My grandmother is my inspiration…
She grew up on a farm in Michigan and married a farmhand who became my grandfather. Much of her 82 years were spent cooking, foraging, sewing, canning, gardening, and baking.
And nearly every summer, we'd spend 2 weeks with her. The moment we walked through the front door, we'd smell her sauerkraut and spare ribs on the stovetop. No visit was complete without it!
She'd begin early in the day, layering the ribs and sauerkraut in her vintage Dutch oven. They would simmer all day long on the back of the stove, waiting to be served with mashed potatoes and homemade applesauce for dinner. For dessert, she served rhubarb or blueberry pie — with a deliciously flaky crust featuring her secret ingredient: lard.
Today I'm sharing this special part of my family heritage with you. I hope you love Grandma Mabel's Sauerkraut & Spare Ribs as much as I do! The ingredients are simple and few; the secret is in the technique and sauerkraut.
Make this dish plenty in advance! You'll need time to gather and assemble the ingredients, as well as a full day to cook them all.
Preserving The Probiotics
Although Grandma was an expert cook, she did not have a firm grasp of fermented foods and their many benefits. She didn't know that an all-day, slow-cooking technique kills the probiotics in sauerkraut.
So, if you want to preserve the probiotics, simply divide your kraut and use a small amount in the cooking process while allowing the rest to stay at room temperature. Serve the reserved amount on the side, or gently fold it into the ribs just before serving.
Then you'll preserve both probiotics and delicious flavor.
Grandma Mabel's Sauerkraut and Spare Ribs
- homemade sauerkraut OR Bubbies*
- bone-in or boneless pork spare ribs, pork chops, or beef ribs (8 ounces per person, plus extra for leftovers)
- lard or bacon fat, for browning
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- apple slice (optional)
- seasoning, to taste
*Please do not use canned sauerkraut. Not only are the wonderful vitamins, minerals, and friendly bacteria lost in the canning process, but the flavor is tinny and insipid.
Very early in the day, melt lard or bacon fat over moderate heat in a very large stock pot or Dutch oven. Don't let it smoke. Season ribs to taste, then brown ribs on all sides in small batches. Return ribs to pot. Layer with sauerkraut and chopped onion. Remember, to preserve probiotics, cook only some of your kraut and leave the rest at room temperature (see note above).
Grandma's secret is in the layering, so don't pile kraut all on top! As ribs and kraut cook, their juices will flow down and mingle to create amazing flavor.
Sample kraut. If it's too sour, add a slice or two of apple to draw out tartness. No need to remove before serving — it will cook down. Turn heat to low, cover pot with lid, and allow to cook all day. Check occasionally to make sure there is adequate moisture and ribs aren't sticking.
What childhood recipes do you love? Have you ever had sauerkraut and spare ribs?
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