients I had on hand that approximated the recipe.

The instructions worked perfectly. Four hours at 300 degrees, under tight foil cover, and this honorable pig's ribs turned brown, glossy, and deliciously sweet/savory. I poured off the basting sauce and reduced it over medium heat for about 10 minutes until it became syrupy.

My basting/sauce ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons Dr. Bragg's Liquid Aminos (much like soy sauce, but gluten free)
  • 1 cup mixed leftover red and white wine (each decent on its own)
  • 2 Tablespoons sherry vinegar (since I lacked the sherry the recipe required)
  • 1/3 c. sorghum (you probably have guessed this!)
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

I avoided salt, thinking the Liquid Aminos would do the trick, but a bit of salt and a couple of teaspoons of dry mustard would have spiked up the savory end of the sweet-savory flavor. Some cayenne would have been good, too, for those who like eating animals that bite back.

If I were to find more spare ribs lurking in my freezer, I would buy a bottle of sherry and try the recipe in a form closer to the original. Sherry and pork have a natural affinity, and I expect yumminess would result from pairing them for spare ribs. I will confess I can't imagine ever putting a whole cup of soy sauce (or Liquid Aminos) in anything. Not even when a reliable engineer's recipe calls for it.