Monday, December 10, 2012

Spareribs on Winter Days

Our first real snow arrived two days ago. It was a cold day, but a great day for baking spareribs. I absolutely love them so this was the perfect excuse. Hans doesn't crave them as I do, but he does like them, especially my ribs with the barbecue sauce. On this particular day, I made two others that I also love.

The BBQ ribs shown I made for lunch one day last July for women friends.

Spareribs Canadian-and-American-style are not known that well here in Germany, at least not in our part of the country.  They generally are not something found on a Gasthaus menu.  If they are on a menu, they will often be accompanied by sauerkraut (but no sauce).  Many fresh ribs at the supermarket here are already marinated--although not all are. I prefer to marinate my own and make my own sauce.

Below, that snowy morning through our kitchen window.

A few years ago, I decided to serve my spareribs with BBQ sauce to German friends.  I wasn't sure how ribs would go over.  Well, both couples loved them.  Hans-Peter declared them the best he had ever had!  He and Monika had a house in Ontario at that time where they spent their summers, so they were familiar with them they told us.  They immediately christened them "Schottische spareribs" because of my Scottish ancestry (even though I am a 6th generation Canadian!).  They asked for my recipe.  Monika has made them many times since.  Gertrud and Jürgen were also familiar with ribs, having lived in Winnipeg for a few years, although I don't know if they ever cooked them at home.  But they did like mine. 

The first time I had spareribs myself was back in about 1962 in Lamorteau, Belgium where we lived at the time.  We were part of the RCAF based in Marville, France, which was situated just a few kilometers from the Belgian border. 
An old postcard of our village of Lamorteau
Several Canadian military families lived in our small village and we women would meet from time to time for afternoon tea and talk.  (None of us worked outside the home; in fact, rarely did any woman during those days.)  Recipes were passed around.  On one occasion, one of the women, Ruth Cowie, served sweet and sour ribs.  That was the beginning  of my love affair with spareribs.  Another friend at about that same time, Helen Danyluc, gave me her recipe for barbecued ribs.  I made both those dishes for many years as my kids were growing up. 
(During those same years, I also acquired a taste for Chinese food while visiting Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark.  That, however, is another story; no spareribs that day.)\
I  became a huge fan of spareribs and eventually I started cutting out recipes for them whenever I saw one that appealed to me--and many did.  I have so many clippings that I shall never make them all, but I love reading them and from time to time trying one of them out.  I have many cookbooks as well, so I have more recipes than I will ever need or will ever make.  I think, though, that is the fun of it all:  the browsing through them and almost tasting the dishes from the pages!

I have gone beyond sweet-and-sour and barbecued ribs, although I still love them.  I now also love Asian-style and maple-glazed and so many others.  One that I made many years ago is without a sauce altogether.  The recipe is called "Crown Roast of Spareribs."  It is in a cookbook called The Lily Wallace New American Cook Book that my mother gave me as a shower gift before I was married.  I needed that book as I could barely cook.  I didn't make those spareribs, however, until we were posted to France about nine years later and after I had had those sweet-and-sour ribs to spur me on. 

Crown Roast of Spareribs:  Those ribs were left in one large two-pound piece, tied so that they were in a crown roast shape, and then set upright around the edge of a baking dish.  Into the cavity went the rest of the ingredients, all mixed together first:  2 cups cooked regular rice; 2 cups bread crumbs (I pulled bread apart into small pieces); 1 minced carrot; 1 large minced onion; 1/4 cup raisins; 3 tablespoons butter or fat; 1/2 teaspoon powdered sage; 2 teaspoons salt; 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  It was then baked in a 325F/160C oven for two hours. 

My Method : Instead of buying one large slab, I often placed half the ribs--meat-side facing up--into the casserole, piled the stuffing on top and then placed the remaining ribs on top of it all--meat-side down.  (The fat from the ribs and the butter moistened the dish.) That was enough for the four of us, the children being very young.  It wouldn't be enough today for four.  I haven't made those ribs for many years, so I am not sure how they would compare to many others I have made since.  If I were making them today (and perhaps I shall before long), I might make a BBQ sauce to pass around for those who wish it.  I think, though, that I likely would still enjoy them now with or without any sauce.  I might decide, however, to add another herb or two.

Another ribs recipe in that cookbook called for sauerkraut.  Just sauerkraut was used and placed between the two layers of spareribs.  Some juniper berries, a bay leaf, a little sugar and perhaps some chopped onion and apple mixed into the sauerkraut first would add more flavour.

On the left, a postcard of Zweibrücken, Germany from the 1950s, but one I bought there in about 1962.  Below, Saarbrücken, Germany as shown on a tourist brochure.

In those days that we lived in Belgium we bought both the ribs and sauerkraut at a German Metzgerei near Saarbrücken.  From time to time we visited Canadian friends, Evelyn and Brent Rudolph, in Zweibrücken, where RCAF 3 Fighter Wing was located.  On the way back to Belgium, and before driving into the country of Luxembourg (another Belgian neighbour and on Germany's western border), we passed this butcher shop.  The Metzger, or butcher as we call them in North America, would scoop the fresh sauerkraut out of a huge barrel, place it into a container and along with the ribs off we would go.

As you can see, I've been a spareribs fan for many years.  During the last few days I have been poring over clippings in my spareribs file folder, in my computer recipe file and in a couple of books trying to decide which ones to give.  It's been a difficult decision as I have so many that I love.  Below, two types of ribs that I made this week.  Recipes to follow.  But first:

Precooking ribs in water:  I nearly always precook spareribs in water for about 45 minutes to an hour, even when not called for in a recipe.  I also usually do that instead of precooking in the oven first as is sometimes called for.   I have done otherwise, but the recipes I am giving, I simmered them as follows:

Place ribs in a high pot and cover well with water.  Add the following:  a bay leaf; a celery top with leaves; several peppercorns; 1 small onion cut in half; 6 to 8 juniper berries; some salt.  Bring to a boil and then simmer them until tender, but not longer than 1 hour.  Drain them.

At this point, you can cool them and place them in the fridge until ready to use later in the day or the next day.  Or--as I sometimes do--after they are cool, place them in a zip lock bag and freeze them until ready to use.  It makes it much easier to have them all ready to bake, barbecue or simmer in a sauce on the stove or in the oven later.  A much shorter time will be required to finish them as well.

Baked Asian Spareribs - Serves 4 to 5
My sister Paula sent me this recipe but had not made them yet herself.  I tried them and really liked them.  I believe she found the recipe on the internet.  I have made several changes and prepare and cook them somewhat differently.  I have made these twice, the last time just this week. 

3/4 cup brown sugar (I used dark brown)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup ketchup (Heinz is best)
1/4 cup white wine (I used Weissherbst this last time, a type of rose; both the white and rose are good)
1/4 cup pineapple juice (I used peach juice another time; both from canned fruit and both good)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon gingerroot, grated
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
About 4 to 5 pounds or 2 to 2-1/2 kilo back pork ribs

Marinade:  Combine the sugar, soy sauce, ketchup, wine, juice, garlic, gingerroot and parsley.  Mix well.

Place the pre-cooked ribs into a large zip lock bag and pour the marinade into the bag over the ribs.  Close the bag and place it in a bowl and refrigerate for several hours or overnight, turning the bag occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 325F/160C.  Place the ribs, marinade and all, into a casserole dish large enough to hold them well.  Cover them with tinfoil.  Bake them for about 35 to 40 minutes, basting them a few times, turning them occasionally as well.  Remove the foil after about 25 to 30 minutes (or earlier if wished) and baste the ribs a few times until they are brown but still with sauce left in the casserole dish.  Don't cook them too long as you want them to be tender and not overdone. 

Maple Glazed Ribs - Makes 4 to 6 servings

These may be cooked in the oven, on top of the stove or for the last few minutes on the BBQ.  This recipe is easy.  The ribs are sticky.  There is not a lot of sauce, but you don't need much as the sauce adheres to the ribs while cooking.  Follow the method I gave above for precooking in water.  This recipe came from Canadian Living 1985, but with my changes.  Make sure you have lots of finger wipes as you will be sticky, too.  These are finger licken good!

3 pounds pork back ribs (I use about 4 lbs; you can double the sauce if wished; I often do.)

3/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons ketchup (Heinz)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder (hard to find in Germany, so use 1 tsp or so German or English mustard)

Preheat oven to 325F/160C.
Cut the ribs into serving pieces.  Optional:  Place the precooked ribs in a large ziplock bag.  Place the marinade ingredients into a small pot and bring to a boil. Mix well. Cool a bit and pour over the ribs in the bag. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Then, place all into a casserole dish and bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, basting and turning occasionally until they are tender.

Or, you can place the ribs uncooked into a casserole dish.  Pour the warm marinade over them and bake, uncovered, for at least an hour or until tender.  These are so good, especially if you like sweet ribs!

In summer when in Nova Scotia and visiting my friend Jean in Dartmouth, one of the places we go to occasionally is a pub near her called the Mic Mac Bar and Grill on Waverley Road. I always have their barbecued ribs and they are excellent. I smartly order the large size so that I'll have enough to take home with me the next day. It is also the best buy. I didn't get there last summer but I hope to next year. In the meantime, I made barbecued ribs for myself here in June when Hans was in N.S. (I went over later.) The picture shows the ones I made for myself that evening along with homemade deep fried potato slices.

Finally, to my recipe for those ribs:
Follow the precooking method for the ribs.  Then either cook them right away or place them in the fridge, in with the sauce or not.  As the sauce makes a lot, you will likely have some left over.  I put any leftover, unused sauce into a jar in the fridge and use it as a sauce for chops, steak or chicken.

Janet's Barbecue Sauce - Enough for 4 to 6 pounds/2 to 3 kilo ribs
Makes 4 to 4-1/2 cups sauce (This recipe can be halved or doubled.)

2 cups (1/2 liter) Heinz ketchup
1/4 cup chili sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco Sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons mild to medium mustard (preferably Dijon or German)
2 tablespoons salad oil (not olive oil)
1/4 cup molasses or honey (I use molasses)
1 tablespoon steak sauce, such as HP Sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder (or use a teaspoon or so Canadian/American/German mustard)
3 or more cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste
1 cup export beer (not Pils and not dark beer; use regular beer)
(Optional) A little smoke or Ketchup with smoke

Mix all sauce ingredients together. Place ribs in a large pot or in a casserole dish. Add as much sauce as you need to the ribs and cook them on top of the stove (in a pot) or in a pre-heated 325F/160C oven (casserole dish or roast pan) for about 45 to 60 minutes. Turn and baste every so often. Watch carefully so that they don't burn.

You can pass the remaining sauce at the table or refrigerate it for another use.  Serve and enjoy!  (Make sure that the sauce you keep in the fridge to use later was not cooked with the ribs.)  Any remaining ribs and sauce that were cooked together freeze well. 

Above, the Asian ribs and BBQ ribs along with two types of chicken wings that I served Monika and Gertrud here last July for lunch.  I'll write about chicken wings sometime as they are also one of the favourite things that I make from time to time.
I left out one of my favourite rib recipes as I know I will get another craving and perhaps that will urge me on to write about spareribs again.  Lots of recipes still.  But not for a while!  This week I had ribs twice, so for now my craving has subsided.  I might, though, have them one more time as a few are still left!

Bon Appetit!  
Enjoy the Winter Days and the Advent Season!



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