“Oh, careful,” I said. “Your hair is going into the sauce. What’s wrong?’

We were at a local barbeque spot and for some reason Suzen was dipping her head right into her food.

“What’s wrong?” I repeated.

“You can be so embarrassing,” Suzen expressed herself.

“What did I do?”

“When the waiter brought your spareribs,” she pointed with her fork towards my plate, “you asked him if they were beef or pork.”

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.

“Brian,” Suzen’s voice was low, “spareribs only come from pigs. No cows. No little lambs. Pigs! My God, why can’t you get that straight?”

Today, I slunk into my local bookstore and found The Great Ribs Book by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison, whose The Great Wings Book I reviewed last week. This tidy volume begins with a survey of what ribs are:

  • Spareribs coming from pigs appearing either Kansas City-style or St. Louis-style.
  • Pork Baby Back Ribs: the Rolls-Royce of ribs offering more meat and less fat
  • Country-Style Spareribs: cut from the pork loin and featuring lots of meat and just a little bone
  • Beef Back Ribs: offering lots of bone and not much meat
  • Beef Short Ribs: a combination of meat and bone that is best cooked slowly with smoke to avoid toughness
  • Lamb Ribs: fatty and low in meat, these ribs are best smoked or grilled or roasted, but cannot be braised.

The Great Ribs Book continues with discussions about:

  • Fresh versus frozen [go fresh!]
  • Preliminary boiling of ribs before grilling or smoking [no, no, no]
  • How to remove that white membrane
  • How to marinate, baste, cut, grill, smoke, roast or braise

In short, you have a complete primer on ribs! And then, the recipes unfold in chapters devoted to:

  • Asian style ribs
  • American style
  • Mexican and Southwester ribs
  • Mediterranean and Caribbean ribs
  • Fruit-based glazes and marinades
  • Braised ribs

I particularly love those fruit-based glazes and this book offers a combination that I would never have imagined: strawberry, soy, habanero and mint. To use this marinade, make it and coat the ribs evenly on both sides. Marinate the ribs, refrigerated, for at least 15 minutes but up to 8 hours for the very best flavor. If you have extra marinade, baste the ribs as they cook.

Strawberry-Habanero Marinade

Yield: about 1 ¼ cups or enough for 2 full sides of spareribs


  • ½ cup strawberry jam
  • Zest of 2 limes
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • ¼ cup thin soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons habanero hot sauce
  • ¼ cup finely minced ginger
  • ¼ cup minced mint leaves


Combine all the ingredients and whisk or stir well to create a uniform mixture. No cooking is necessary.

Source: The Great Ribs Book by Hugh Carpenter and Teri Sandison