I just love the slow cooker, don’t you? All the work is done up front and that allows you to be about your day knowing that you will still have a good meal for dinner with minimal work needed when you get home. But the slow cooker can also produce bland, mushy food. You need to know what adapts itself well to slow cooking and the correct cooking time for every recipe. I’ve found over the years that the biggest mistake I’ve made with a slow cooker is cooking something too long.
The beauty of this recipe is that it truly takes 8 hours to cook. You often see slow cooker recipes that say to set the timer on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-6 hours. Don’t be fooled. Two extra hours can make a big difference. So I will warn you up front – be prepared to have a few slow cooker failures until you get the hang of your machine and the appropriate cooking time needed for a particular recipe. Unfortunately, it’s just a reality when using a slow cooker.
This recipe is another one of my favorite go-to slow cooker recipes. These fall off the bone ribs get their down-home flavor from vegetable juice, molasses and seasonings. It also takes very little prep to get this going and so it’s great for one of those crazy busy days. The basis of this recipe came from a Better Homes and Gardens magazine I purchased in 2005. I’ve adapted it over the years and am sharing my version of it. I’ve never had a failure with this recipe, even when I made it for the first time. So I feel pretty confident that you will have the same success I did. Enjoy!
RATING: A. This recipe is so easy and the sauce is very flavorful. You can serve this with just about anything. Quite often I will get some of the pre-made mashed potatoes, heat them in the microwave and serve them with the ribs and a steamed vegetable. The sauce makes a great gravy for the mashed potatoes. You can also serve this over rice as well. I’ve never made this with pasta. The recipe may be too robust for pasta but give it a try if you’re a pasta lover.
Lesson Learned 1: Make sure to set aside a cup of sauce at the beginning to serve over the ribs when they are done. You can use the sauce that is in the slow cooker if you forget but the reserved sauce gets much thicker when you heat it on the stove and has less grease. I think you’ll find that extra step more than worth it.
Lesson Learned 2: I love this recipe because it uses a whole can of tomato paste. I hate it when you are asked to put in a few tablespoons of tomato paste into a recipe and wind up having a half-used can sitting in your refrigerator until you throw it out. I know you can purchase tomato paste in a tube, but sometimes I have difficulty finding it in the store or they’re out of them. This way you have no worries, you use the entire can.
Lesson Learned 3: Vegetables can always be tricky in a slow cooker as they can disintegrate or become overly mushy if you don’t prepare them correctly. Make sure to cut the onion into large rings. I usually cut the rings almost an inch thick and then cut the rings in half length-wise before separating them. Onions should always be cut rather thick if you are putting them in a slow cooker. The same applies to the carrots. Cutting them into large logs helps them stand up better to the slow cooking process.
This also applies to the mushrooms. Since you are putting them in for only one half hour you don’t need to cut them overly thick. But only put them in for a half hour. That way your mushrooms will have a perfect consistency. If you put them in at the beginning they will become way too mushy.
Lesson Learned 4: Make sure you rub the thyme and rosemary into your palm to break up the dried seasonings and release some of the natural oils before you add them to the vegetable juice mixture. That will provide greater depth of flavor to the sauce.
Lesson Learned 5: You can use just about any type of vinegar you have on hand for this recipe. I normally use red wine vinegar, but plain white vinegar or any other type will work just as well.
Lesson Learned 6: Spray a measuring cup with cooking spray before you measure out the molasses. That way when you pour the molasses it will come out easily and quickly. (This is a great tip when using an ingredient like molasses or honey)
Lesson Learned 7: Never lift the lid during the cooking process. The only time the lid can be lifted is when you add the mushrooms. If you lift the lid during any other point, you will throw off the cooking time and will be faced with adding more time to the process.
Slow Cooker Country Style Pork Ribs
3 pounds pork country-style ribs (don’t use baby back ribs for this recipe)
1 large onion sliced into thick rings
4 large carrots cut into one 2 inch logs
3 cups of vegetable juice
1 can of tomato paste
1/2 cup of molasses
6 TB. vinegar (I use red wine vinegar for this)
2 tsp. dried mustard
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. dried rosemary
8 oz. baby portobella mushrooms, sliced.
Slice onion into thick rings and separate. Peel and cut carrots into 2 inch logs. Place them in the slow cooker. Remove any excess fat from the ribs and place on top of the onions and carrots.
In a medium size bowl stir together vegetable juice, tomato paste, molasses, vinegar, dry mustard, salt, and pepper. Rub the seasonings in your hand to release the natural oils, add to the mixture and combine. Reserve one cup of the vegetable juice mixture for sauce, cover and refrigerate it. Pour remaining mixture over the ribs and onions covering completely.
Cover and cook on low for eight hours. During the last half hour of cooking, add the sliced mushrooms and stir mixture to combine. Meanwhile on the stove put the reserved sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the mixture comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Cover the ribs with the sauce when serving.
Serve with rice, mashed potatoes or pasta and the vegetable of your choice.