Just like the fight for independence, I was up and at them early today. I had the day off but thanks to a bright morning sun and a head moving like a hamster in a wheel, I was up and in our kitchen shortly after the crack of dawn. I had my coffee made and in hand by 6 am. Lola was still sleeping and that was unusual. I knew that today was National Barbecued Spareribs Day and I had picked some ribs up at the store yesterday. I knew that ribs are best when they are cooked low and slow and being all alone in the kitchen, I figured now was as good as a time as ever to get them in the oven. So before that first sip of coffee, I had the oven preheating and I had a knife inserted into the thin membrane of skin on the backside of a rack of raw ribs. “Good morning America, how are ya?”
This actually worked out for the best because nobody really likes to see raw meat being prepared and with Lola still upstairs, I had my moment to handle that before she woke up. The only worry was that she would wake up in the midst of my preparation and come down to this Dahmer-like image of me in the kitchen removing skin from carcasses, but thankfully, she slept through it all. The silver skin on the back of a rack of ribs is something that you need to remove because it tends to get rubbery when cooked. It’s a very thin membrane that stretches across the backside of the ribs. You have to finagle your knife between the membrane and the meat and then when you are able to grab it, it peels right off. It’s not always easy to get started but once you get it, it peels right back (and it’s oddly satisfying). The skin goes into the garbage and then you are free to put your rub onto the ribs. For the rub, I was just using spices from our cabinet. There was a jar of some kind of meat seasoning in there that looked good, so I sprinkled that on generously along with salt and pepper and rubbed it in. Then I put them on a sheet pan, covered in aluminum foil and let them cook for two hours at 275 degrees. Once they were in the oven, I cleaned up and then finally took a big sip of coffee.
I wanted to get the ribs in early because I knew it was going to be hot today and I didn’t want the oven on at high-noon. They cook at a low temperature, so it never got too hot in the kitchen, but I wanted to take precaution. When Lola woke up, the house was already smelling good with then smell of pork in the air. We had no big plans for Independence Day. We were going to chill most of the day. I was going to mow the lawn and do some yard stuff. Lola would be gardening too and tending to some of the hydrangea plants around the yard. We had the ribs cooked so our dinner was already planned out. They would just need some time on the grill to finish them off. It was going to be a nice little day. On the down side, it was hot and hard to be in the sun and then the bugs came out. I’m not sure why, but it seems like mosquitos have been out in force the last two days. That makes being outside less fun. But we went about our business. After the lawn was mowed and I was pretty much drenched in sweat, I jumped in the river to cool down and that did the trick. Then Lola came down to the water and we had a little nap in the hammock together. That was a slice of heaven.
As the day moved on, we remembered a request from yesterday from our niece Eva. She had a bottle of sparkling cider (no alcohol, of course) that she didn’t know how to open. We said we could help her open it. We were going to go over her house to do that but after some discussion with her Mom, it worked out better for them to come over to our house. So now our rib feast would feed five of us and we had a sudden Fourth of July party on our hands. I made a quick dash to the store to pick up a few other things like some corn (which Eva loves) and some shrimp (Katie is not much for ribs) and we were ready for them when they swung by around 5 pm.
It was also National Caesar Salad Day too and I had bought a box of Et Tu Caesar Salad mix. This is a kit that gives you everything to make this famous salad excepting the lettuce. I happened to have a full head of lettuce from our Veggie Box, so it was perfect. This is a mix that Cherie swears by and because she is the biggest Caesar Salad fan I know, I trusted her judgement. It was super easy. You get the dressing, croutons, bacon bits and cheese and you just toss it with the chopped lettuce. Took all of five minutes to make. Savannah was nice enough to model for the finished product.
I cooked the corn in butter and milk like I had done recently. Lola was shucking it on our side porch when they arrived and it reminded her sister of where her Mom used to sit to shuck corn. I cooked the shrimp in some salsa butter and served it atop some white rice. For the ribs, I sparked up the grill and when it was hot, I grilled the ribs to get them warm. While they cooked, I smothicated them in Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce. It was hard to cook because they were fall off the bone ready, but I managed and all that barbecue flavor seeped into every piece and caramelized on the hot grill. They came out perfect. Lola and I both liked them, as did Savannah. Katie and Eva opted against them.
It ended up being a feast that couldn’t be beat. We all had corn on our cheeks and rib sauce on our fingers. The laughs were long and plenty and the company was the best. Before dinner, Eva and Savvy had picked some mulberries off the tree and they had scarfed some down before dinner. In fact, they were all over Eva’s face which was now streaked with reddish-blue stains from the berries as were her bare feet. She was a kid enjoying summer. We opened her sparkling cider and se was happy as a clam sipping on the sweet special beverage in a fancy wine glass as we toasted the day.
We thought it was going to be an early evening but a promise of S’mores was made and you don’t promise Lola S’mores and not deliver. So after dinner, we started a fire down by the water and after it was burning for a while, the S’more ingredients emerged. Tiny hands clasped to sticks holding marshmallows over open flame under watchful eyes. Inevitably, flaming marshmallows appeared and after they were blown out, they were smushed between chocolate and crackers to the delight of all. We sat there by the fire looking out at the water and munching on our treats. Then the fireworks started. From our vantage point, you could see the many displays over the Sakonnet and beyond. There were some in Tiverton, Fall River and even Dartmouth that all burst in the sky for us to see. Evan and Savvy started counting them as they exploded and it became a game. Between fireworks, we taught them the joys of “clucking” – when you sing a sing by only making chicken cluck sounds – and so as the day faded to night, the sounds of laughter and melodious chickens carried out throughout the night. Little eyes started to get heavy and it was time for them to go, but all in all it was a super special celebration.
Celebrating ribs on the 4th of July just seemed right. There’s something very USA about the whole experience. It’s the slow cooking, the sauce on your face, the outside dining – it was exactly what you wanted. Was it freedom? No, ribs in no way represent the freedoms that our forefathers fought for. However, if Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and John Adams had stopped by for a visit today and if they had helped us feast on these perfectly cooked and seasoned ribs, they would have declared their independence from boring food. Ribs are exciting and even though they take some time, they always bring the joy. They’re something special, just like this day was.
Next up: National Graham Cracker Day