Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Umami Slow Cooker Boneless Pork Ribs.

A friend of mine shared a recipe on Facebook about making a pork tenderloin in a slow cooker.  I wanted to try it out and the local market happened to have pork loin roasts on sale for $1.99 per pound.  However, just above the roasts were these lean and lovely looking "Boneless Pork Ribs" also known as "Country Style Pork Ribs".  Essentially these ribs are a pork loin roast that has been trimmed and cut into thick strips that resemble ribs, and they just happened to be the same price as the roasts.  If I can have the easy way out, I'll take it; the butcher had already trimmed off the fat, so I wouldn't waste money buying the roast, trimming it down and throwing away the fat cap which was part of that price per pound.  I bought the boneless ribs and already knew I would be changing that shared recipe to make it my own.

First thing I had to do was brine the pork; brining will open up the fibers in the pork meat to allow it to absorb the liquid and flavors it is being cooked in.  It's a simple three step process; step one is put the trimmed pork meat into a ceramic, glass or plastic container.  Don't use a metal container as the salt will have a chemical reaction with the metal elements.

Second step is to put cold water into the container and enough to cover the meat.

The third step is to add the salt; I usually add one tablespoon per two pounds, so the six pounds of ribs required three tablespoons.  I just sprinkled the salt on top of the water, used my hand to mix it into the water (water will get cloudy), and moved the ribs around to make sure they were loose in the water.  I covered the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerated them for two hours.  Because the pork was cut into pieces, the brine would be able to get into the meat quicker, since there was more surface exposed.  If brining a large piece of meat, such as a roast or an uncut slab of ribs, give it a good six to 12 hours for the brine to make it completely inside and tenderize those fibers.

Now the sauce for the original recipe required: soy sauce, yellow mustard, maple syrup, olive oil, dried onions, garlic salt or powder.  Well I already had salt in my recipe by using the brine technique, so garlic salt was out, garlic powder was in.  Soy sauce also has salt in it, so I needed to think of another substitute and Hoisin sauce was it because of the smoky flavor it contained.  Olive oil?  I wasn't understanding the addition of that; that was now out, but I did spray the inside of my crock pot with nonstick cooking spray.  I began to think about the different flavors all these ingredients were going to give to the pork meat, and that is when I decided to look up that new fad word on the cooking shows...Umami.  Umami is the "fifth taste"; savory - a pleasant brothy or meaty flavor which makes the mouth water.  It is long lasting on the tongue and coats the inside of the mouth which contributes to the mouth watering experience.  My sauce ingredients needed to have sweet, salty, bitter, sour and savory; but I didn't stop there, I decided that heat and smoky needed to be added.  It was pork and it needed to party!

Sweet - maple syrup
Sour - yellow mustard
Bitter - onions
Salty - hoisin sauce and the brine
Savory - hoisin sauce and garlic powder
Heat - ground cayenne pepper
Smoky - hoisin sauce

Notice that Hoisin sauce plays a major role with the different flavors; when it comes to Asian cooking, instead of sticking with only soy or teriyaki sauces, experiment with Hoisin.

Using the slow cooker, any meat or poultry will exude juices and a "gravy" will form.  Adding cornstarch to the sauce ensured a luscious gravy that would be rich, flavorful, not too thick or thin, and perfect over the meat or poultry and a side such as rice, potatoes, noodles or stuffing.   Now if you want your meat to have a glaze or crust of some kind, then skip the slow cooker and roast in the oven instead.   Place the meat or poultry on a rack, so the juices go to the pan's bottom (make sure you put broth or water in the pan) and you can make your gravy later on.

So here is my new take on the recipe posted on Facebook; it did make my mouth water and I kept going back for one more piece; then one more piece; oh one more wouldn't hurt.

Umami Slow Cooker Boneless Pork Ribs


6 lbs boneless pork ribs (aka country style ribs)
3 Tbsp salt

1/2 cup Hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp yellow mustard
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup diced onion
3 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
4 Tbsp cornstarch


Place the pork inside a large bowl, cover with water; add salt and move meat around to mix salt throughout. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours.

Spray the inside of a 6 quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray; remove pork from water(do not rinse), pat dry and place inside crock pot.

Mix together ingredients for sauce; pour over meat and work down between pieces with a spatula or spoon. Cover, set on low and cook for 6 hours.

Makes six servings.

Mary Cokenour

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