JEFF TIEDEMAN: High on the hogRib fest promises to offer some pretty tasty eating.
I’ve eaten my share of ribs — most recently last week at my mom’s, some of the baby back pork variety. She cooked the ribs with some delicious homemade sauerkraut and accompanied them with a large pot of mashed potatoes and fresh tomatoes from the garden. The occasion was that my cousin, Paul, was in town, visiting from Alaska.
Without a doubt, it is one of my favorite meals. Baby back ribs and sauerkraut have been a Christmas Eve tradition of ours for the past several years and one that I’ve passed to a group of former hunting buddies.
Of course, I don’t reserve that meal exclusively for the holidays. We have it at least once or twice a year, especially since I almost always have between one and two dozen quarts of sauerkraut in my pantry at any given time.
But I have to admit, barbecued ribs come in a close second, albeit it beef or pork. I’ve tinkered with making barbecued ribs and have a sauce that’s pretty tasty, although you will never find a recipe for them in Steven Raichlen’s “The Barbecue Bible” or Rick Browne’s “Grilling America.”
Perhaps the best barbecued ribs I’ve eaten were more than 25 years ago at Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City. It was when I was down in Topeka, Kan., visiting friends, and we went to a Twins-Royals baseball game in Kaufman Stadium, one of the crown jewel ballparks in Major League Baseball. (Famous Dave’s and Applebee’s aren’t too shabby, either.)
I’ll never forget that day. It must have been close to 100 degrees — hot, hot, hot — when we traipsed into the famous rib joint, which had a dozen or so ovens blazing and full of ribs and briskets. I decided on pork ribs — and a huge mug of cold beer — since they were my favorite. And I wasn’t disappointed.
This weekend, I’ll get a chance to see how the barbecued ribs that some of our locals have concocted taste compare. Along with 10 other people, including an old friend and co-worker, Ryan Bakken, I’ll be judging a pork rib fest at Johnny Bravoz (formerly the Bottoms Up Bar) in Oslo, Minn.
According to John Kirkeby, one of the organizers (along with Scott Kosmatka of Kosmatka’s Market and Kitty Stromberg, owner of Kitty’s Cafe), a dozen or so barbecuers have signed up to participate in the contest, and he anticipates that number could grow to 20 to 25 by Saturday’s event, which will be held on a blocked-off Main Street filled with cookers. (Registration begins at 8 a.m.; judging begins at 5 p.m.)
“We’ve got some who are doing it for fun and some who are really serious about their ribs,” John said. “There will be every kind of cooker in the world. One guy from Fertile will be coming in on wheels.”
Judging will be based on tenderness, texture and presentation, and ribs must be cooked on-site. “Rating will be 9 for the best, 2 for the worst, and 1 gets kicked out,” John said jokingly.
He said some ribs will be prepared with dry rubs, some with sauce. And they all must be pork — baby back, loin back or spare ribs.
Bring ’em on, and please don’t forget the napkins.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.