Hey guys & gals, I'm back!!!
This is a twist on an old German dish my mother-in-law and wife have made for many years. I can't tell you how many generations this has been passed down to, because I don't have any idea. This is very simple, very easy, and delicious beyond words. It's likely an old-world basic recipe used as a way to utilize those spare ribs after slaughtering a hog. I decided to try my hand at it today, with some modifications to the age-old method. I'm in no way intending disrespect to our ancestors, as this may be what many would have said is peasant food of that era...I don't care what class of people ate it, all I know is I'd cross oceans to eat it if I couldn't get it right here at home.
Some of you may already know this dish, but have you ever tried it with smoked ribs? Yeah, me either...well, that's about to change. To clarify for the unfamiliar, this is one of the few times that you actually will want to...(gulp)...boil your ribs...there, I said it. OK, maybe not boil, more like stew or braise...yeah, I know, same thing, different day. That's the original method...why? To allow sufficient cooking time to melt the collagen and soften the cartilage enough that you could actually eat it, if you chose to. Tons of nutritional value was there for the taking. Most people now days won't eat stuff like that, and we wonder why we have so many health issues even with all the vitamin/mineral supplements available to us...hmm...anyway, here's what I tossed together. Another modification I'll make today is that I will cook the potatoes with the sauerkraut instead of using a separate pot for boiling and then mashing the potatoes before serving. Lastly, instead of stove-top cooking, it's a slow-cooker and smoking the ribs before adding to the pot to reach finished tenderness.
I used St Louis Ribs only because that's what I had in the freezer...untrimmed spares would have been more traditional. I seasoned with only fine ground pepper and garlic powder...no salt...there's plenty of that in the kraut:
Into the Weber 26.75" OTG with 2 indirect fires, 2 smaller chunks of apple with 1 hickory and 1 cherry for smoke. Started out with cooler temps at around 120* and it built up over about 30 minutes to around 200*, then pushed it's way closer to 250* by about 90 minutes into the smoke:
Soon after the ribs are getting happy in the smoke I prepped 6 medium red potatoes and 1 large white onion (cut into small wedges) and placed in a 8qt crock-pot on low heat (preheated), then added a 27oz can of Sauerkraut (not the sweeter stuff), then a can of hot water...which was just enough to submerge all of the potatoes...perfect...I'll add more water, if needed, when the ribs go in after a few hours of smoke, again, to fully submerge:
There's really not much to this dish, as I said, but you will want to cook it slow and easy so the the flavors of the sauerkraut and onion meld into the potatoes, and, the ribs get super fall apart tender. The smoke should meld into the braising liquid and will result in smoke flavor throughout the dish.
3 hours into the smoke...averaged around 215-220*...should be enough smoke for this dish, so, it's time for a soak in the pot for about 4-5 more hours until tender. I don't expect them to reach fall-apart tenderness like they would be with a braising-only method. There's not much pull-back on these, so they're definitely under-cooked. My reason for pulling out of the smoke this early is due to past experience with adding smoked foods to a wet dish...it transfers a lot of smoke flavor and aroma to the liquid, which then mingles into much of the other ingredients over time. Let me just say that it's easy to over-smoke for these applications:
The slab was firm when lifted with tongs...the surface had just recently tightened-up, with not much sag, without even knowing the cooking time that indicats a partially cooked rib. I didn't bother to probe for temps...probably upper 140's to lower 150* range:
I cut the slab into mostly 3-rib portions...a little smoke ring showing...nice and juicy...nice bark development going on, but I don't want a heavy bark on these ribs, either:
A closer look a minute or so after slicing...pink juices starting to migrate out of the freshly cut meat on the thickest portions:
Not tender, but fully cooked:
Into the hot-tub...I jacked the heat to high just before adding the ribs:
Topped-up with a bit more water for nearly full submersion...gonna be a while before these are tender:
I noticed around 3 hours into the soak that I had what looked like pink juices floating near the center of the crock-pot. There lies the problem with that thought: under-cooked pink meat juices migration out into a simmer pot of liquid would quickly turn grey. This has to be coloring and flavoring of the smoke mingling into the liquid. I don't cook this way very often, so I had to step back and let that one soak in a couple seconds...LOL!!! Just to create a bit more even cooking I have turned and rotated the rib portions a couple times over several hours.
At only 2 hours into the soak for the ribs I can tell you that this dish cooking is filling the house with very tempting aromas. Add to that the fact that we have another ~3 hours to go before this is ready for a another new dining experience.
4.5 hours in and tenderness is getting really close...another 30 minutes or so. I haven't even checked the potatoes, but I know they will be super-tender and should mash under the weight of a fork on the plate with little effort.
Here's another formation on the simmering liquid of what looked pink under our household CFL lighting...is actually more of a rust-red under LED lighting...let's see what a photo with flash looks like, shall we?
What do you think? Smoke? There are zero ingredients containing this color, other than smoke.
OK, I coasted to a stop and set the park brake at 5 hours in the pot, as the ribs went from tender to bone-popping...let's eat!!!
Here's what 3 hours of rib smoking and 5 hours of rib braising, with 7-1/2 hours total crock-pot time for the rest will bring you...uh, hold that thought, something's missing:
Ah, got it!!! French bread...now we can eat!!!
Here's a direct shot at the bones...so tender the bones twisted about 30*, tipping upwards on edge:
The verdict: tender, moist rib meat with a light, sweet smoke flavor. The potatoes had a slight smoke flavor on the surface, with the deep natural flavor inside. The onion slices took on a lot more smoke flavor than I expected, in a good way...still a sweet smoke...texture was slightly crisp. The sauerkraut stayed neutral to the smoke, but added that slight tangy flavor and light crunch. The broth from the pot was great...slightly salty and when the potatoes were mashed and mixed together with the broth it added a smooth, smoky flavor to the potatoes. When my potatoes and ribs were gone the broth was great for mopping up with the french bread.
Why, oh why did I wait so long to try this?!?!?! I guess the idea just never crossed my mind until today. I highly recommend this...even if you've never had traditional ribs & kraut...it will be more than worth the little bit of effort to put this dish together.
My wife might just fire herself from making ribs and kraut like she did with Prime Rib after I smoked my 1st PR about 6 years ago.
Thanks for peekin'!!!