Poor Man's Spare Ribs (Pork Neck Bones)
Neck bones are, well, bones from the neck. With meat on them. These days, most butchers just get as much meat as they can off of the neck bones and then use it for sausage, but it turns out that the neck has some of the most flavorful meat on the pig! (Pro tip: if you see pork collar steak on a menu, try it, it is tender and flavorful.) Neck bones meat has more collagen than a tender collar steak, but it is bursting with flavor. Like any tougher cut, low and slow cooking will turn the collagen tender, for a melt-in-your-mouth flavor. Stewed, it is a soul food classic; here, we treat it like spare ribs, brushing with a nice BBQ sauce and then popping them under the broiler for a crispy, caramelized finish. The meat to bone ratio is less favorable than spare ribs, but they cost half as much, so there. Serves two.
2 lbs of Flight Path Farm Pork Neck Bones
1 cup of broth, apple cider, or water
1 T of mild vinegar (apple cider or white wine)
1/2 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t paprika
1 t thyme
1/2 t ginger
1 bay leaf
salt and black pepper
BBQ sauce of your choice
Add liquid, vinegar, and bay leaf to a crock pot. Generously season the neck bones all over with salt and pepper and add to pot. Sprinkle spices over meat, then scatter garlic and onion over the meat. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours, until the meat is tender but not yet falling off the bone (if it falls off, it can turn into a bunch of small bits in the broth).
Once cooked, remove meat, still on bone, to a baking sheet. Brush with BBQ sauce. Turn broiler to high and place neck bones under broil. Broil 2-5 minutes, until the BBQ sauce is bubbly and starting to brown. (Keep a close eye to make sure it doesn't start to burn -- exact time will depend on your oven and how far the bones are from the heat.) Serve hot from the oven, with additional sauce on the side and plenty of napkins.
Note -- don't throw away the cooking broth! Check to make sure that there are no bone fragments, allow to stand until cooler in a tall, narrow cup or gravy separator. Skim fat off the top, then use it as a base for soup, or use it to replace half (or all) the water when cooking rice for a flavorful rice pilaf.