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…

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

Serves 4. | Prep: 1 hour 15 minutes

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.

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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.

Comments

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  1. Monet

    So many memories…I found myself thinking about when Ryan and I met…over six years ago. We fell in love in Denver, and that place will always hold such a special place in my heart. We want to move back. But I know it will never be the same. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and these beautiful (can ribs be beautiful? yes!) ribs.

    Reply
  2. Priscilla - She's Cookin'

    As tantalizing as these ribs are, they’re made even more memorable, by the personal love story you’ve shared with us, Liren. We lived in Chicago for awhile and we always regretted buying a house in the ‘burbs instead of the city – we would have enjoyed our time there much more if all the fabulous food, theatre, and art had been more easily accessible.

    Reply
  3. Patty

    I can’t wait to visit Chicago again, just had fun there -no romantic story!
    I love the blackberries and the preserves in your BBQ ribs,-just yummy! I hope you had a wonderful 4th;-)

    Reply
    • liren

      I can’t wait to visit Chicago again, too, Patty, it’s been too long since I last went. I hope you had a wonderful 4th, too – enjoyed your pics from the parade, it made me nostalgic for Novato. And missed you yesterday – you were missed by all!! Hope to see you soon :)

      Reply
  4. Magic of Spice

    What a lovely post :) These ribs would be a favorite of my boys, and I am loving this glaze!
    Hope you had a wonderful 4th!

    Reply
    • liren

      Thank you so much! I’m actually making the ribs again today, that’s how much they were a hit with the family :) Hope you had a wonderful 4th, too!

      Reply
  5. Jen Laceda | Tartine and Apron Strings

    I love Chicago! We went last summer, over the July 4th weekend! It’s such a foodie town…and it kind of reminds me of Toronto, actually – the diversity, the action, the architecture…I’ve never heard of using blackberries for bbq pork ribs! What an interesting idea!

    Reply
    • liren

      It’s been years since I’ve been in Toronto, so that means I need to visit! If it’s anything like Chicago, then I know I’ll love it! Plus I would get to visit you! :)

      Reply
  6. Lisa { AuthenticSuburbanGourmet }

    What a lovely post! Hubby loves Chicago and spend a summer there with one his earlier companies in his career and to this day, keeps saying that we need to get there. I agree. Loving these ribs and that sauce is simply making my mouth water. Hope your 4th was super fun!!!

    Reply
    • liren

      One day, you and hubs must go to Chicago so he can share all the good eats with you!! :)

      Reply
  7. kankana

    Such a cute post Liren :)
    You know I have this extra special love for ribs. Every time we eat out and it’s in the menu, I got to order it! Never really made it at home and looking at the sauce with blackberries, I am so tempted.

    Reply
    • liren

      I like to order ribs when I’m out too! But what I love about this recipe is that it is quite simple and not tedious at all. In fact, I’m making it again tonight for dinner :) Hope you try it soon, Kankana!

      Reply
  8. Winnie

    Lovely post, Liren! Can only imagine how delicious these ribs are…must try this recipe soon!

    Reply
  9. Cristina

    Several years ago I spent a week in Chicago for the MAX Conference. For 8 glorious days at the Chicago Hilton I relished an awesome view from my room of Lake Michigan…just loved it and Buckingham Fountain {oh sigh…}. Thanks for sharing your romantic story! :)

    You’ve lived in some of my most favorite cities, Liren. I haven’t been to many places, but NY, Chicago, SF are all near and dear to my heart.

    My Hubbs would luv to make these blackberry pork ribs (great ingredients!) – I’m sharing the recipe with him in hopes that he will grill-meister for me.

    Reply
    • liren

      Isn’t that a lovely view? I’m so glad you were able to enjoy time in one of my favorite cities. But look where you live – sigh, just another beautiful part of our world. My sister just moved down there, and I am looking forward to visiting a lot!

      Reply
  10. Mary

    Love this post – warmed by the story of how you met Tom, and yes, saddened by the end of an era celebrating the 4th with a spectacle of color in the sky. As a young girl, for many years our small town was treated to a magnificent display of fireworks at the local football stadium. And then one year the announcement came that the city could no longer afford to continue the tradition. My girlfriend and I – toting tin cans – went from door to door throughout the neighborhood collecting money to donate to the city. Neighbors we generous and our cans were full, however there were no fireworks that year – or ever again. Wishing you a Happy 4th!

    Reply
    • liren

      Oh, Mary, isn’t it sad when traditions are lost? What a valiant effort on your part to try to get the fireworks back :( Hope you had a wonderful 4th!

      Reply
  11. Erin @ Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts

    What a beautiful post! Unfortunately fireworks are cancelled all over CO because of how dry it is. We have had enough destruction this summer, so I guess it is a good thing. But still sad to not have them.
    I love the idea of this sauce, it sounds delicious! Happy 4th to you!

    Reply
    • liren

      Thank you so much, Erin. Local ordinances here don’t allow us to have fireworks, either, and the neighboring town that usually displays them also cancelled fireworks due to budgetary issues. So, it looks like we’ll just have to find other ways to celebrate!!! Happy 4th to you!

      Reply
  12. Laura (Tutti Dolci)

    Happy 4th to you and your family, Liren! I love the look of that sticky delicious blackberry sauce – so perfect for ribs. Can’t wait to try this! :)

    Reply
    • liren

      Happy 4th, Laura! Hope you all have a wonderful day tomorrow! Wish we could have a potluck – I’ll make this, you bring those fabulous cupcakes :)

      Reply
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