I'm not enough of a rib critic to warrant argument over which method of preparation renders the best results (there are some serious die-hards out there), but after trying them a few ways, this one has won my favor.
Planning to smoke the slow braised ribs toward the end of the process, I had to switch gears and simply slather them with sauce due to their extreme fall-off-the-bone tenderness. I literally could not keep the bones from slipping away from the meat and worried they would fall through the grate onto smoky coals if I risked putting them on the grill.
Another wise move in pre-feasting prep: an overnight spicy brown sugar rub prior to braising. And of course, starting with ribs from the happiest beasts locally available: bison from Carolina Bison, and grass-fed beef from Gaining Ground Farm proved a wise way to begin.
Best to start the sauce simmering in a large cast iron pan shortly after placing the ribs in the oven. Good things take time, this recipe being no exception.
My only other recommendation is to invite a crowd of food lovers over to enjoy the final product. Slow cooking ribs is a process best shared with your friends. If you are lucky, they will bring slaw and banana pudding to round things out. Oh, and don't wear white.
Slow Cooked BBQ Ribs:
*1-2 large racks bison ribs
*1-2 large racks grass fed beef ribs
Brown Sugar Rub: (amounts are approximate)
*1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
*2 Tbsp ground ginger
*2 Tbsp paprika
*2 tsp chipotle chili pepper
*plenty of fresh ground black pepper and sea salt
Blend all ingredients together in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
*3 cups apple cider or unfiltered organic apple juice
*2 Tbsp grainy mustard
*1/8 cup tamari or soy sauce
*generous splash of white vinegar
*3 cloves garlic, sliced in half
OR substitute all above ingredients for broth or water.
Sweet and Smoky Barbecue Sauce:
*4 cups apple cider or unfiltered organic apple juice
*3-4 Tbsp white vinegar
*2-3 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
*5 Tbsp molasses
*2-3 Tbsp grainy mustard
*1/2 tsp ground cumin
*3 garlic cloves, minced
*1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
*pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
Place all ingredients in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Whisk to blend. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to lowest setting. Allow liquid to reduce by more than half or until sauce becomes thick, stirring often (about 2-2 1/2 hours). Adjust seasonings to taste. Transfer sauce to a bowl and set aside.
Begin by rinsing ribs. Pat dry. Using a dinner knife (not sharp) lift the translucent membrane away from the meat on the belly side of each rack. It should come up in one piece. If not, use whatever method necessary to remove all of it. Trim any excess fat, but leave the majority to keep meat moist while cooking.
Next, rub each side of each rack with the brown sugar rub. Transfer to a baking sheet (it's okay to stack them on top of one another) and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 225.
Place a rack or grate in the bottom of a large roasting pan fitted with a lid (whatever you cook your thanksgiving turkey in works well). Pour in braising liquid.
Place ribs on top of rack, stacking if necessary. Cover with lid and bake for 2 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, start the barbecue sauce (see instructions above).
Remove ribs from oven. Turn each rack of ribs and return to oven, covered. Bake for an additional 2 1/2 hours.
Gently lift ribs from pan and transfer to a baking sheet. Cut them into manageable pieces, one bone per piece. Meat should be very tender.
Begin liberally basting with barbecue sauce, turning each piece to coat. Serve immediately with sides of slaw, creamy grits or cornbread, and cooked greens.
Share your weekend culinary journey like this one at Hartke Is Online Weekend Blog Carnival.