When we first (FINALLY) narrowed down my husband’s food allergies, we were living on a tiny island in the Caribbean. When I say tiny, I mean tiny. It’s only 13 km2 (about 5 mi2). Groceries were shipped in once a week from one of the larger islands by boat, and if there was a storm or a holiday, sometimes it was longer. Boat Days were always a frenzy at the store, and what they may have been able to get one week they couldn’t the next. One thing they never had, however, was fresh, unfrozen meat of any kind. If you wanted meat, you needed to have island connections. You could go in on one of the five cows they shipped in yearly and fattened on the island, or you could make friends with one of the many fishermen. There were goats running amok all over the island, but they were off limits! And I’m not really a fan of goat meat anyway. Add these to the lack of meat and the newly diagnosed food allergy, and I was at wit’s end!
What they did have, however, was ribs. Mountains and mountains of frozen ribs. Freezers full of ribs. There were always ribs at the grocery store. Thank. God.
Then I ran into my next obstacle. Every single recipe I searched for was covered in Nightshades, from ketchup to hot sauce to chilli peppers, each so integral, so ingrained in the recipe that they never turned out right. I tried so many different recipes, trying to make it work. It wasn’t until I found this recipe by Mmm… is for Mommy (a fellow Bluenoser!) that I struck gold. This recipe has been a lifesaver! Even when you take nightshades out from her original recipe, as I have, they still turn out AMAZING.
Back home in Nova Scotia, ribs are very expensive. They’re definitely a special occasion food! But now that we’re living in the American south, land of ribs and the barbecue, these ribs are making a comeback on the menu. We’ve passed too many rib joints, too many holes in the wall with happy (ignorant!) pigs barbecuing away on the sign to not give in to this craving!
First things first, you need to have a dry rub. My favourite way is to prep this the night before, so the rub has time to really sink in in the fridge overnight. Mix 1tbsp of brown sugar, 1tsp of garlic powder, and ½ tsp each of salt and pepper in a bowl. If you want to be adventurous, I recommending adding 1tsp of ground ginger too! I like to switch it up, so sometimes we have honey garlic, sometimes honey garlic ginger.
I find that using the whole rib section isn’t for me. I’m all for flavour and as many crispy edges as possible, so I take my kitchen scissors and cut the large rib sections into smaller ones. This might go against some sort of Rib Code of Conduct, but I just find them much easier and more flavourful this way. Plus they’re easier to arrange in my small slow cooker!
Now take your rub and… well, rub it into each of your rib sections. Make sure it really gets in there!
When it comes time to cook them, arrange all your rib sections with the meaty side out in your crockpot. This is important to make sure they’re cooked well. The rib side should be facing inward, and the side with the most meat should be against the walls of the pot if possible.
To make the sauce, we’re going to mix the rest of the brown sugar with your honey, water, minced garlic, soy sauce and cornstarch. Have I made it without the corn starch in a pinch? Yes, yes I have, and it’s still frickin’ delicious, though a bit more watery! Again, if you want ginger added to the ribs, by all means do!
Just slop that sauce in there, washing over all the ribs. If there is anything at the bottom that didn’t mix in, I make sure it goes on the part that’s left out of the liquid. Why? I don’t know. I just feel like that part needs some love too.
Set your pot to Low, and cook for 6 hours. No, there is no setting you can do on high. No, there is no way you can do this faster. What are you, a rib anarchist? The key to ribs is a long, slow cook.
At about 4 hours, you’re going to want to – GASP – open the top of your pot and flip all your meat over, so that the part that was sticking out is submerged. I know, I know, I’m breaking the Golden Rule of Slow Cooking, but you’ll understand when you see how beautiful and brown the part that was in the liquid is.
And my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Yummy! Let it sit for the rest of the time. It’s going to be really hard because it smells and looks so amazing, but I know you can do it!
When the time is up, there are really, three options. One is to just serve ‘em straight out of the pot. And that’s okay. One way is to finish them in the oven. Mmm…is for Mommy has a wonderful way to do that in her original recipe here. My favourite way is to finish them on the BBQ.
Turn on your BBQ and let it warm up. Using two layers of tin foil, make a boat-like shape. It needs to be strong enough to hold all your ribs alone on the grill. Transfer your ribs straight from the pot into the tin foil. This will be hard because the rib meat will just be falling off the bone, but I find giant kitchen tongs are helpful! Spoon some of that rich sauce from the pot onto the top of the ribs.
Take the boat to the BBQ and cook them for about 5-7 minutes, just enough for them to get that nice, crispy glaze, and smoky taste!
Now serve! These are amazing with either stir-fry and rice (generally recommended for the ginger variation) or sweet potatoes. Or sweet potato fries. Or really, anything!
- 1-2 racks of ribs
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp each salt and pepper
- OPTIONAL: 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- ¾ cup water
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- OPTIONAL: 1 tsp ground ginger
Rub dry rub into meat side of ribs and marinate overnight in the fridge
Place in slow cooker, meaty side of the ribs against the sides of the pot.
Pour sauce over ribs
Cook on Low for 6 hours, flipping meat over after 4 hours to ensure all parts of the ribs are cooked in the sauce.
To finish on BBQ: Make a ‘boat’ out of 2 layers of tin foil, transfer ribs to the boat and cook on the BBQ for about 5-7 minutes to ensure the crispy texture and smoky flavour.