For the winter, I took my barbecue off the deck and it still sits, resentfully, parked next to the rainbarrel. As I write this it is only the May long weekend, and with the weather guys issuing a frost warning for Calgary tonight, I am still disinclined to make the trek to the Propane filling station with my tank, and doing the maintenance check to ensure I can squeeze one more grilling season out of the vintage beast. But it is Spring, when the sap is rising and a man’s thoughts turn to low-and-slow pork. What to do… Daydreaming about pork is a fruitful pastime – and speaking of fruit, inspiration struck. I remembered some truly astonishing baby back ribs my esteemed wife once made for us, featuring a glaze made of apricot preserves. As we all know, pork and fruit were made for each other. (I don’t have any apricot preserves – but look! There’s cherry!).
You know what else goes with pork? Corn. Of course, there’s not an ear to be had anywhere this time of year either – at least not anything as flavorful as the fantastic produce from Taber. But I still wanted barbecue, with all the trimmings. So here’s a recipe for dinner that lets you indulge early – without the long, lazy wait by the meat smoker in the sun, and serving up not one but two sources of rich sweet corn flavor. Make up some Cherry-Bourbon Ribs with Corn Muffins for next weekend, and get barbecue on your plate before the barbecue even gets moved back onto the deck.
Cherry-Bourbon Ribs with Corn Muffins
For the Muffins :
- 1 ¼ cup corn grits – available at Safeway – Bob’s Red Mill, or other brand. If you can’t find grits, cornmeal works too. I like the slightly coarser grind of the grits.
- ¾ cup gluten-free flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- ½ cup Splenda, or sugar if you don’t need to watch calories
- 2 eggs
- 2 containers Yoplait Source Greek Nonfat Lemon Yogurt (100 g apiece = 200 g) You can use any kind of Greek yogurt – but I like the extra little kick that the citrus flavor adds – use lime, lemon, or even orange instead of plain.
- ½ cup Cashew milk (regular milk, or other kind of nut milk works as well)
- 1 small (341 ml, or 12 oz.) can of Green Giant Niblets
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Coat one regular 12-muffin sized muffin tin with cooking spray. (Do not use paper liners – the muffins will irredeemably stick to them).
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together
- In a second bowl, beat the eggs with a fork, then add the rest of the wet ingredients
- Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Fold together until everything is just moistened – do NOT beat the batter, as you want it to be as airy as possible.
- FILL the muffin cups. If you miscalculate and have one or two left with no batter in them, fill those ¾ full with water.
- Bake in the oven for 22 minutes or so, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean, with no floury taste. The muffins should be just golden-brown.
Serve warm, as soon as you can get them out of the tin. Or, keep them in a covered container until you are ready to serve them with the ribs – then microwave for half a minute or so, to serve with butter, cream cheese, or other soft spreadable cheese. (P.S. – They are also just sweet enough to serve with breakfast – jam or syrup would be a good addition.).
For the Ribs:
- 2 full racks of baby back (or side) pork ribs, cut into portion-size pieces – approximately 4 lbs will feed four people.
- 1-2 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp whole peppercorns
- 2 tsp coriander seed
- 1 tbsp dried thyme leaves
- 6 cloves of garlic – lightly smashed (not whole, so the goodness can leak out)
- ¾ cup cherry preserves, or cherry jam
- ½ cup ketchup
- 1/3 cup Bourbon
- Place the rib pieces in a large pot on the stove.
- Add salt, paprika, peppercorns, coriander seed, thyme, and garlic cloves, all over the meat.
- Pour boiling water over the ribs and seasoning, and boil, covered, over medium-low heat for approximately 1 ½ hours. Go find something else to do in the meantime – this step is important.
- Before the ribs have finished boiling, put the cherry preserves and Bourbon into a smaller pot, over medium-low heat, stirring to melt and blend the preserves with the Bourbon. Let it boil for a bit, to reduce slightly into a more syrupy texture. (Being a corn-based whisky, the Bourbon adds an extraordinary corn dimension to the glaze – can’t be beat. However, if you only have rum, use rum, because it also goes well with fruit and pork).
- Add ketchup, stirring to blend it in well. Trust me – this lowly ingredient shines like a star in here.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Check the boiled ribs – they should be nice and tender at this point.
- Remove the ribs, arranging the pieces in a ceramic baking dish. (Set the pot with the liquid from boiling aside – drain through a colander later, and save the stock for something else. Believe me, it’s great stock!).
- Spoon the Bourbon-cherry-ketchup mix over each piece, covering them well. Use it all.
- Put the baking dish in the oven, and leave the ribs there for 25 minutes. The glaze will bubble and caramelize, and ultimately take on a nice, faint char just as if you had them on a grill. If you want it really dark – turn on the broiler for a couple minutes before they come out of the oven – but keep an eye on it. You don’t want to turn dinner into charcoal.
- While the ribs are finishing in the oven, open a can of Bush’s Sweet and Tangy Vegetarian Baked Beans, and heat them over low heat in a saucepan on the stove. You can use whichever baked beans you like – but be assured these are near the pinnacle of goodness when it comes to barbecue.
- Plate a couple of corn muffins from your earlier labors onto each plate, microwaving just before serving to make them hot if needed. You can cut them open and shove in some creamy cheese, or some butter – although these muffins are moist enough to go au naturel (thanks to the yogurt in the batter).
- Add ribs, and serve with sweet iced tea, Dr. Pepper, or similar indigenous beverage.