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Baked Spareribs with Apples and Squash

Serves 4 to 6

I will be the first to admit that this recipe for baked pork spareribs, inspired by Pennsylvania Dutch and German cooking, is a bit labor intensive, but easy to prepare and so worth it. The combination of flavors from the ingredients is delicious and intensifies even more as the dish slowly cooks. Additionally, it is a nice alternative to grilling spareribs, especially in the fall and winter when apples and squash are at their best. The other advantage is that this dish is a complete meal in itself, needing nothing more than some good rye bread on the side. As noted below, the ribs can be partially baked a day ahead, so that makes it more convenient. I hope you will try it and enjoy!

Ingredients

Preheat oven to 400° F. Place ribs in one layer in a shallow roasting pan, meaty side up. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Bake for 45 minutes until well browned. Spoon fat from pan and discard. (Can be prepared ahead and refrigerated for one day. Bring to room temperature before continuing.)

Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Meanwhile, in medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter; add onions and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Stir in 2-3/4 cups apple juice, vinegar, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling. In a cup or small bowl, combine cornstarch with 1/4-cup apple juice. Gradually add to hot liquid and stir until slightly thickened. Pour juice mixture evenly over ribs. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour.

Cut each squash into 8 wedges and each apple in half, discarding seeds and cores. Add squash to ribs; spoon some of pan liquids over them and bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Add apples, baste again; cover, and bake for an additional 30 minutes or until ribs and squash are tender. Place the meat and vegetables on a serving platter and tent to keep warm. If desired, skim fat off of the liquids in the pan and bring to a boil over high heat to reduce slightly. Serve, passing the pan juices separately.