Why wait for summer to enjoy pork ribs cooked slow and low on the grill? If you cook them in the oven, you can enjoy them right now. They won’t boast the trademark smokiness produced by grilling, but otherwise they’ll be as tender, succulent and finger-licking good as ever.
The key to making great baked ribs is to follow the same prep as for grilled ribs. Season them with a rub, paste or marinade containing salt, then bake them at a low temperature for many hours or until they become tender. The salted mixture acts as a brine, which helps keep the pork juicy and infuses it with flavour. Cooking slow and low makes the meat tender.
The marinade used here is a jerk paste, a spicy Jamaican flavouring that Jamaicans typically apply to pork and chicken, but which can be found glorifying everything from beef and lamb to fish and seafood to vegetables and tofu. Jerk is based on three key ingredients: Scotch Bonnet chiles, allspice (a dried berry native to Jamaica) and thyme.
Scotch Bonnets are some of the hottest chiles in the world. They’re in the same family as habaneros, so feel free to swap in the latter if you can’t find the former. The rub will be hotter or less hot depending on the number of chiles in it, your choice. And no matter the number of chiles, you’ll want to tame their heat with at least a little bit of sugar. I happen to love Scotch bonnets not only for their heat, but also for their fruitiness. They’ve always struck me as a kind of cross between a mango and very hot chile.
The labour-intensive part of this recipe is gathering all the ingredients and making the marinade, but then it’s easygoing.
Here I’ve finished them with a sweet/sour/spicy glaze. It’s not traditional, but I think it adds the perfect last touch.
Oven Baked Jerk Spareribs
Start to finish: 20 hours, 40 minutes (30 minutes hands-on)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 cup coarsely chopped scallions (white and green part)
1 to 3 Scotch bonnet chiles, or to taste
6 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, divided
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce (low-sodium if you prefer)
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 to 6 pounds pork spareribs (preferably St Louis style)
In a blender combine the onion, scallions, chiles, garlic, 2 1/2 tablespoons of the lime juice, oil, soy sauce, thyme, 1 tablespoon of the brown sugar, salt, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon and puree until smooth. Set aside 1/4 cup for the glaze.
Pull off and discard the silver skin from the bone side of the ribs and cut them into 6- to 8-rib lengths. Coat both sides of the ribs with the pureed marinade and put them in a shallow container. Cover and chill 16 hours, turning occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Remove the ribs from the marinade allowing the excess to drip off. Discard the excess marinade. Arrange the ribs, meat side up, on two racks set into each of two baking pans. Put the pans on the middle shelves of the oven and bake, switching the pans midway through the cooking time, until the meat is very tender when stuck with a fork, 4 to 4 1/2 hours.
While the ribs are baking, in a small bowl combine the reserved jerk paste with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice and the remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Remove the ribs from the oven when they are tender and brush the tops evenly with the glaze. Return the ribs to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes.