Cocoa rubbed ribs with spicy cherry conserve

Dinner tonight was an adventure!   Our 10-year old son loves a barbecue sauce from a local joint called Sticky Lips.   The sauce is called Cherry Bomb and he could eat it with a spoon, I swear!  So today I decided to make my own version of Cherry Bomb to go on the ribs we had for dinner.

First, though, I  needed a great rub for the ribs and my mind went to chocolate (chocolate and cherries~mmmmm!) so the rub today had cocoa, dark brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, all spice and ancho chili powder.  It had a great flavor and the sugar really caramelized nicely on the ribs.

I don’t have a smoker and we have a gas grill that would run out of propane before the ribs were done, so I wrap the rubbed ribs in foil and cook them low and slow  (275•)in the oven for 3 hours or so and finish them on the grill.  They weren’t quite as good as the ones we get at Sticky Lips that are smoked all day long, but they were pretty darn good!
The sauce was another challenge.  I had read many recipes for cherry barbecue sauce, some used cherry preserves, some had a tomato base, some used tart cherries, and some sweet. Choices! Choices!  Because Cherry Bomb sauce is on the sweet side, I chose frozen Bing cherries (fresh ones are just too darned expensive to use).  I used Vidalia onion, a good amount of garlic and grated ginger,  cider vinegar for some acid, Cayenne for some heat, and brown sugar, just because.  I sauteed the aromatics and added the cherries and simmered for 20 minutes or so until it was getting thick and syrupy.  I tasted and fiddled and tasted and fiddled, and in the end needed to add some tomato paste for depth, and lemon and orange zests to brighten the flavors, and bingo!  Cool a bit, and blitz it in the food processor and we were in business.  It really wasn’t a barbecue sauce but more of a sweet and savory jam, but whatever it was, it was delicious!
In our family if five, I got three thumbs up for this recipe, one of our daughters thought it was “OK” , and our 10-yr old son who inspired this adventure didn’t like it at all and went with a bottled sauce instead. (And there wasn’t any  Cherry Bomb either!)  Kids…
Cocoa rubbed babyback ribs with spicy cherry conserve
Mary Beth’s Spicy Cherry Conserve
1 Tb. neutral oil (like safflower, grapeseed or canola)
1 c. diced Vidalia onion (1 small)
1 Tb. minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
1 Tb. minced fresh ginger ( I used  jarred minced organic ginger)
2 Tb. tomato paste
3 Tb. cider vinegar
4 c. frozen Bing cherries, thawed, with juice (I used two bags of frozen fruit)
1/4 tsp. ancho chili powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tb. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. orange zest
Saute onion, garlic and ginger in the oil on med/high heat for 5 minutes until onion is soft and translucent.  Add tomato paste and cook another two minutes.  Add vinegar and deglaze the pan.  Then add cherries with their juices, chili and pepper, and a pinch of salt.  Simmer for 20 minutes over med/low heat until it begins to look thick and syrupy.  Add the zests and simmer for 5 minutes longer.
Remove from heat, allow to cool for 5 minutes then put in the food processor or the blender and pulse 3-4 times to break up the cherries.
This would be delicious on pork tenderloin, grilled steaks, and duck as well.
It makes a large batch so I’ll be looking for ways to eat it up!

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