For years now, Mr. B and I have been having an ongoing discussion about good rib making. Mr. B can get quite hot tempered when it comes to the right recipe for BBQ ribs, so I’ve largely left the topic alone–really, who wants to get into an argument over ribs?
However, I did mention to him that when I was growing up, my mom made the best BBQ ribs. That statement certainly got his attention and when I got to the point where I started describing the sticky, sweet BBQ sauce, I thought I had him, but then he asked me the one question guaranteed to stop any further discussion: “How did she cook her ribs?”
My mom honed her kitchen expertise long before Mr. B was even around, and in those days, most people only grilled occasionally, and then, usually over charcoal. My mom cooked her ribs in the oven and by the time she had me, she’d perfected her recipe. She would pile the ribs on a bed of onions, give them an ample dose of salt and pepper, and then braise them long and slow in the oven. Ribs were Sunday fare, so I would wake up to a house filled with the smells of roasting pork and onions. Several hours before it was time to eat, she’d cover them with a sweet BBQ sauce and put them right back into the oven.
If I have one memory of my youth that will never fade, it’s the way the house smelled on Sundays. There was always the tantalizing smell of cooking meat–fat drippings and caramelized onions–to fill the air with anticipation.
Perhaps, it was because of my descriptive powers, but after nearly 3 decades of knowing each other and nearly 2 of being married, Mr. B approached me one Sunday, not long ago, and said the most startling statement: “I think we should try making ribs your mom’s way.”
And? Well, he licked his fingers clean, looked down at the pile of bones on his plate, and nodded his head. “I like them,” he said, and he meant it; he could see the virtues. But, Mr. B is his own man, so while he’s happy to add another rib dish to the rotation, he hasn’t completely given up on his old ways–but, that’s why I love him.
1. Lightly spray a large sheet pan with non-stick spray.
2. Lay onions on the pan.
3. Generously salt and pepper both sides of the rack of ribs and place it on top of the onions; wrap with aluminum foil and bake at 200 degrees for 6-8 hours, checking periodically.
4. Once ribs are almost fork tender, cover with BBQ sauce, cover with foil and return to the oven until the sauce is thick and sticky and baked into the ribs.
Mel’s Kicked Up BBQ Sauce
1 large onion, finely minced
2/3 cup of white vinegar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 jalapeno peppers, finely minced
1/4 cup of yellow mustard
3 cups of ketchup
3/4 cup of packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
1. Pour vinegars into a non-reactive pan; whisk in the mustard and add the onions and peppers; bring to a boil (you may need a gas mask for this part, because it is extremely strong). Cook until the onions are soft and the mixture has reduced a bit.
2. Add the ketchup, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce; simmer until thick and the flavors have softened.
3. Slather on ribs, chicken, or burgers.