Pork and apples and onions and sweet potatoes and gravy, oh my! If that doesn’t just scream “FALL COMFORT FOOD!”, I don’t know what does. And not just any pork, but some rich, tender, succulent cider braised country ribs, too.
Country ribs aren’t really ribs at all, other than they’re sliced in nice long pieces from pork shoulder so that they look like thick cut, super sized ribs. Because they’re a mix of both white and dark meat and marbled with fat, they’re perfect for braising and slow cooking. In this recipe, I’ve cut down the cook time using the Instant Pot so that they cook in only 35 minutes and even make their own gravy as they go. While the cider braised country ribs are resting, you’ve got time to whip up some whipped sweet potatoes, making this a cozy dish that we’ve had on repeat at my house.
While the cider braised country ribs themselves are deliciously tender and apple scented with a hint of sweetness, what really pushes this dish over the edge is the apple onion gravy that practically makes itself. The country ribs are braised in a mixture of unsweetened apple cider (or unsweetened apple juice), apple cider vinegar and some fresh apples and onion. It’s a trifecta of apple-y goodness that comes together with all the lovely juices released from the braised meat.
Once the country ribs are cooked and removed from the Instant Pot, you’re left with an herb-laced apple onion mixture that blends up into a smooth, glistening sauce with a stick blender right in the pan.
When I was originally testing this dish out, I peeled the apples and thickened up the sauce into a gravy by adding some tapioca starch. The result was good, but not as flavorful as I wanted. And maybe it’s just me, but I find those starch-slurry thickeners don’t work that well. If the sauce or gravy gets too hot, they have a tendency to seize up or leave a slightly gloopy texture. So I wanted to do without them if possible.
The easiest way to do this was to leave the apples au naturel, skins and all, and to reduce down the cooking liquid so that the flavors were nice and concentrated. The great thing about this method is that it’s super simple and you can reduce down the liquid to the thickness you prefer. For a looser gravy, you only need to cook it for a few minutes until it darkens and reduces down to the 3 cup (720 ml) line on the Instant Pot insert. For a thicker gravy, you can continue to reduce the liquid down to about 2 cups (480 ml). The choice is yours!
While the cider braised country ribs are cooking and resting, you’ve got time to make some whipped sweet potatoes to really round out the dish and upgrade comfort food levels to warp speed. I like to reserve some of the rendered fat from browning the pork to whip into the sweets for an extra flavor boost. I usually do add a little coconut milk to make them super smooth and creamy, but you can easily make them coconut free by omitting the coconut milk, then adding 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of broth and an extra 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of extra fat if you like.
When it comes to which apples to use, I haven’t found it makes too much difference, but for the most concentrated apple flavor, I like to use a tart apple (like Granny Smith, Pink Lady or Braeburn) and a sweet apple ( like Fuji or Gala) for balance. Whichever apples you happen to have to hand will probably turn out just fine!
Looking for more AIP Instant Pot recipes?
This recipe was included in the Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable.
- 3½ lbs / 1.5 kg boneless pork country ribs (see notes)
- 2 tbsp / 30 ml avocado oil or pork lard
- ⅔ cup / 160 ml unsweetened apple juice or apple cider
- 3 tbsp / 45 ml apple cider vinegar, divided
- 2 small - medium apples
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 2 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 4 large sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 tsp / 5 g fine sea salt
- BROWN: Pat the country ribs dry and cut each piece in half. Heat a skillet over medium heat with the fat of your choice. If your country ribs have a large layer of fat along one side, add them to the skillet fat side down first. Cook, rendering the fat, until the fat has brown. Turn the country rib pieces and continue to brown them on both of their thickest sides, about 5 minutes or so a side. Transfer the browned country ribs to a plate and repeat with the remaining pieces, if necessary. Reserve the rendered fat from the skillet for later.
- LAYER: Add the apple cider and 2 tbsp / 30 ml of the apple cider vinegar to the bottom of the Instant Pot insert. Place the browned country ribs into the insert in layers, largest pieces on the bottom. Peel the onions and chop them into half moon pieces about ½ inch / 1 cm thick. Chop each of the apples into eight pieces and discard the cores - no need to peel them. Tuck the apple and onion pieces into the Instant Pot between and around the country ribs. Add the rosemary and thyme, then sprinkle with salt.
- PRESSURE COOK: Pop the Instant Pot lid on and set the vent to sealing. Use the Meat & Stew setting and cook for 35 minutes. Turn off the Instant Pot and let the meat rest for 15 minutes before using quick release.
- BOIL: If you can, preheat your oven's warming setting. While the country ribs are resting, peel and chop the sweet potatoes into chunks. Add them to a saucepan and cover them with just boiled water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until they are just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the cooked sweet potatoes and let them sit for a few minutes while they release steam - this helps reduce any potential gumminess later.
- SIMMER: Use tongs to remove and discard the herb stems. Transfer the cooked country ribs to a plate or platter, cover and keep them warm in the oven. Use a stick blender to puree together the liquid and leftover apple and onion mixture in the Instant Pot until you have a smooth sauce. You should have a little over 3 cups / 720 ml of liquid total. Taste and add extra salt if you like, along with the remaining 1 tbsp / 15 ml of apple cider vinegar. Use the Saute function and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook until the gravy darkens and reduce to 3 cups / 720 ml for a looser gravy or even further to 2 cups / 480 ml if you like a super thick gravy, about 5 - 15 minutes.
- WHIP: While the gravy is reducing, add the cooked sweet potatoes to the bowl of a food processor, along with the reserved rendered fat. Roughly chop, then scrape down the sides and add the coconut milk, salt, rosemary and thyme. Whip together until smooth and creamy.
- SERVE: On a large platter, make a bed of whipped sweet potatoes, then top with the country ribs and serve the gravy on the side for family style. Alternatively, divide the mash between plates and portion the country ribs as you like, then drizzle with the gravy to taste.
If your ribs are on the thinner side, reduce the cook time to 30 minutes and rest just as the recipe suggests. If you like (and if they'll fit into the Instant Pot insert), you can leave the thinner rib slices whole instead of cutting them in half.
Not crazy about coconut? Leave it out, adding 2 tbsp / 30 ml of broth and an extra 1 tbsp / 15 ml fat of your choice.
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