I recently visited the Anderson Valley, which is one of my favorite places in Northern California. In addition to wine tasting at Navarro Vineyards, which continues to be a very family-friendly experience with their fresh grape juice tastings for kids and lovely outdoor area, we also stopped off at The Apple Farm. If you haven’t visited The Apple Farm, it’s worth a trip in its own right. Set next door to a redwood grove and above the Navarro River, The Apple Farm is a little oasis full of apple trees (of course), friendly dogs who mosey over for a pat and then go on their merry way, and a mouth-watering selection of drinks and condiments. From apple balsamic vinegar and syrup, to hard apple cider and apple juice, The Apple Farm lives up to its name. But life is not all a bowl of apples in Philo. They also have a selection of fruit chutneys using blood oranges, figs, peaches and various other fruits that are worth checking out. And, if you have a night or two to spare, you can reserve one of their peaceful cabins or take part in a cooking lesson.
After visiting the farm and arriving home with a box full of apple products and chutneys, I knew I had to immediately try them. Pondering what would go best with apple balsamic vinegar and syrup, I decided to make some baby back ribs. Because I love the taste of pork with apples, I used only a few ingredients in my recipe. First I made a rub of ground fennel, coriander, salt and pepper. I then slow roasted the ribs for an hour and half, which made them fall-off-the-bone tender. It was now time to show off my new apple products. I started by brushing on a healthy portion of balsamic vinegar and then added a second layer of apple syrup for extra sweetness and to also thicken the glaze. After setting the racks under the broiler for about 3 minutes to caramelize a crust on the top of the ribs, we were ready to eat. Because it was July and figs were in season, I chose to serve our ribs with some that were sliced, brushed with apple balsamic vinegar, and broiled. But if figs weren't in season, I would happily serve with baked apples.
After sprinkling with some extra apple syrup, the ribs had a lovely slow-roasted pork flavor that was both sweet and tangy. We served them as an appetizer for a dinner party, but after both kids and adults expectantly asked for more, I realized that next time, I need to make a double or triple batch and serve as the main course.
If you don't have apple balsamic vinegar or syrup on hand, you could substitute regular balsamic vinegar and maple syrup, which I think would taste fantastic.
The Apple Farm
18501 Greenwood Road
Philo, CA 95455
Apple Glazed Baby Back Ribs
2 racks pork baby back ribs (trimmed of excess fat)
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked pepper
1/2 cup apple balsamic vinegar (can use regular balsamic vinegar)
1/2 cup apple syrup (can use maple syrup or apple jam or butter)
Enough olive oil to coat the cooking pans
Note: If you have some of the elusive and incredibly expensive fennel pollen on hand, use that instead of the ground fennel.
1. In a spice or coffee grinder, pulse fennel and coriander seeds until they are somewhere between roughly chopped and a smooth powder. Mix chopped seeds with salt and pepper.
2. Rub ground seeds, salt and pepper into the ribs and then refrigerate for at least two hours or up to one day covered in a pan.
3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place each rack on a separate baking sheet that has been drizzled with olive oil. Tightly cover with foil and then set ribs in oven to bake for 1 1/2 hours.
4. Remove ribs from oven and coat first with the balsamic vinegar and then with the syrup, reserving 2 Tbsp of each.
5. If grilling, set ribs on the grill on high heat for five minutes or until the glaze caramelizes. If broiling, set ribs under broiler for 3-5 minutes or until glaze caramelizes.
6. Lightly sprinkle the reserved syrup and vinegar and serve with grilled figs or baked apples.