Cooking ribs into barbecue takes time. Read through the recipe first to make sure you have enough. Maltose is available from Asian groceries, and when you buy cherry juice make sure it’s 100 percent cherry juice.
Though barbecue is best over wood or charcoal fires, you can make a version of these ribs in an oven. Roast them, covered, in a 300-degree oven. Finish them on a gas grill, or under the broiler, with a homemade or bottled sauce.
Champion Cherry Ribs
3 racks spare ribs, trimmed and halved
1 cup barbecue rub
For the brine:
4 cups water
2 cups cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup salt
1/8 cup grated fresh ginger
1/8 cup minced garlic
For the mop:
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon barbecue rub
For the sauce:
1 quart sour cherry juice
1 tablespoon sambal oelek (or Frank’s hot sauce)
3/4 cup maltose (can substitute light brown sugar)
3/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
The night before you cook, mix the brine ingredients together. Submerge the meat, in a zip-top bag if you like, and refrigerate overnight.
Light the charcoal for a barbecue fire. Over indirect, smoky heat, roast the ribs at about 275 to 300 degrees for about three hours.
Combine the mop ingredients, and apply thoroughly every half hour, or whenever the meat looks dry.
After about three hours, when the meat has begun to shrink and expose bone ends, wrap the ribs in foil packets. Pour 1/8 cup of cherry juice into each packet before sealing.
Return the packets to the heat.
After 45 minutes in the foil, open the packet with the thinnest ribs. Check for doneness; meat should present a little resistance, then pull cleanly off the bone. Thicker ribs take longer to reach that stage, but when they do, remove from heat.
Meanwhile, make the sauce. Boil the container of maltose in a pot to make it pourable. or measure out brown sugar. In a small pot, boil the cherry juice down to a syrupy consistency, about one-fourth original volume. Add ketchup and maltose, and cook for 10 minutes to combine.
Add sambal or hot sauce, a little at a time, to taste. Adjust it to your audience, with a little more maltose, unreduced cherry juice or chile.
Paint ribs with the sauce and return to a 300 degree heat. Repeat every 10 minutes until surface is as carmelized, or lacquered, as you like.
Cut ribs, paint with more sauce, and serve on a platter with sauce on the side.
(First published Sept. 3, 2008)