By MaryAnn Miano
The Fourth of July is a holiday that we all love to celebrate – but did you know that it is also National Barbecue Spare Ribs Day? And what a perfect day it is to fire up your grill and toss on some seasoned ribs for a crowd-pleasing party.
As most carnivores are aware, meat that is close to the bone tastes better than other cuts. People love to eat ribs; they know the flavor only becomes more enhanced when the meat on the bone is grilled. Given the many choices of rib cuts with remarkably different textures and flavors, all you need is the right seasonings to rub on the ribs or sauces to smother them with, and you will enjoy a great meat dish.
Pork spare ribs are the original ribs. They come from the inside of the hog. The side ribs typically are less desirable and were often served to hired help to eat; therefore, they were known as “spare” ribs. When spare ribs are cooked correctly, they actually have more flavor than any other part of the pig. A full rack of spare ribs usually has 13 ribs.
Conversely, if you are eating “high on the hog,” you would be eating the meat closest to the backbone – the more tender choice. These ribs are top loin (or baby back) and are the delectable, succulent, and heavily marbled ribs on the pig. Then there are country-style ribs, which are usually cut apart and deboned before they are sold. They are quite meaty and taste best grilled directly over the fire.
Moving on to beef ribs, cattle have 13 pairs of ribs, some cuts of which can be tough, but rendered delicious using an indirect heat and wood smoke method of cooking. They take a little longer to cook than do pork ribs. Beef long ribs, also known as Texas ribs, are the ribs that remain after the butcher bones a prime rib. These ribs are relatively tender and can be cooked at a higher temperature or can be cooked slowly smoked.
Beef short ribs come from the steer’s lower rib cage and are somewhat tough. These are best tenderized by smoking, stewing, or braising. It helps to wrap them in aluminum foil to braise them while they grill; the steam and juices trapped in the foil will penetrate and soften the connective tissue.
Lamb spare ribs come in various cuts, as well. Denver ribs are trimmed of a great majority of fat, and they are extremely tender. They can be prepared by any cooking method; try grilling them directly over the flame or grilling indirectly, smoking them, or braising them. A tougher cut of lamb ribs is known as lamb riblets. They can be cooked using the same methods as the Denver cut.
Our last spare rib category is veal ribs. Veal long ribs are a bit difficult to find in the retail marketplace because they usually come attached to higher-priced chops. They are wonderfully tender. Veal short ribs are cut from the chuck. They are meaty and more delicate than short ribs of adult cattle. These can be prepared directly over high heat or slowly smoke roasted over low heat.
Most consumers will request their veal breast riblets boned by their butcher. Riblets are best prepared low and slow by smoke roasting, smoking, or braising. The slow and indirect method of cooking helps break down the fat and allows the connective tissue to soften for a scrumptious and satisfying meat entree.
For a delicious fall-off-the-bone recipe, try this month’s recipe of the month:
RECIPE OF THE MONTH
POTLUCK SPARE RIBS
• 6 pounds pork spareribs
• 1 ½ cups ketchup
• ½ cup packed brown sugar
• ½ cup white vinegar
• ½ cup honey
• 1/3 cup soy sauce
• 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon salt
• ¾ teaspoon ground mustard
• ½ teaspoon garlic powder
• ¼ teaspoon pepper
• Cut ribs into serving-size pieces; place with the meaty side up on racks in two greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pans. Cover tightly with foil. Bake at 350° for 1 ¼ hours or until meat is tender.
• Remove racks; drain and return ribs to pans. Combine the remaining ingredients; pour over ribs. Bake, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes or until sauce coats ribs, basting occasionally. Ribs can also be grilled over medium-hot heat for the last 30-40 minutes instead of baking. Yield: 12 servings.
Note: Adjust sugar and honey amount to your taste.
(Recipe courtesy of www.TasteofHome.com)