It is a perfect fall day. The sun is finally shining in a clear blue sky and the reds and golds scattered across the mountains are beautiful. Colorado doesn't have the blanketing foliage effect that you see in New England but the colors seem to stand our even more, perhaps because they are like patches of hidden treasure that appear in the most unlikely of places. Even the scrub oaks are turning colors and the golden aspens are rustling musically in the breeze. The patio beckons for it's last few hurrahs as we linger there enjoying the contrast of the foliage and the already snow topped peaks in the distance.
Sitting on the deck you can hear the rumble of pick-up trucks in the distance. As ever increasing gas prices loom people are driving in and out of the forest with trucks loaded with cords of wood. The old-timers are predicting a long hard winter and no one wants to get caught unawares. Here in Pagosa fireplaces and wood stoves are common and everyone is stocking up for the winter. On the bright side, locals are hoping that Wolf Creek will be open by Halloween. People are betting on the exact date that the slopes will be open. Here in the valley though, the days are still warm and frost in the mornings is as close to snow as we get.
This weather is perfect for ribs. Although we serve them all summer long, somehow they taste better with the scent of woodsmoke in the air. I have yet to meet any rib eaters that didn't love our five hour ribs. The recipe has been with us for years and we have shared it with family and friends for it's great flavor and it's ease of both preparation and clean up. The ribs can be seasoned lightly with salt and your favorite hot sauce during the initial cooking if you plan to slather it with sauce before finishing or you can use your favorite dry rub recipe to season the ribs and then just broil them dry for a crispy, caramelized finish.
We serve the ribs with a very simple cole slaw. It consists of cabbage shredded the way you like it with a generous splash of your favorite wine vinegar and judicious pinches of sugar, salt and freshly ground pepper. The cabbage will be sweet and tangy, crunchy and slightl hot from the peppercorns. It's healthy and refreshinng qualities will make you feel almost virtuous as you devour rib after rib with jalapeno cornbread and icy cold Sierra Nevadas . They're not local but they are our favorite brew with these ribs which we slather with ginger ketchup sauce before finishing.
Five Hour Ribs (feeds 4 moderate eaters or 2 with large appetites)
1 rack of baby back or St. Louis style pork ribs (St. Louis style has more meat on them)
Sea salt to taste
Hot sauce to taste (we use Crystal because it adds a nice tangy peppery flavor without being too hot)
* If you prefer, substitute your favorite dry rub for the hot sauce/salt combo.
Preheat oven to 250°F.
Rub meat with hot sauce and season lightly with salt or season well with your dry rub.
Vacuum seal in a slightly over sized bag and place in a pan of water large enough to accommodate the whole rack. Tuck the extra bag underneath the ribs. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap and then one of foil. Place the pan in the pre-heated oven for five hours.
Alternatively, wrap the ribs in two layers of plastic wrap and then one layer of heavy-duty foil. Place the ribs on a sheet tray and put them in the pre-heated oven for five hours.
Remove from oven and let rest at room temperature for one hour so that juices can be re-absorbed by the meat. Open package and chill or use immediately.
Use pork jus from cooking in beans or add to your sauce for extra flavor. Portion and brush ribs with your favorite glaze or sauce and broil to a crisp chewy finish. If reheating the ribs from cold, they are easier to portion chilled, broil at low for five minutes on each side to heat up the ribs before brushing them and finishing.
Ginger Ketchup Sauce
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup balsamic vinegar
12 ounces ketchup
1 small jar of Japanese pickled ginger with liquid
In a non-reactive saucepan slowly reduce soy and vinegar on a low flame to the consistency of maple syrup. Pour into blender and add ketchup and ginger. Puree thoroughly. Strain. Sauce is ready to use as is but can also be heated in smaller amounts and finished by swirling butter into the warm sauce. Use with steak, five hour ribs, grilled fish, and whatever else suits your fancy.