February 15, 2010

Blueberry-Balsamic Slow Cooker Pork Ribs

2 pounds boneless pork ribs
3/4 cup chili sauce (like Heinz)
1/3 cup blueberry jam*
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon mesquite liquid smoke
1 teaspoon thick Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon ginger juice
2 teaspoons ground chipotle
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground jalapeno
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced

Rub both sides of the pork with the chipotle, salt and pepper. Quickly brown on each side in a nonstick skillet. Place in a (preferably oval) 4 quart slow cooker. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients until smooth. Pour over the ribs. Cook for 8 hours.

*I used yummy Spoon NYC jam which is just sugar + blueberries and has really true blueberry flavor.

My thoughts:
This is a great weeknight meal, you are basically making a simple barbecue sauce (which can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight) and pouring it over the meat and then walking away. The pork stays juicy and the sauce hits that perfect not too sweet with a bit of a kick balance. I love using jams as a short cut to flavor in quick barbecue sauces, it adds a not too sweet, fruity flavor without a lot of effort or adding sugar. Not to mention that adding jam helps me use up all of the jams I seem to accumulate/compulsively buy but since I don't actually eat jam or jelly or preserves on toast or bread or whatever people eat jam on I end up with piles and piles of them, unopened and wasting their potential. I tasked myself with finding alternative uses for them and found that barbecue sauces were a surprisingly good fit. Jam is especially great in the slow cooker because one of the potentially tricky bits associated with slow cooker is that nothing evaporates while cooking, so you need ingredients that will add some moisture/flavor but that won't give off so much liquid things become soup or need to be reduced. You can drain off sauces and reduce them in a pan but that sort of defeats the one pot, ready-to-eat charm of the slow cooker. Jam is thick enough that it doesn't really water anything down but provides much needed moisture. And you should believe me because I, um, wrote the book on slow cooking. (How long have I been waiting to make that joke?)