The 4th of July in San Francisco is different than anywhere else in the States. Usually, for most states, it is summertime and the living is easy! Barbecues, refreshing beverages, rising temperatures and fireworks. In San Francisco, it is chilly chilly fog, average temps of 55, blowing blustering winds, forlorn cookouts in the backyard or fire escape wearing lots of fleece and wool socks, and the booms of fireworks lighting up clouds in shades of pink, green and blue while clutching a brandy.
This year was not going to be an exception. I had a craving to make grilled ribs and Anna and Robert were game to have me over. Anna and I shopped at Costco earlier in the week and spent an absolute fortune on all kinds of great things, and managed to remember to buy ribs and beans and tequila for the 4th! The pork loin ribs from Costco looked terrific, very meaty and thick, and I was excited to get cooking.
Then, surprisingly, on Friday a glimmer of sunshine came out of the fog, we were invited to a 4th of July party in San Rafael! It is so amazing that just across the Golden Gate it really is summer, it’s warm, hot even, and people lived normal summer lives, unlike our wintery summers in SF. Summer was coming! Friday night I frantically packed up a few necessary ingredients for the ribs and beans, and got some rib sauce recipe ideas from my Swap pals. A shock of horror went through me when I realized I could not find the treasured family baked bean recipe. Fortunately, mOm was home and was willing to relay it to me (again). We had the loveliest chat about family traditions during the holidays and when I realized I had 20 minutes to get ready before my friends picked me up, she helped me remember everything I needed to pack for a weekend away. Thanks mUm!
At Anna’s house, there was a Force 10 gale off the beach and the fog so dense it frosted the windows with a sheen of moisture and sand. But inside it was cozy and warm with the oven preheating and the wine open. I began the preparations for the ribs and beans. I also brought over my first loaf of sourdough, which was rising. As part of my helping out at the Sour Flour bakery, I was gifted with some sourdough starter (see Son of Blarf II) and grew it enough to make dough that morning.
This bread is a white whole wheat sourdough, and I kneaded it for a while until it was smooth as a baby’s bottom, as my dear former neighbor Olga taught me.
(here it is, still in the kneading process, not quite at a windowpane yet.)
Right before Anna and Robert came to pick me up, she was resting gently in her oiled bowl.
(Shh, she’s sleeping….)
It was very exciting to bake this first loaf, I formed it into a boule and turned it out onto a cornmeal dusted baking sheet, and popped it in the oven at a pretty high heat, and added hot water to a baking sheet on the bottom of the oven to create the perfect steamy sauna it needed. This is a big loaf and it took almost 45 minutes to fully bake, but it was perfect. Deeply browned, crusty outside, moist, soft and sour inside with a decent crumb, and it tasted perfect with a smear of goat butter and a sprinkle of sea salt.
While the boule was baking, I started chopping Vidalia onions for the rib sauce. I have a favorite commercially bottled sauce by Stonewall Kitchen and wanted to try to recreate it for the 4th but wasn’t sure what to use for a base. Happily my pals at the Swap came through and I used Dawn’s Thai BBQ Sauce and added fig jam, honey and Vidalia onions. It was perfect, spicy, zingy, good onion flavor and the fig came through (although next time I think I will add more fig jam).
I started the beans with a bit of trepidation, as we had purchased a flat of beans at Costco, 8 15 oz cans and Anna suggested we make them all. My family recipe is for 20 ounces so I quadrupled it basically and chopped up a pound of bacon and more onion and got them to sautéing. Anna opened cans for me from her perch on the sherling covered chair where she was avidly watching Sherlock Holmes with a glass of juice (wine) in her hand. I didn’t mind missing it as I had already seen it about 5 times over and just popped out, wooden spoon in hand, to watch the juicy bits. I love Jeremy Britt as Sherlock Holmes.
The beans went in the oven when the bread came out and the house really began to fill with the familiar holiday scents of beans and BBQ sauce. Next I mixed up a large bowl of spice rub for the ribs using good ole Emeril’s Kansas City BBQ ribs from TV. I slathered handfuls of this on the ribs and let them marinate while the oven was otherwise occupied. The beans were done and I dished up little ‘cat’ bowls of them for us to nibble on with the bread, and I began roasting the ribs, covered in foil, while we watched another great murder mystery series on PBS. What a perfect Friday night! And I got a treat, Anna’s mum gave me a great pair of shoes, aren’t they cute?
Three bottles of juice later, the ribs were done, dressed in dollops of BBQ sauce and put to bed in the fridge for the next day. We stayed up really late chatting, watching TV and just being silly until the wee hours and I tottered off to my bunk for the night.
The next morning, a tad fuzzy from all that juice and after a nice lie in, I reheated the beans and packaged up everything ready for the car trip. My dear hosts had a church obligation that morning so the doggies and I had a grand time hanging out while I decorated myself for the holiday. Red: I “rouged” my hair, I think I’ll stay red for a while, seems to be attention-getting. White: my lily-white gams! Haven’t seen sun in a year I think! And the foggy weather here isn’t going to change this. Speaking of fog: Blue: my toes! So foggy on that morning but fortunately a drive across the Golden Gate to Marin yielded warm balmy weather, I even sat in sunshine for a while. With a margarita, ahhh, good.
(“Red as a copper pipe”, says Anna)
What a great group of people and a lovely day. Poolside with a margarita we watched the kids play chicken, and the girls won!
(Amazing, I caught the winning shove!)
We warmed the ribs on the grill with more sauce and they were infused the the flavor of lots of great woodsmoke. I sliced them up in the kitchen and thoroughly sauced them, and of course, had to sample one. Just for quality control purposes mind you. They were delicious! The beans looked great too, and were very popular. The swarms of people pounced and sadly not everyone got a rib (next time Anna, I promise). It was gratifying to me as a stranger to most everyone there food is the ultimate unifier and I made fast friends through the common vehicle of good food.
After the food was consumed and the sun-hazed sky started to darken we watched the fireworks from Martinez, the Marin County Fair, San Francisco and Oakland popping away in the distance. It was gratifying to see the pink and green and blue clouds from San Francisco light up, and the chrysanthemum bursts from the non-fogged in cities blossom in front of us as we gazed on the Bay, the waters lit with the full-ish moon and the glow of the bridges. What a great night and what a great way to remember how lucky we are to live here in the United States, and how grateful we are for our freedom and our friends.
(Anna-bella and hal-a-bella)
(Dog pile on the couch, Robert playing Uncle Sam!)
Heather’s Greek/Thai Fig Vidalia Onion BBQ Sauce
1 1/2 c ketchup
1 1/2 c Thai sweet chili sauce
4 good shakes of Liquid Smoke flavoring
1 T black pepper
¼ c rice vinegar
1 T dried hot chile powder (chipotle and cayenne)
1 very large Vidalia onion, chopped fine
1 jar Greek fig jam
¼ c creamed honey
1 t olive oil
A bay leaf
In a sauce pan sauté the onion until tender and translucent. Add the Thai sweet chili sauce and the fig jam, stir together until melted. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 30 minutes. Wonderful on ribs!
(Here is a link the original recipe)
mOm’s Memorial Day Baked Beans
2 T onion, minced
2 T bacon fat
(4 slices diced bacon)
Sauté bacon until rendered, remove. Add onion until soft, add:
2 cans Hunts baked beans (1# 5 oz beans)
1/2 c Heinz katsup (this is how my Granny spelled it)
1/4 c brown sugar
2 t dry mustard
2 good shakes Worcestershire sauce
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, uncovered if it’s really juicy or covered if it’s more dry.
(This recipe was originally from my Granny, she was an amazing cook. This is the way baked beans are supposed to taste to me.)