Fighting the Blues with Blues: Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Pork Side Ribs!
Well, it's official folks: winter is here. There's no doubt that I don't have to tell the folks of Buffalo, New York that though. With an expected weekly snowfall amount of nearly 238cm, or almost 8 feet, I'm fairly certain that they're blatantly aware of the arrival of winter! Yesterday morning, we here in St. John's woke up to a thin blanket of snow covering the ground and while the measely 5cm we got pales to the accumulations in Buffalo, it was enough to make me sing the Wintertime Blues nonetheless! You'd think a gal born and raised on an island off the east coast of North America between latitudes 46.5 degrees North and 52 degrees North, would have learned to embrace winter in all of it's white fluffy glory.....not so much so! There's not a doubt in my mind that I'm living in the wrong climate. I despise the cold and having to apply layer upon layer of clothing just to keep quasi warm.
When deciding what to make for dinner last night, I felt I needed to do a little something that would infuse a little summertime heat into my wintery reality. Originally I intended on making Dr. Pepper BBQ pork ribs but suddenly realized I forgot to pick up the pre-requisite Dr. Pepper. What to do, what to do? What could I possibly use in place of Dr. Pepper to make a sweet BBQ sauce for my ribs? (Hang on to your hats here folks...I'm about to take you on a little journey inside my thought processes...could be a tad scary!). What could I substitute for 'liquid sunshine' Dr. Pepper? Although it has a somewhat fruity essenece, it doesn't taste like one particular fruit but more a combination of things. Looking in my cupboards, refrigerator and freezer, I spied a bag of frozen blueberries. Blueberries go nicely with pork but what could I combine with the blueberries to make a nice, zingy BBQ sauce? In the summertime, I use my go-to Maple Bourbon BBQ sauce for just about everything. What if I did some variation of that using blueberries? Seemed like a good idea to me particularly since blueberries are repeatedly ranked as having one of the highest anitoxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings! (You can read ALL about the health benefits of blueberries in my August 20th blog post, 'Blueberries: Super Antioxidant With Magical Powers' to get the full skivy on these magnificent little gems!)
In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, I sauteed two shallots, finely chopped, just for a couple of minutes before adding in a finely chopped (with the seeds removed) Fresno chilli pepper and four cloves of garlic, minced.When the garlic was fragrant, I poured in a 1/2 c. Jim Beam Bourbon, turned the heat up to medium high and let the bourbon boil and reduce until almost all of the liquid had evaporated, about 5 mins. I then added in 2 c. of frozen blueberries, 1/2 c. ketchup, 1/3 c. cider vinegar, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 Tbsp molasses, 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup, 1/8 tsp ground alspice and 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning. I reduced the heat to medium once again, and let the mixture gently boil and thicken for about 20 minutes. I then let the Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Sauce cool. When the sauce had cooled for about 10 minutes, I then blended it in my blender until it was smooth. One fingertip dipped into the end product erased any doubt that I was on the right track!
I then took my pork side ribs out of the packaging, trimmed off the silvery membrane and placed them in a foiled lined baking pan. I brushed some of the sauce onto the ribs on both sides, covered the pan with foil and placed them in the refrigerator to marinate for 6 hours.
My plan was to serve dinner at 6:30 pm and the ribs would need 3 hours and 40 minutes to cook so at 4:45pm, a measely 15 minutes shy of 6 hours, I placed the ribs, still covered in foil, in the oven which was pre-heated at 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Ribs need time to tenderize and I'm a low and slow believer. After 2 hours, I removed the ribs from the oven, increased the oven temperature to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, removed the foil covering the ribs, slathered on more Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Sauce and returned the ribs to the oven for another 20 minutes. I chose to increase the oven temperature because I wanted the sauce on the ribs to carmelize a little bit. When that 20 minutes was up, I removed the ribs from the oven, added yet more sauce and returned them to the oven for another 10 minutes.
My ribs were doing all good and fine but I still needed something to serve with them. Barbecue always puts me in a southern state of mind so I decided to make Cajun Spiced Wedge Fries to have with our ribs. I washed 4 medium white potatoes, cut them into wedges and placed them in a bowl. I added 4 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, a dash of hot sauce and 2 Tbsp Cajun Seasoning and tossed the potatoes to coat. I then placed them in a single layer on a nonstick cookie sheet. The potatoes would take about 20 minutes to cook, so I removed my ribs, increased the oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and after putting the potato wedges in the oven, I set the timer for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes was up, I turned the potato wedges so that they'd be golden on all sides, placed the baking sheet back into the oven and placed the pan with my ribs in the oven too and set the timer for another 5 minutes.
While my Cajun Spiced Wedge Fries and Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Ribs were finishing off in the oven, I opened a can of peaches and cream corn niblets and heated them in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the ribs and wedges were done, I carved the ribs into individual portions and served the ribs with the Cajun Spiced Wedge Fries and peaches and cream corn niblets. It was likie having a summertime BBQ! The Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Sauce added just the right amount of sweetness and zing to the tender, fall-off-the-bone pork side ribs, and the Cajun Spiced Wedge Fries and peaches and cream corn kernels balanced out the meal perfectly and all of it together brought a little sunshine and warmth to my soul!
By using blueberries and making my own sauce, roasting the potatoes with their skins on and adding corn to the meal, Blueberry Bourbon BBQ Pork Side Ribs with Cajun Spiced Wedge Fries and corn niblets ticked all of my boxes...easy, healthied-up, inexpensive AND delicious!