Monday, April 29, 2013

Baby Back Ribs Redux

Yesterday, in honor of Spring finally arriving to Minnesota, I made a batch of the Baby Back Ribs with Maple Glaze (recipe below), from my Modern Maple cookbook. I didn't have any of the apple juice I used in the "official" version in the book, so I used apricot nectar to make the sauce (seen grillside in the photo at right, along with a Schell's Emerald Rye). The apricot nectar made the sauce kind of sweet, but it had a nice taste. I also grilled some sweet potato spears, and oven-roasted some Brussels sprouts with Smude's sunflower oil and a little seasoning. A wonderful combination.

The ribs are rubbed with a seasoning mixture and refrigerated for a few hours, then steam-baked in the oven until tender. Final step is to grill them, basting and turning with the homemade maple-based glaze/sauce. Crusty goodness!

Baby Back Ribs with Maple Glaze (from Modern Maple)

I'm a huge fan of slow-smoked ribs, so when some friends served us ribs prepared with this oven-cooked method I was quietly skeptical. Two bites into the meal, I was begging them for the recipe. Its simplicity is amazing: the ribs are pull-off-the-bone tender but still have a wonderful, chewy char on the outside. Our friends used bottled barbecue sauce to finish the ribs on the grill; here, a preliminary marinade provides extra flavor and the ribs are finished with a sweet, tangy maple glaze for an irresistible dish. Serves 4.
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons paprika, preferably smoked Spanish
(sweet, not hot; Penzeys is a good source)
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons onion powder (not onion salt)
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves

2 racks baby back ribs (1 ¾ -2 ¼ pounds per rack)
¾ cup maple syrup
¾ cup apple juice or water
¼ cup tomato paste
¼ cup minced or grated white onion
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce (such as Tuong Ot Toi)
In a small bowl, stir together all marinade ingredients. Cut each rack of ribs into 4 pieces; place in a large nonreactive baking dish. Pour the marinade over the ribs and rub into both sides, distributing it as evenly as you can. Cover dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or as long as 8 hours.
For the preliminary cooking, heat oven to 350 degrees. Add about an inch of water to a roaster or other large baking dish. Place a rack in the roaster, propping it up on balls of foil if necessary to raise it above the water. Stack the ribs on the rack; pour any liquid that has accumulated under the ribs into the roaster. Seal the roaster tightly and bake for 1½ hours. Remove roaster from oven and set the lid slightly ajar; let the ribs rest for 30 to 40 minutes. While the ribs are resting, prepare the glaze. Combine syrup, apple juice, tomato paste, onion, mustard, and chili-garlic sauce in a small nonreactive saucepan. Heat to boiling, adjust heat so mixture boils gently, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
Once the ribs have rested and the glaze is ready, you can proceed directly to grilling or refrigerate the ribs, loosely covered, for up to 12 hours before grilling; also cool and refrigerate the glaze if you are going to wait more than an hour before grilling the ribs.
When you're ready to grill, prepare a charcoal or gas grill with a direct, medium-intensity fire. Place the ribs on the grate and cook until hot, turning frequently. Brush a generous layer of glaze on the top side of the ribs. Cook for about 2 minutes, then turn ribs over and brush again with glaze. Continue cooking the ribs, turning every few minutes and brushing with additional glaze, until the ribs are crusty and browned in spots, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with plenty of napkins.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book List

I've gotten numerous requests asking for a list of the books I've written. Here goes; I've included links where you can see more info about each book.

Most of the links above are for listings at, which does carry all of my books. But it would be great if you got the book from a locally owned bookstore or other local shop! If they don't carry the book, they can get it for you; all they need is the title.

I recently finished the work on Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest (with co-author Kathy Yerich); this is a photographic field ID guide for wild mushrooms of all types (not just edible), which will be published in Spring 2014 by Adventure Publications. I also am finishing proof review of The Beginner's Guide to Making and Using Dried Foods, to be published by Storey Publications in early 2014. Stay tuned!

The photos below show some recipes from Modern Maple; these were demonstrated at a cooking class I taught at Byerly's Cooking School in April, 2013. Shown are Crostini with Onion-Walnut Jam, Pork Tenderloin with Rhubarb-Maple Sauce and Cheese Grits, and Individual Apple Pastries.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Snow Birds

We got quite a bit of snow on April 18 ... probably 8 inches on the ground when we went outside to clear the walks on Friday. Robins--mostly big, fat males--have arrived in large numbers, and looked a little confounded by all the snow.

We've got suet in the feeder, which the woodpeckers and chickadees love, but the robins don't eat that, apparently. They looked hungry, though, so we put out a tray of raisins, chopped dried fruit, and chopped fresh apple, along with sunflower seeds for the cardinals. No takers. There was an article in the Star Tribune today that said the robins that have just arrived in the area are looking for mates, not food.

After we got done shoveling the walks and driveway, Bruce and I spent some time taking photos of our bird visitors.

The sap has not been running the last few days; it's been too warm at night. But it was in the low 20s when I got up this morning, so maybe I'll get a bit more. I still have a few gallons in the freezer that need to be boiled, and I'd like to have a bit more before firing up the cooker.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Backyard maple on a blustery day

I collected another 5 gallons of sap over the last few days, so am doing a boil today. 5 gallons is the minimum I want to boil, and I'd done a boil last weekend with about the same amount, which I boiled down to about a quart so it's not yet finished. I'll boil this new batch down to about 2 quarts outside, then strain it and bring it in for the finishing boil. I'll combine the two batches and finish it to 7 degrees above boiling; hopefully I'll end up with close to a quart of finished syrup.

Sugar maple tree in the front yard

About 2.5 gallons sap

It's a cold, blustery, raw day out there today, really not a nice day to be outside. When I collected sap around 1 p.m., there was a cold, light drizzle coming down, what our rancher friend from Wyoming used to call spittin.' It's now raining actively, although it's hovering right around freezing.

Because of the rain, I'm boiling under our carport rather than on our open patio as I usually do. I had three ice-cream pails of sap in the freezer, collected earlier in the week, so I added them to my 8-gallon pot with the fresh sap from the last day and a half. Took a while to melt that ice!

A woodpecker stopped by to visit while I was waiting for the frozen sap to melt. She was hungry and stayed on the feeder a long time, but was a little camera-shy so I couldn't get too close to her.

Now we're cooking!

The sap will probably have to cook for close to 2 hours before it has reduced enough to bring it inside. It already smells good!

Cooking demo at Mill City Museum Baking Lab

I did a cooking demo at the Mill City Museum's Baking Lab yesterday. I prepared Pizza with Brie, Caramelized Onions, Basil and Maple from my new book, Modern Maple. A very nice crowd watched, asked questions, and munched on pizza. Awesome facility at Mill City Baking Lab! Visit the museum some time and be sure to stop by the Lab to see what's cooking.