The annual Alaska State Fair is held in the fertile Matanuska Valley, where cabbages can grow up to 70 pounds in the short summer season. The rugged Chugach Mountain range that rises above the valley gives the whole fair a travel-poster look. As at any state fair, quilts, rabbits, and big zucchini are on display, but do-it-yourself log cabins and fur shoes add a distinctively local touch. The food is hearty, and barbecued ribs, served fresh off the fire out of a big metal tub, are a popular favorite. Corn on the cob, a big serving of beans, and two paper napkins are the embellishments. Carefully, you carry your plate over to the "Sluice Box," a Quonset hut with long tables, beer, and a neighborhood Western band. Everyone there is chomping on ribs and having fun.
3 to 4 pounds beef or pork spareribs
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon mustard
Pepper to taste
To make the barbecue sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, add onion and garlic, and cook just until limp. Add remaining ingredients. Stir and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Barbecue the ribs on a grill over charcoal, basting with sauce.
The ribs may also be baked in the oven: Place ribs on a rack and bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees F. Pour off fat carefully. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F and cook ribs an additional 30 minutes, basting several times with sauce.