This is going to be a Proust-like moment, where I tell you the story of how I ate something delicious that brought me back to a beautiful childhood memory, but bear with me because that memory is about BBQ spare ribs. I have eaten ribs only once in my life as a child, and the remembrance of each tender bite is still keen and vivid in my mind. I was 9 and our neighbors invited us for a Summer barbecue at their house. All of a sudden, all the other meats seemed plain to me next to that marvelous finger-licking spare rib, crispy brown and right off the barbecue, where the meat graciously fell of the bone and melted in your mouth. It’s funny how we forget so many things as time goes by but certain memories of seemingly ordinary moments stick around. When I mentioned the memory to my parents a few days ago, they shattered my lyrical surge and revealed that the ribs we had that day had been store-bought and not homemade. Somehow that part had conveniently slipped my mind for the purpose of embellishment.
Why on earth, if I loved my first ribs so much, have I not eaten more of them? My question exactly on that particular weekend a few weeks ago. I decided the time had come for me to learn to make them, and wikihow kindly provided all the technical information I needed on roasting ribs. Since I don’t have a barbecue, the oven was naturally my preferred way to go, and it was a good choice because the slow cooking process produces a very tender meat. It was the perfect Sunday: late morning breakfast at an organic farmer’s market in the middle of São Paulo’s Agua Branca park (where roosters and chickens happily wander and squawk about), followed by an afternoon of cooking and swinging along to the sound of Freddy’s blues playlist as Eric Clapton repeatedly told me how wonderful I looked that night, that ended with the most tender, perfectly seasoned, roasted ribs I could have made to revive the memory of that first time.
This recipe is so special and so good that I could never make a habit of preparing it on a regular basis, though believe me I am tempted and Freddy would not complain if all our Sundays could resemble that one. It takes some planning ahead since you marinate the ribs for 24 hours in a dry rub beforehand, but trust me when I say that you will feel that every single bite was worth it. The Apple Cherry BBQ sauce is a recipe I thought up in my mind while walking through the farmer’s market, thinking that since cherries were on sale that day and apples always go well with pork meat, why not put them together as a sauce (I used Civilized Caveman’s paleo-friendly BBQ sauce as a base). We had this with a quick side of braised white cabbage, followed by coffee sitting on our front door step in the midst of our pork ribs “high” just as the night was falling. It was indeed the perfect Sunday.
Oven Roasted Spare Ribs with Apple-Cherry BBQ Sauce
1kg (2 lbs) Pork Ribs
1 tbsp whole, organic coffee beans
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp sea salt
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp dry garlic
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp dried oregano
Apple Cherry “BBQ Sauce”
Makes 2-3 cups
2 small apples, cored and peeled
3/4 cup cherries, halved and pitted
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup beef stock
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup (275g) tomato paste
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tbsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp chili powder or cayenne pepper
1. Prepare the dry rub: grind all the ingredients minus the salt together in a coffee grinder. Generously salt the ribs, then rub the seasoning into the ribs with your hands, making sure all the meat is well coated. Wrap the ribs tightly in aluminium foil and leave in the refrigerator for 24 hours. This will give them incredible flavoring.
2. Preheat oven at 250°F (160°C) and place the pork ribs still wrapped in the aluminium foil in a baking dish in the oven. Bake for 2:30 hours. They are ready when the meat is fork-tender and falls off the bones.
3. While the ribs are roasting, prepare the Apple Cherry BBQ Sauce: In a saucepan, cook the halved cherries and diced apples in the coconut oil over low heat for 7-8 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients of the BBQ sauce, cover and simmer on very low heat for 20-25 minutes. Uncover and reduce liquid for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until the ribs are ready to serve.
4. Unwrap the ribs from the foil, turn on the oven grill and broil the ribs for 10 minutes, until they are crispy and browned.
5. Serve with the sauce and a side of braised cabbage or sauteed greens.