Sticky Blackberry Barbecued Pork Ribs
I was driving down one of my favorite roads today, the Indigo Girls harmonizing in the background. My eyes were soaking in the beautiful hills, still beautiful even after losing their springtime green, the sun glimmering through the canopy of the trees.
Cause there’s a place we like to drive
Way out in the country
Alone in my car and in my thoughts, it was one of those rare moments when I could appreciate the present. And the past. Hearing Power of Two brought me back 13 years, to Chicago. It was this day that I met my husband.
Adding up the total of a love that’s true
Multiply life by the power of two
And it’s been a whirlwind of a life ever since.
It was a typical humid day in Chicago when our lives intersected on a Fourth of July weekend, thanks to a mutual friend. We met, with Buckingham Fountain behind us and the holiday fireworks over Lake Michigan in the skies above us. And I knew we would be friends.
Chicago is a city I look back on with a fond heart, obviously. It’s a beautiful city to fall in love in, but besides that, it’s a city that is so welcoming, and charming, and delicious. I must have eaten more ribs in my few years in Chicago than I ever had in my lifetime. When friends would visit, I would take them on food crawls, back when food crawls weren’t formal ventures, and my favorite rib joint was always in the lineup. Ribs were our last meal there, before we left for San Francisco.
These days, our own grill is our favorite rib joint, and I am always looking for new ways to enjoy them. When I saw this recipe for Sticky Blackberry Barbecued Pork Ribs, I knew it was a must try. I love it. Simple? Yes. Sticky? Yes. Delicious? Yes. It’s a beautiful way to use up the season’s sweet blackberries.
I pulled into my driveway and walked into my house. I logged on and saw a message from one of my friends who was there that sweltering day, and learned that there would be no fireworks in Chicago this year. A tradition lost. And that saddened me. A decade may have passed since that night, but there was always something so comforting and nostalgic in knowing that the skies over Buckingham Fountain were bathed in a spectacle of color, on this special day, year after year. I always thought, there must be a young couple out there, falling in love.
I know there is.
Sticky Blackberry Barbecued Pork Ribs
Yield: Serves 4.
Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 3½ hours
The smallest and most tender pork rib, baby back ribs cook relatively quickly. This jammy, sweet glaze tastes best when you season the finished ribs generously with salt.
2 racks baby back pork ribs (about 2-2½ pounds each)
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 tablespoon hot smoked paprika
1¼ cups honey
¾ pound (about 2½ cups) blackberries
½ cup blackberry preserves
¼ cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons bourbon (or whiskey)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons red-pepper flakes
1. Flip one rib rack over and insert the tip of a butter knife under tough membrane that covers back of rack. Wiggle knife to loosen membrane. Grab membrane with a paper towel and pull it off. Repeat with remaining rack.
2. At least 1 hour before cooking, mix 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon pepper and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Season ribs very generously on all sides with spice mixture. Let ribs come to room temperature, about 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, set up a grill to cook with indirect heat: For a charcoal grill, light charcoal using a chimney starter. When coals have started to ash over on top, pour them all onto one side of lower grate. This creates a hot zone and a cooler zone. If using a gas grill, light burners on one side of grill, leaving others off to create a hot zone and a cooler zone. Or preheat an oven to 350 degrees to cook ribs indoors.
4. Place ribs meaty-side up on cooler side of the grill and close lid. (Make sure vents are partly open.) Or put ribs in a roasting pan and place in oven. Cook ribs 1 hour. If using a charcoal grill, light more charcoal briquettes in chimney starter and pour on top of coals to replenish the fire. Flip ribs meaty-side down. Cook until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
5. Meanwhile, make blackberry glaze: In a blender, purée honey, blackberries, preserves, maple syrup, bourbon, vinegar, red-pepper flakes and remaining salt and pepper. Scrape into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until reduced and syrupy.
6. Flip ribs meaty-side up, brush generously with glaze and close the lid. Cook 1 minute. Brush meaty side with glaze again. Move ribs to hot side of grill and flip over. Brush underside of racks with glaze. Close lid. Cook 1 minute or until glazed and caramelized on both sides. If cooking inside, brush ribs with glaze and place under broiler until glazed and caramelized, 1-2 minutes. Season generously with salt and let rest 10 minutes before serving.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Wall Street Journal, Pick Berries for Dinner. Originally printed June 15, 2012.