The Time Traveling Cook: Ribs Burgundy

Maybe you heard, maybe you didn’t.

For Christmas, I got a very cool cookbook — Bucks Cooks: The Artists’ County (or, since the cover is of dubious layout, Bucks, The Artist’s County, Cooks). It’s a cookbook put together by a bunch of locals in 1950 — at this point, a good 60 years ago.

My plan is to — slowly but diligently — work through each recipe in the book. The book is home to some pretty interesting recipes, and the recipes are themselves often quite spare, especially compared to recipes today which are almost obsessive about measurements and process. My grandmother, Mom-Mom, used to follow some recipe that existed only in her head, and the food came out the same (and awesome) every dang time.

So it is with excitement, confusion and trepidation that I start making recipes out of this book. Yes, all of them. Kidneys. Turtle. Rabbit. Somehow.

First up: Spare Ribs Burgundy.

I dunno if there are copyright issues with me giving you the recipe? I’m gonna do it anyway, and feign ignorance, for I am ignorant, and also an ignoramus. Here’s the recipe as written:


3 lbs fresh spareribs

salt and pepper

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 apples

1/2 cup chili sauce

1 cup Burgundy

3 tbsp. brown sugar


Wipe spareribs with a damp cloth, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and lay in large roaster. Cover with onion. Pare and core apples, cut in half lengthwise & place around the meat. Mix chili sauce with 1/2 cup Burgundy and spread it over the apples & meat. Dot apples with brown sugar. Cover and bake in hot oven for 450 for one hour; then uncover, pour another 1/2 cup Burgundy over all, and bake until brown (about 15 minutes), basting occasionally.

What I Done Did

I didn’t have spare ribs.

I did, however, have baby back ribs.

Further, I didn’t have Burgundy. My recollections of Burgundy, for right or wrong, was that it was a darker, headier wine. I decided to go darker, headier, and sweeter — I had a bottle of Port that I like to sometimes use in cooking.

So, spare ribs became baby back ribs, and Burgundy became Port.

Further, the term “chili sauce” is a liiiiittle vague. I thought, “Well, I might make my own,” but then I looked at my time, and it did not include the time or inclination to do that. My second instinct was to go straight for the Heinz Chili Sauce and be done with it, but I figured, fuck that business. I like barbecue. Thus, I went ahead I bought Stubbs’ BBQ Chili sauce. Spicy stuff. A kick to your mouth.

Apples, I used three Gala apples, but I could only fit two in the roasting pan.

Now, my trepidation with this recipe was that it was a fairly short cooking time at high heat. Ribs, to me, are best when slowly cooked — low and slow, with a later jump in heat to get a brown bark on ’em — so I wasn’t sure these would be tender or cooked through properly. Further, here I am already dicking up the ingredient list, so — the potential result remained shrouded in nibbling uncertainty.

The Result

Well, dang. The ribs were delicious. They were tender. The Port cut the tongue-kick of the spice, but still allowed it to retain the edge. The onions on top caramelized just right, yet remained soft and ooey-gooey, further imparting great flavor to the proceedings.

A success.

Not a total success — I don’t know that I was actually supposed to eat the apples or just let them impart flavor, but they weren’t altogether pleasant. Texturally, they were fine. But those flavors slathered on soft apple just didn’t do a lot for my taste buds. But they did impart a little flavor; I just think cider vinegar or even apple juice might have been an easier contribution. I could be wrong.

Here’s an awful picture!

Right. That’s a right shitty pic, because I got lazy. I didn’t want to grab the DSLR and switch the lens and… blah blah blah. You want to see good snaps of food, check out Fred’s post on Mushroom Beef Stew. This pic makes the ribs look like a horse abortion or something. It was, I assure you, much tastier than the pic portrays.