St. Louis Style Pork Spare Ribs with Pinto Beans and Cornbread

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These are oven-prepped pork spare ribs.  In theory and I guess execution they work.  But when it’s 90° outside and you don’t have an air conditioner you have to be pretty much bat shit crazy to make these.  Guess who falls under that label?

I had never made spare ribs or ribs or any barbecue type meat before, but pork spare ribs were on major discount at the store and I felt some weird urge to tackle it.  I know discount meat right?  How can anyone pass that up.

The reason I decided to make a post about this even though I really have no knowledge regarding the subject is because it was kind of hard finding clear directions from start to finish on how to make spare ribs in a kitchen.  I find cooking meat kind of daunting so I spent hours trying to prepare for it until finally I got frustrated and winged it.  Surprise, they turned out near perfect.  That’s not me being conceited, that’s just a fact.

The following recipe is not really meant to be a recipe (they are the exact measurements I used), but I’m just saying that because I was just throwing stuff together.  So I encourage you to do that too.

The resulting flavor of the ribs was very balanced.  These aren’t candy sweet ribs but they do a have a slight sweetness to them that is balanced by the savoriness of the meat and a slight spiciness.

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Pork Spare Rib Recipe:

6 lb pork spare ribs trimmed down to about 4.5 lbs

Mustard Rub:

1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c mustard powder
1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 cup beer
2 tbsp water

Dry Rub:

4 tbsp brown sugar
4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Braising Liquid:

1/2 cup beer
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp honey
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Oven temp: 225°
Cooking time: 4.5 – 6 hours

Mustard Rub:

There is no right way to prep ribs.  Even championship grillers who win competitions all do something different so just figure out what you feel like doing and do it.  Because I read that spare ribs have a tendency to be tougher I decided to add mustard as a tenderizing safety net if you will.

If you’re planning ahead whisk all your ingredients together in a bowl and let it sit in a fridge overnight.  If you’re like me, just throw them in a pan and start whisking over low heat.  Or if you’re even lazier than me, go to the store and buy some frickin’ mustard.

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Whisk until combined and slightly thickened, should only take a couple minutes.

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Set that aside and finish your dry rub and start prepping your meat.

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You can certainly buy your own mustard, but the beer I used in this mustard is what inspired the flavor profile of my ribs.

Sam Adams New World:  This Tripel was born from the old world Belgian technique of barrel aging and the new world’s craft brewing innovation. With its pale golden color and uniquely refreshing taste, this big, flavorful, and complex brew has a subtle herbal hop character combined with the tropical fruit and spice notes of its special Belgian yeast.

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Dry Rub:

Alton Brown goes by a 8 + 3 + 1 + 1 concoction when making his ribs.  That means 8 scoops of brown sugar, 3 scoops of salt, 1 scoop of chili powder, and 1 scoop of a bunch of random things added together to make 1 scoop.  I used that formula as a jumping point.

Once again my rub/mustard recipe was decided by my beer choice so either pick a beer that will go with cinnamon and nutmeg, don’t use beer, make your own rub recipe, or just close your eyes grab random things from your cupboard and see what happens.  All are valid choices.

Add all of your dry rub ingredients together and combine.  My recipe is to be used completely for 1 rack of pork spare ribs.

Make sure you taste it here.  If it doesn’t taste good now, it’s not going to taste good 4 hours from now.

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Braising liquid: 

Not much to say, just add it all up together and heat it up in the microwave for a minute or so.  Once again if it doesn’t taste good now, fix it.

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Ribs:

Preheat your oven 225°

Prep your ribs.  I wasn’t about to take pictures showing you how to prep spare ribs since I had never done that before and also I hate having to constantly wash my hands to take a stupid picture.

I decided to go with St. Louis style ribs because I wanted to try trimming and it makes the meat cook more evenly.  St. Louis style ribs are ribs with the sternum bone, cartilage and rib tips removed to create a rectangular-shaped rack which makes them visually resemble baby backs.  Why spare ribs?  Because that’s what was on sale.  Spare ribs do take longer and can be harder to get tender.

I found this video on the internets and out of all the videos I watched it was the most beneficial.

For my first try I did a pretty decent job.  Lay your ribs on a sheet of aluminum foil shiny side down.  I made a separate aluminum sheet for my trimmings.

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Spread your mustard on both sides.  I did not put mustard on my trimmings but you can if you want.

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I used all of my mustard.

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Add your dry rub focusing mostly on the meat side.  I added about 2/3 to my ribs and 1/3 to my trimmings.

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Looking back on it I wouldn’t have kept as much of my trimmings.  I kept all of the fat trims save for 1 or 2 chunks.  It was just an unnecessary amount of fat in my opinion.

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Now here’s where I had a little bit of difficulty.  Spare ribs are wider than baby backs so the aluminum foil didn’t reach all the way around.  I had to use 2 sheets to create my upper seal and instead of having one seam down the middle I had 2 down the top sides.  No big, it just took a bit longer.  You’re smart though, you’ll figure it out.

Make sure your top aluminum sheet is shiny side up and do the same to your trimmings.

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Place your ribs and trimmings on a baking sheet.  Open up one side of your aluminum and slowly pour in your braising liquid.  Make sure your aluminum foil is adequately sealed before hand.  I didn’t have any problem with leaking and I was using bargain brand aluminum foil, so if you have a problem that’s on you.

Like the rub, I added 2/3 of my liquid to my ribs and 1/3 to my trimmings.

Add to your 225° oven and cook.  I’m not going to tell you an exact time that they’ll be done but mine were done after 4.5 hours and were cooked perfectly.  But all of this depends on the type of rubs you use, how tightly you seal your aluminum foil, your meat, et c.  So just be patient and check it every one in a while.

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About 1 hour in I took out my trimmings and added them to my beans.  There was no time reasoning I just didn’t want to over cook them.

Place the trimmings over a pan/pot and slice a whole in the aluminum foil.  Allow the liquid to drain.

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When your ribs are done drain its liquid into the same pot as your trimmings.

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How do you know when your ribs are done?  There are a few ways to tell.  I found the bone test to be most helpful for me.  Grab one of the bones near the middle and try and twist it.  You should feel it start to move slightly.  If it’s wanting to slip right out then I’m sorry you overcooked your ribs.  It’s a common misconception that rib meat should fall off the bone.  It should pull off cleanly with your teeth.

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As you can see there is a lot of fat in my liquid.  You can use a gravy separator or deal with all the fat if you want.  Or if you don’t have a fancy schmancy gravy separator you can do it backwoods style and pour your liquid into a ziplock bag, seal it, hold it steady under cold running water (the fat will separate from the liquid faster that way), then snip the bottom corner of the bag and let it pour back into your pan, pinching the corner closed before the fat can drain out.

Cook down your braising liquid over medium heat to make your sauce.

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Be careful not to burn it.  Hey!  You made bbq sauce!

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When its thickened slather your ribs with it and place them under your broiler to caramelize.  You have a very small time frame between awesome and suck.  So don’t walk away.

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Evidence of a job well done.

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Time for some pinto beans! 

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Pinto beans are one of my favorite memories from home.  What I love about them is they taste so complex but their only seasoning requirement is salt and pepper.  These pinto beans cheat a little bit because I’m using the trimmings from my spare ribs that have some of my rub on them, which gives them another flavor dimension.

Pinto Beans Recipe:

1 lb pinto beans
water
salt
pepper
meat (Not making spare ribs?  Throw some uncooked bacon in there.  Vegetarian?  Don’t put meat in there.)

Cooking time: 2 hours or all day if you want 

Seriously, I’m not fucking with you with that recipe.

Rinse your beans and add to your pot.  Top with about two inches of water.  You don’t need to be exact, you’re going to need to add more later anyway.

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Bring to a boil.  When it starts boiling cover and reduce to a simmer.

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Simmer until they are melt in your mouth soft.

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I cooked my spare rib trimmings for 1 hour and then added them to my beans after my beans had been simmering for 1 hour.  You probably could put the trimmings in raw but I thought my ribs were only going to take a couple hours and I didn’t think that was enough time to fully cook the huge chunks of trimmings I had.

Whatever you decide I’m sure it will work out perfectly.  My trimming meat was still raw when I added them to my beans and wound up being melt in your mouth delicious at the end.

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When your beans are fully soft (like mushy soft), add your salt and pepper.  I like my pinto beans on the soupy side so I add extra water, up to you though.

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On to the cornbread! 

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I prefer savory cornbread over sweet and I like the yellow over white cornmeal.  So if you like sweet, white cornbread then don’t make this recipe.  The inspiration for this recipe was I like the density and taste of traditional southern cornbread but I’m intrigued by the more cakey bastardized version.  So this is kind of a marrying of the two.

The extra bonus is while it’s certainly not healthy, it’s certainly better for you than most cornbread recipes you’ll find.

Cornbread Recipe: 

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup white flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 ear corn
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tbsp shortening

Oven temp: 425°
Cooking time: 20 – 25 minutes

If you’re making this with the ribs oven style then wait until your ribs are done.  After you take your ribs out, set your oven to 425°

Prepare an ear of corn.  I do the boil method.  Bring a pot of water to a boil, put in the ear of corn, when the water returns to a boil the corn is done.  Should take 2-3 minutes.

Cut off the kernels with a knife then rub the spine of the knife (non-sharp side) along the ear to get the milk out.  Really make sure you get all you can out of it.  Because we’re not adding as much fat/oil in our batter, we’re using the milk from the corn to supplement that.  Kind of like how you use applesauce instead of butter/oil in baking recipes.

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Sometime during your prep you want to start heating your cast iron skillet over medium heat.

Combine your cornmeal, flour, baking powder/soda, and salt in a bowl.

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Add your corn, buttermilk to a bowl and combine.

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Add the egg and whisk with a fork until combined.

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Pour your wet mixture into your dry mixture.

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And combine.

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Now your cast iron should be sufficiently heated.  Add your 1 tbsp of shortening and allow it to melt, spreading it around the pan.  You could make the cornbread not in a cast iron pan, but then I would have to ask you why would you go ahead and do something as foolish as that.  If you’re so inclined you can forego the shortening and just lightly grease your pan, but cut yourself a break.  This is already a lower calorie cornbread as it is.  Keep the tbsp, it gives the cornbread that nice dark brown crust on the bottom.

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Turn off the heat on your cast iron and immediately add your batter.  The batter should sizzle, if it didn’t your cast iron wasn’t hot enough.  If you’re worried about this you can do the water drop test.  Flick a couple drops of water in your pan, if they dance around you’re ready.

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Bake in 425° for 20-25 minutes until golden and tester comes out clean.

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4 thoughts on “St. Louis Style Pork Spare Ribs with Pinto Beans and Cornbread

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