It's a good thing we don't eat like this very often, because I don't think our arteries could stand it! As a treat, however, ribs are a wonderful, messy, tasty dinner! Paired with homemade cornbread, still warm from the oven, and coleslaw, how could I go wrong?!
I bought the ribs a few weeks ago, just because I really wanted ribs, and they have been in the freezer ever since. Then I remembered the can of unsweetened applesauce that I had (I was making vegan cookies and bought too much)...this would be perfect to use in a BBQ sauce!
Start the ribs the day before you plan to cook them, as they need to sit overnight with a rub.
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
Set aside 2 tablespoons of the rub to use in the BBQ sauce. Keep it in a well sealed container.
Sprinkle the remaining rub over the ribs, and gently massage it into the meat, making sure that all sides of the meat have some of the spices on them.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The day you will be cooking the ribs, heat the oven to 275F. Heat a large frying pan that can also be placed directly into the oven. Add a drizzle of olive oil, just enough to prevent the ribs from sticking.
Quickly brown all sides of the meat.
3/4 cup apple juice.
Bring to a boil.
Cover the pan and put it into the oven, leaving the ribs to cook slowly for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.
At this point they should be cooked through and very tender. I left mine to cool in the oven, before removing from the pan and putting into the fridge to firm up before grilling.
Save the braising liquid to use in the sauce.
While the ribs are braising, make the BBQ sauce.
Heat a bit of olive oil and cook:
1/4 cup diced onion until it starts to soften.
The 2 tablespoons reserved rub and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried ancho chili powder
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Cook, stirring until it is well combined.
Skim as much fat off the top of the reserved braising liquid as you can, and add the liquid to the sauce.
Simmer until the sauce has thickened to the consistency you like; I cooked mine for about 20 minutes.
Taste and adjust seasoning...I added a bit more ancho chili.
Place the ribs onto a hot grill to re-heat, brushing them with BBQ sauce.
Serve the hot ribs with coleslaw, warm cornbread with bacon and pepper Jack cheese (recipe to follow tomorrow) and pass the extra BBQ sauce at the table. Don't forget the napkins!!!
- For the rub I used roasted garlic powder that I made by grinding dried roasted garlic flakes in my spice grinder. This gave a milder garlic flavour than regular garlic powder would.
- Next time I will double the amount of dried ancho chilies as the intensity of the heat was quite mild. Dried chipotle chilies will give a smokier flavour, and can also be used in the BBQ sauce, for heat and smokiness.
- The rub will keep for a few weeks, as long as it is well sealed, so make as much as you want, it always comes in handy for recipes like Sticky Smoked Chicken Wings.
- Check the ribs during braising after 1 1/2 hours for doneness. Mine were literally falling off the bone, and I had to be quite careful while grilling them. You want them to be tender, as they will only be re-heated on the BBQ, not cooked.
- The ribs can be re-heated in the oven at 350F. Place them in a single layer and baste with the BBQ sauce. Place into the oven until heated through.
- If you don't have canned applesauce, you can make your own by dicing 2 - 3 apples (depending on the size) and cooking them with a bit of water until tender enough to mash with a potato masher.
- Apples that have been peeled and cut into eighths can be cooked with the pork while it braises, and then added to the onion, spices, ketchup and vinegar when you make the sauce.
- Onions and garlic can be added to the pork when it braises.
- Use 1/2 cup apple juice and 1/4 cup bourbon when braising the pork and you will have a bourbon apple BBQ sauce.
- When you taste and adjust the seasoning, you can add more heat (chili), acid (vinegar) or sweetness (brown sugar).
- If you want a rich, dark sauce, add some molasses as well. This adds sweetness too, but not in an obvious way, adding depth of flavour and colour more than anything.
- The pork can be braised up to 2 days ahead, and the sauce can also be made ahead. They can both also be frozen at this point, to be defrosted and re-heated for serving.
- I used up some applewood smoked bacon and pepper Jack cheese in the cornbread, and I will share that recipe tomorrow. It is very rich and moist, and is excellent for soaking up the sauce.