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Spare Ribs Vs. Baby Back Ribs (It’s National Barbecued Spare Ribs Day)

Happy Independence Day! For whatever reason, July 4th is National Barbecued Spareribs Day (we’re partial to the alternate, more elegant, spelling, spare ribs).

What’s the difference between spare ribs and baby back ribs? Not a whole lot: They’re just two different pieces of the same slab of meat.

The main difference is size. The farther down the rib cage you go, the meatier the ribs become.
 
 
THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF RIBS

  • Spare ribs (left side of photo #3) are cut from the bottom of the rib cage, the belly side below the back ribs, which extend about 6″ down from the spine. They are longer and flatter than baby back ribs. Compared to baby back ribs, spare ribs have more meat between the bones and less meat on top of them; but overall, they are meatier than other types of ribs. The meat is more marbled, and the greater proportion of fat makes them more tender than baby back ribs. In addition to the alternate spelling spareribs, they are also called side ribs.
  • Boneless spare ribs are not deboned spare ribs. Rather, they’re made from a boneless pork butt, the shoulder of the pig. The pork is cut into thick slices, roasted, and then cut into long thin lengths to resemble boneless spare ribs.
  • St. Louis-style ribs, also known as St. Louis cut ribs, start off as spare ribs. But they’re trimmed down to a rectangular shape that’s more uniform and easier to eat. Most ribs called spare ribs are actually St. Louis-cut. But for the purpose of this article, we’re calling them spare ribs, a better-known term in much of the country. The National Pork Board says that St. Louis-style ribs are a squared cut. Square or rectangular, they are straight and flat and work best for recipes that require browning in a frying pan.
  • Kansas City-style ribs. While St. Louis-style ribs have had the sternum bone, cartilage, and rib tips removed for a uniform size, Kansas City-style ribs are trimmed even more closely, with the cartilage left in place.
  • Baby back ribs (right side of photo #3) are cut from the top of the rib cage, near the backbone. They are curved, compared to the straighter spare ribs. They’re called “baby” because they’re shorter than spare ribs, not because they come from baby pigs.
  • Country style ribs are cut from where the loin and shoulder meet. They’re a combination of higher fat and lean meat and are sold as slabs or individual servings. They’re perfect for those who want to use a knife and fork to eat their ribs and spare themselves the messy fingers, instead of eating ribs off the bone.
  • Riblets are made by cutting a rack of ribs into 2- to 4-inch pieces.
  • Rib tips are the lower portion of spare ribs that remain after cutting St. Louis style ribs.
  •  
    Ribs are prepared with any number of rubs and sauces, and we’ve never had any that weren’t delicious.
     
     
    THE HISTORY OF THE PIG

    Fossils indicate that wild pig-like animals roamed the forests and swamps of Europe and Asia some 40 million years ago.

    By 4900 B.C.E., pigs had been domesticated in China. They were being raised in Europe by 1500 B.C.E. Easy to raise, they produced meat and its by-products in a short amount of time.
     
    Pigs Come To America

    On the insistence of Queen Isabella, Christopher Columbus took eight pigs on his voyage to Cuba in 1493.

    However, Hernando de Soto brought the first pigs to the American continent—13 of them, which landed in Tampa Bay, Florida in 1539.

    Three years later, at the time of his death, his herd had grown to 700 head, not including:

  • The pigs his troops had consumed.
  • The ones that ran away (they became the ancestors of today’s feral pigs).
  • Those given to Native Americans to keep the peace (the local Tocobaga tribe had become fond of the taste of pork and raided de Soto’s camps for it).
  •  
    Pig production spread throughout the Eastern U.S. and beyond. Hernando Cortez introduced hogs to New Mexico in 1600.
     
    But while pigs were quick to fatten, they were quick to destroy.

  • On the northern edge of Manhattan island, a long, solid wall was constructed to control roaming herds of pigs. This wall conferred what would later become a world-famous name: Wall Street.
  • Semi-wild pigs conducted such rampages in the grain fields of colonial New York that a law decreed that every owned pig 14 inches or higher had to have a ring in its nose, to discourage rooting up crops, gardens, and lawns [source].
  •  
    Some readers may exclaim: a pig of 14 inches in height? A little more than a foot high?

    That’s right. The first pigs were the size of large cats or small dogs.

    After centuries of breeding for higher yields, today’s domestic pig has an overall height of 20”-38” and a body length of 35″-71”. It weighs between 250-700 pounds. On factory farms, pigs attain slaughter weight (the lower end of the spectrum) by the time they’re 6 months old.

    In addition to pork and lard, pigs contribute leather, gelatin, glue, fertilizer, hair bristles for brushes, and organs like heart valves.

    If not harvested earlier, pigs have a lifespan of 6-10 years on a farm, and 15-20 years if kept as a pet. Naturally intelligent and social, Domestic pigs are among the smartest of all domesticated animals—often credited as smarter than dogs [source].
     
     
    PIG TRIVIA

  • Pigs were the first animals to be domesticated.
  • Pigs live on every continent except Antarctica.
  • ork is the most-consumed animal protein worldwide. Pork comprises 40% of all meat consumed.
  • The Chinese are the largest consumers of pork, at 90 pounds per capita annually.
  • Pigs are omnivores meaning, enjoying both plant and animal foods.
  • Domesticated pigs eat barley, corn, hay, oats, soybean meal, vegetables, and wheat.
  • The phrase to “sweat like a pig” is fallacious. Pigs do not have sweat glands, so they are unable to sweat. Instead, to cool themselves, pigs wallowing in mud or water.
  • Pigs make more than 20 different sounds, via oinking, grunting, and squealing. Pig squeals can get as loud as 115 dB, or almost as loud as the average rock concert (120 dB).
  • National Pig Day is March 1st.
     
     
    > Check out the different cuts of pork.

  •  

    Honey Mustard Glazed Spare Ribs For National Spare Ribs Day
    [1] Mustard-glazed spare ribs (photo © Lucero Olive Oil).

    Smoked Baby Back Ribs
    [2] Smoked baby back ribs. Here’s the recipe (photo © Omaha Joe’s).

    Spare Ribs For National Spare Ribs Day
    [3] A rack of spare ribs on the left, baby back ribs on the right(photo © Weber).

    Blackberry-Glazed Spare Ribs For National Spare Ribs Month
    [4] Fruit glazes are popular, from apricot to tropical fruits like mango and pineapple. These are blackberry-glazed spare ribs, made with blackberry fruit spread (photo © Recipe Tin Eats).

    Baby Back Ribs With Corn On The Cob
    [5] There are two baby back ribs in each of the two pieces on the plate (photo © National Pork Board).

    Country-style ribs are eaten with a knife and fork.
    [6] Country-style ribs. Here’s the recipe (photo © Cook’s Country).

    Pork Chart Showing Spare Ribs For National Spare Ribs Day
    [7] The locations of the different cut of ribs (image © Rupari Food Services).

     

     
     

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    Wine Cooler Vs. Sangria: The Difference & A July 4th Recipe

    July 4th Wine Cooler Recipe
    [1] This “July 4th” wine cooler takes the extra step of cutting apple slices into stars. You can serve the same recipe all summer long with regular apple slices (photo © Daniele Aquino | Real Food Mostly Plants).

    Bottle of Boggle Chardonnay From California
    [2] Find a good, affordable Chardonnay (photo © Boggle Winery).

    Fresh Rambutan Fruit
    [3] Can’t find rambutan? Substitute lychee (photo © Melissa’s Produce).

    Bartles & Jaymes Wine Cooler Cans
    [4] Bartles & James was the #1 wine cooler in the 1980s. It’s one of the ‘80s-era coolers that’s still in business (photo © Bartles & Jaymes).

    St. Mayhem Wine Cooler
    [5] St. Mayhem is one of the 21st century “craft” wine coolers (photo © St. Mayhem).

    The Line Of Hoxie Wine Spritzers
    [6] Hoxie is another entrant into the revitalized wine cooler/spritzer category (photo © Hoxie Spritzer).

     

    A wine cooler is an alcoholic beverage made from wine and fruit or fruit juice, often with a carbonated beverage and some sweetener.

    But when you look at the ingredients in the recipe below, what’s the difference between a wine cooler and sangria?

    We have the answer below, along with the history of the wine cooler.

    This refreshing cooler recipe below is by Melissa’s Executive Chef Tom Fraker. It’s filled with juicy fruits.

    The reason it’s called a July 4th cooler is the star-cut apples that serve as playful decor, while also providing sweet apple juice and a nice crunch when you eat the wine-soaked fruit after finishing the drink.

    And although the rambutan in the recipe isn’t a common fruit to add to a cooler, you will be surprised at how nicely the floral accents blend with the other fruit flavors.
     
     
    RECIPE: JULY 4TH COOLER
     
    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1 bottle (750 ml) Chardonnay or other dry white wine
  • 1/8 cup/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup
  • 3/4 pound strawberries, sliced
  • 1 container (8 ounces) rambutan† peeled; seeds removed; sliced
  • 1/2 pint fresh blueberries
  • 1 Delicious apple or other red variety
  • 1/2 liter sparkling mineral water
  •  
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the wine, lime juice, and agave in a large pitcher; stir to combine.

    2. ADD the strawberries, rambutan, and blueberries to the pitcher.

    3. SLICE the apple crosswise and, using a star-shaped cookie cutter, cut stars from the apple slices. No star-shaped cutter? Cut them freehand. Add the apple stars to the pitcher.

    4. PLACE the pitcher into the refrigerator and chill overnight.

    5. TO SERVE, stir the sparkling water into the pitcher. Add ice to drinking glasses. Pour in the cooler and top with some of the fruit.

     
     
    WINE COOLER HISTORY

    A wine cooler is a modern reinvention of sangria, a drink that has been made in Spain for more than 1,000 years (here’s the history of sangria).

    Sangria is a cold drink made with wine, fruit, a sparkling element† like club soda, ginger ale, or sparkling wine, and sometimes, a sweetener and/or a liqueur or spirit like brandy.

    Leave out the spirit, and you have a wine cooler. (A wine spritzer is simply wine and carbonated water.)

    The original wine cooler brand was California Cooler, a drink made by Michael Crete, who originally mixed together white wine with fruit juice, and club soda and brought it to the beach to share with his friends. Everyone loved it.

    At the time, Crete was working in wine and beer sales, and he saw an opportunity. In 1981 he teamed up with a friend and started a company to make what they called California Wine Cooler. It was sold in a 12-ounce green glass bottle with foil around the neck, looking like a bottle of Beck’s beer.

    While there was a long history of wine mixed with juice—not just in sangria but in wine spritzers (which originated in early-19th-century Venice—here’s the history of wine spritzers)—California Cooler was the first bottled, ready-to-drink version.
     
     
    The Cooler Category Grows, Then Fades

    It took off, selling 10 million cases in 1984. In 1985, Crete and his partner sold the company to Brown-Forman. By that time, the category had exploded: There were now more than 100 different coolers across America [source].

    In that same year, wine giant Ernest & Julio Gallo launched the Bartles & Jaymes brand, which soon took over the top spot in the category from California Cooler.

    Other big boys came to play. Seagram’s, which took over the #2 spot, hired Bruce Willis for its commercials. Sun Country Wine Coolers, also owned by Gallo, hired celebrities like Ringo Starr, Grace Jones, and Charo.

    But packaged wine coolers turned out to be a fad. The market peaked just two years later, in 1987. Sales fell by double-digit percentages.

    Brands big and small discontinued their lines; California Cooler bit the dust in the early 1990s (Bartles & Jaymes still exists).

    In 1991, a steep increase in federal excise taxes on wine made wine coolers a losing proposition.

    Seagram’s and others discontinued their wine coolers and launched cheaper malt liquor-based beverages, in a new category that soon saw brands like Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Seagrams Escapes, Smirnoff Ice, and Zima.
     
     
    The New Era

    But now, some 30 years later, a new generation of wine coolers is popping up. Calling themselves spritzers or wine cocktails and positioning themselves as artisan or craft drinks are brands like Blossom Brothers, Hoxie, Pampelonne, and St. Mayhem.

    They favor more modern flavors that are bittersweet, botanical, herbal, or spicy. If the flavors are fruit, they bypass the sugary fruity cooler flavors of yore in favor of two-flavor notes like white peach and jasmine flower or pink grapefruit and honeycomb (Blossom Brothers), grapefruit elderflower, and lemon ginger rosé (Hoxie) [source].

    Pamplonne, which looks like a French brand in its packaging and flavors, and is made with French wine, was started by two Americans and is produced in Modesto, California.

    The “new coolers” are largely in 8.4-fluid-ounce cans, not bottles.

    Things have come full circle.
     
     
    ______________

    *In the beginning, sangria wasn’t sparkling. Carbonation wasn’t invented until 1767, and the oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux, which was apparently invented by Benedictine monks in the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire, near Carcassonne, in the South of France, in 1531 [source].

    †Fresh rambutan is available from Melissa’s. If you don’t have rambutan (fresh or canned) you can substitute equal amounts of lychees, fresh or canned. Lychees are sweeter and have a more floral bouquet, rambutan is fleshier. They are both members of the soapberry botanical family (Sapindaceae), along with the longan fruit and the horse chestnut. Here are more of the differences between lychee and rambutan. Can’t find either? Substitute peaches or nectarines.

     

     
     

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    July 4th Potato Salad Recipe: Red, White & Blue…& Delicious!

    What’s a July 4th celebration without potato salad? While we previously published a July 4th potato salad recipe, this one is distinctly different. It uses apples for the white stars.

    The apple stars are made with Envy apples (photo #3), a newer breed that was created to avoid beginning to brown (oxidize) for up to 10 hours, making it a variety to seek out for recipes.

    As a regular eating apple (the trade term is “hand fruit,” the flavor is sweet and the texture is crisp, with a satisfying crunch.

    Along with an elegant vinaigrette, the recipe is not your mother’s white-potatoes-with-mayo dish.

    Check out the potato salad (photo #1), and also our first Red, White & Blue Potato Salad recipe made with bacon and a protein-packed walnut crunch (photo #2).

    If you need more recipes for July 4th weekend, here are more than 60 red, white, and blue recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks, cocktails, and non-alcoholic drinks.

    > The history of potatoes.

    > The different types of potatoes.
     
     
    RECIPE: RED, WHITE & BLUE POTATO SALAD #2
     
    Ingredients

  • 1 pound small red potatoes, halved
  • 1 pound small purple potatoes, halved
     
    For The Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup Champagne vinegar (substitute white wine vinegar)*
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 20 turns of fresh cracked pepper
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • 2 Envy apples, large diced (or substitute)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BOIL the red and purple potatoes separately in salted water (should taste like the ocean) until tender. Drain.

    2. WHISK together all ingredients for the vinaigrette and then toss with the warm potatoes.

    3. FOLD in the diced apples and parsley and serve.
     
     
    ________________

    *The different types of vinegar.

     

    July 4th Potato Salad Recipe
    [1] A red, white and blue potato salad with crunchy white stars made from non-browning Envy apples (photos #1 and #3 © Envy Apple).

    July 4th Potato Salad Recipe
    [2] Another red, white and blue potato salad with bacon, walnuts, and bell peppers. Here’s the recipe (photo © U.S. Potato Board | Potatoes USA).

    Envy Apples On A Heart-Shaped Board
    [3] The Envy apple, a sweet and crispy apple that avoids browning for 10 hours or more. Here’s more about them.

     

     
     

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    FOOD FUN: Freeze Grapes To Use As Ice Cubes

    White Wine With Frozen Grapes Instead Of Ice Cubes
    [1] Frozen grapes keep chilled drinks (photo © Foods & Wines From Spain).

    Mixed Colors Of Grapes
    [2] A medley of grape colors looks best (photo © Melissa’s Produce).

     

    Here’s a way to keep cool your glass of white wine or other cold drinks that are served without ice: Use frozen grapes as ice cubes!

    They’re decorative, and when the drink is finished, tasty grapes that have taken on a hint of the drink are left to enjoy.

    In addition to white wine, rosé, sparkling wine, use frozen grapes to chill:

  • Beer
  • Cider
  • Juice
  •  
    You can also use them in drinks that typically have ice:

  • Carbonated beverages
  • Cocktails and mocktails
  • Mineral water
  •  
    You can mix and max types of grapes, but make them seedless for more elegant consumption (i.e., no need to dispose of the pits).

    How do you eat the grapes at the bottom of the glass?

  • Long toothpicks
  • Iced tea spoons
  • Freestyle
  •  

     
     

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    Silver Hills Bakery & The Delight & Benefit Of Sprouted Bread

    Sprouted bread is typically a product sold in natural food stores. In our little municipality—the island of Manhattan—the supermarkets are very small and you have to go to a natural foods store to find anything sprouted.

    Fortunately, we have more than a few Whole Foods Markets which carry sprouted breads (check both the fresh bread and freezer sections).

    And Silver Hills Bakery is a sprouted brand worth seeking out. Their whole grain products are so much more delicious and nutritious than conventional whole-grain breads.

    And tastier than other sprouted brands we’ve tried.

    So if you’re already a whole-wheat guy or gal, try sprouted. And if you eat supermarket white bread (with allowances for baguettes, challah, focaccia, rustic Italian loaves, and artisan breads from bakeries)…you’re in for a taste treat.

    One that’s good for you!
     
     
    WHAT ARE SPROUTED FOODS?

    Sprouting, also known as germination, is a common practice used to improve the digestibility and nutritional value of :

  • Grains (barley, corn, oats, rice, wheat).
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, and others).
  • Pulses (beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas—the edible seeds of legume plants).
  • Seeds (chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, sunflower seeds).
  •  
    The sprouting process involves soaking the food for up to 24 hours, then draining and rinsing repeatedly over several days.

    It’s labor-intensive, but beneficial nutritionally (more about that in a minute).

    To make sprouted bread, sprouted whole grains are milled into flour. It’s that simple.

    We typically consume whole-grain breads instead of refined grains, but we’ve taken the next step.

    Beyond conventional whole-grain bread, we’ve become a convert to sprouted grain bread because… we’ve discovered that it’s delicious!

    In particular, a sample of sprouted breads from Silver Hills Bakery arrived, and we couldn’t stop eating them—especially the most textured, seed-loaded varieties.

    Silver Hills Bakery has converted us to sprouted-grain bread and is our Top Pick Of The Week.
     
     
    THE BENEFITS OF SPROUTED BREAD

    It’s great that a slice of sprouted bread has 22g or more of whole grains (depending on variety) and 6g of protein (there are 3.6g in regular whole-wheat bread).

    The USDA’s 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines recommends that Americans consume at least 3 servings of whole-grain foods daily, which adds up to 48 grams of whole grains. Two slices of Silver Hills bread will get you there, almost.

    Sprouted bread has 47% less gluten than regular bread, 75% of the carbohydrates, and about 40% of the fat of even conventional whole-grain bread. There’s a greater amount of naturally occurring fiber, vitamins, proteins, and other nutrients.

    As a bonus, sprouted bread is low glycemic, and more easily digestible.

    But we’re in it for the great flavor.

    Whether it’s avocado toast or toast with cream cheese or jam for breakfast, in a ham and Swiss or grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, or in the dinner bread basket, give us sprouted grains!
     
     
    ABOUT SILVER HILLS BAKERY

    Silver Hills Bakery is a Canadian-based company that sells in Canada and the U.S. Its lines include loaves of bread, bagels, buns, and tortillas.

    They’re better-for-you bread options: sprouted whole grain nutrition, low-carb, gluten-free, and allergy-friendly.

    The products are:

  • Certified vegan
  • Certified kosher by Kosher Check, (the hechsher of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of British Columbia)
  • Verified Non-GMO Project
  • Whole Grains Council Certified
  • Certified organic options
  •  
    We’ve tasted the breads and bagels:

    The Loaves: There are 16 different loaves, of which the majority are organic. For the texture we love, pick Squirrelly (sprouted wheat stuffed with sesame and sunflower seeds) and The Big 16 (oat-topped sprouted wheat stuffed with 16 seeds and grains). A fan favorite we haven’t tried is Mack’s Flax (sprouted whole wheat with whole flax and ground flax).

    The Bagels: While the bagel textures are conventional—you wouldn’t know they’re sprouted, since the crumb* is smooth—we enjoyed them for their lower carb, low-glycemic profile. And the flavor is far better than the leading brand of frozen bagels! The flavors: Cinnamon Raisin, Everything, Plain, and Sesame Sunflower.

    Silver Hills products are sold fresh and frozen, depending on the variety and the store. Look for them at Target, Whole Foods, and on Amazon. Here’s a store locator.
     
    We’ve tried some other sprouted brands, but nothing tastes as good as Silver Hills. It’s worth seeing out.

    There are plenty of recipes on SilverHillsBakery.ca.
     
    ________________

    *Bakers use the term “crumb” to describe the interior consistency of breads and cakes. They can be light or dense, smooth or textured, etc.

     

    Loaf Of Silver Hills Bakery Sprouted Power Sprouted Bread
    [1] Sprouted power! Silver Hills Bakery’s lines are loaded with it (all photos © Silver Hills Bakery).

    Silver Hills Bakery Sprouted Bagels
    [2] Breakfast or snack? A sprouted bagel with peanut butter and fresh strawberries.

    Silver Hills Bakery Sprouted Bread French Toast On Cinnamon Raisin Toast
    [3] French toast with Silver Hill’s Cinnamon Raisin sprouted loaf.

    Avocado Sandwich On Sprouted Bread From Silver Hills Bakery
    [4] Sprouted power for lunch. Your sandwich will taste better, too.

    Silver Hills Bakery Sprouted Bread Snack Cheese & Cauliflower Spread On Toast
    [5] Snack or first course: cheesy cauliflower spread on toast. Here’s the recipe.

    Sprouted Grain Hot Dog Buns From Silver Hills Bakery
    [6] There are also sprouted hot dog and hamburger buns.

     

     
     

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