TWIST & SNOUT – For the Love of Pork! RECIPE: Spareribs with Orange Stuffing
From nose to belly to butt, if you ask people what food truly rocks their world, the answer is always pork. Ahhhh, pork—the crack-cocaine of all meats! Especially good is pork that comes from pasture-raised piggies—and if you get acquainted with your local farmers, so much the better. The best-eating pigs are those raised and left to thrive on a steady diet of goodness. Pigs should spend 10 hours a day being pigs—outside exploring, rooting and generally creating chaos and naughtiness wherever they wander. Did you know that the pig is equal in intelligence to a dog? And, let me ask you this, would you keep your dog in a crate all day and night with nothing to chew on? It is extremely important to me that pigs wander freely in big pastured pens that are rotated once they have eaten all they can (and they will) in their wake. I also want to make it perfectly clear that commercially-raised supermarket pork comes from pigs that have NEVER lived or even stepped out of a cage, live in a very sterile factory farm, NEVER set a hoof on the soft green earth, root the ground, or so much as smell clean fresh air. To prevent disease outbreaks in conventional pig operations, the workers wear masks and shoe covers to prevent the pigs from getting sick—making the pigs so fragile that 10 million pounds of antibiotics are feed to them yearly in this country— to stimulate growth and to prevent a disease outbreak. Their feed really is cheap and slop—I have always said, you will only get “out of a pig”, what you “put into” a pig!
You see, there is nothing more political than food…”Politics of the Plate”…
I ask that people study, read, and be aware of the source of their food. Be brave ask your local butchers, supermarket managers, and local farmers what their pork is all about. Do not be afraid! You have a right to know where food comes from and how an animal is raised and butchered! And if local, well-raised pork is not available to you, USDA Organic is at least far better and safer than conventional pork. READ LABELS! And remember, just because meat is labeled “organic” does not mean the pig has roamed free or is local.
Let me also suggest that one can split a whole butchered pig (or even a half pig) with a small group of friends or family—go in on it together. It will cost less for each of you. Teach your children all about the purchase—they need to know. Take a tour of the butchering facility. Ask how the pigs are put down—do not be afraid. Get involved.
Now…Let’s Talk RIBS!
We had a pig raised for us this past summer. Of all the cuts, my husband loves ribs the most. Since it is still wintertime, I wanted to come up with an easy recipe for ribs—something a little different, but “tasty and warm”, you know? I only had one 2½-pound slab of spareribs left in the freezer, so I decided to simply cut the rack in half and stuff it. I want to note that this recipe should really be done with two slabs, but if you only have one, simply cut it in half and it will make about 3 generous servings—four if you aren’t as big an eater as I am! The next question is what kind of ribs, baby back or spareribs?
Baby Back Ribs vs. Spareribs
First, let’s begin at the beginning…
The pork loin with the fatback attached can weigh up to 25 pounds per pig and is filled with all the cuts people love; chops, roasts, and baby back ribs. The loin extends from the sixth rib to the fourteenth (pigs have 14 ribs per side) and is the tenderest muscle. The belly which falls below the loin is roughly about 15 pounds of succulence and provides lard, bacon, and spareribs.
Baby Back Ribs…
Back ribs are cut from where the rib meets the spine (after the loin is removed). The upper ribs from the top of the pig are called baby back ribs because they are shorter, very tender and lean (hence the heftier price tag).
Spareribs come from the belly area of the pig and are usually trimmed down to the popular “St. Louis-style” or in my area of the USA, “Country-style” spareribs. The breastbone and chewy cartilage are cut away, so the slab is more rectangular in shape, and the ribs are flatter with more fat (but in a good way!) making them very flavorful and the best choice for my recipe.
Low and slow cooking is best for any ribs.
Simple and seasonal is my motto! I am giving you my recipe for a simple orange bread stuffing. Oranges are at their best during the winter months. Pictured here are satsuma mandarins—which is what I used. Note that by now, the season is over (and will begin again in November in California), so, I would suggest Temple oranges—in season in February and/or Valencia oranges in March, or even tangerines which are available throughout the winter and all the way into April (you may need to use 4-5 small tangerines though in this recipe if that is your choice).
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Spareribs with Orange Stuffing
Makes 6 servings
First of all, you will need to start this recipe 24 hours in advance. Also, having (2) 2-pound racks of spareribs will yield about 6 servings, however, if you have only one rack of spareribs, simply cut the rack in half, and half the recipe—this will yield approximately 3 servings.
This is a wonderfully aromatic yet straightforward recipe for stuffed spareribs. It is important to use balsamic vinegar to marinate the pork spareribs and leave them to sit overnight. The bread stuffing is a basic recipe with the addition of potato and plenty of orange zest. The juices from the racks of spareribs permeate the stuffing when roasting—and the smell is heavenly! In the chilliest depths of winter, I find great primeval satisfaction from gnawing on a meaty bone, especially when paired with a fabulous starchy accompaniment—comfort food at its finest!
(2) 2-pound racks spareribs
1/3-cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon each: sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the stuffing:
6 cups stale French bread cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 red-skinned potato, diced
¼-cup freshly chopped parsley
Freshly grated zest from 2 oranges, plus the juice
¼ cup warm chicken broth (generous)
2 extra-large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon each: sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra orange slices and fresh sprigs of parsley
- Put the spareribs in an oblong baking dish and add the balsamic vinegar, making sure both sides of each rack are wet, adding a little more vinegar if need be. Cover the pan and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Put all the stuffing ingredients in a large bowl and toss lightly.
- Salt and pepper the racks of spare ribs on both sides. Do not pour off the balsamic vinegar. Put one rack back into the pan, fat side down, and pat the stuffing firmly over the ribs; place the second rack of spareribs over the stuffing, fat side up, press firmly, and tie the two pieces together with some kitchen string. Add about a half cup of water to the bottom of the pan, cover with aluminum foil, and bake 1½-1 3/4-hours.
- Remove the pan from the oven and let the meat rest for 10 minutes. Remove the string, and cut between each 2 ribs to serve. Garnish with extra orange slices and sprigs of parsley. Enjoy!
- NOTE: If by chance one does not indulge in pork, this recipe can be done with chicken—I would suggest 12 whole, meaty chicken drumsticks laid side-by-side, with the stuffing tucked between the two layers of legs: serving size-2 drumsticks with stuffing. Cooking temperature would be the same; cooking time would be about 1 hour. This would yield 6 servings. Any leftovers can be frozen. If reheating, do so gently.