When my brother handed me a gallon sized zip lock bag heavy with salt, sugar, and spices I had no idea that this concoction would get me marriage proposals from men I have never met before. Apparently there was no room in the moving van for this heavenly Rib Rub (which has since become known that THE Rib Rub), so I got a gallon of it when we cleaned out his apartment so he could move from Rhode Island to DC after he graduated from Johnson & Whales.
Because my brother is a culinary ninja, I always assumed that this recipe was the mouthwatering masterpiece that came of hours spent in toiling in the food lab testing and tasting and toasting and grinding until it was just perfect. What I tend to forget is that my brother has worked at some amazing restaurants along his way to becoming a culinary ninja, so though I’m sure there were a ton of hours that went into this recipe, they weren’t necessarily Del’s hours.
Enter Dan Barber, the amazing culinary genius, New York’s very own Farm-to-Table Champion and owner of Blue Hill (and Blue Hill at Stone Barnes), where my brother interned for a semester as their Pastry Chef. You can see the original recipe here, which was intended to be a cure for pork belly. Its original form is intensely salty because it’s a cure (not a rub) and is supposed to be rinsed off the pork belly prior to the suggested braising then subsequent searing process. Though we’ve modified the ratio of spices, salt, and sugar, the brilliance behind this spice combo paired with pork is all due to the spice stylings of Dan Barber. So, though I’m sure you could put this rub on just about anything and it would taste amazing, I have always used on pork ribs (baby back or spare) and have always been super happy with the results.
This recipe will make enough rub to do 3-4 racks of ribs, but feel free to double, triple, or quadruple it, and keep it in an airtight jar for up to 6 months. If you throw it in a canning jar and slap a bow on it then you’ve got a great gift for any friend that loves pork the way that I do. Since the most challenging part of this recipe is finding a grocery store that carries all of the spices on the ingredient list, I’m sure you’ll adopt it as one of your go-to pork braising secret weapons. It’s so easy to do with guaranteed great results (marriage proposals and tasty ribs) that I keep a supply of it handy year round.
4 tsp Black Peppercorn
1 tsp White Peppercorn
2-3 pc Star Anise
1/2-1 pc cinnamon Sticks
1 tbsp Coriander Seed
2 tbsp Cumin Seed
2 tbsp Fennel Seed
1/2 tsp Cloves
1 Tbsp Ground Coriander
1/4 cup Salt
2 ½ tsp Sugar
Note: though I’ve swapped out ground spices for some of the whole ones on occasion, I really think you should make the effort to use as many whole spices as you can. But, finding them all organic? That has proved to much more difficult. Not even I have been able to find organic star anise anywhere in Manhattan.
Combine all of the whole spices in a mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly.
In a shallow sautee pan, toast spice mixture on medium until it is warm and fragrant. Stir frequently to ensure equal toasting on all spices. It should take 3-5 minutes to heat the oils and really develop the flavors in the spices.
Using a coffee grinder, magic bullet, mortar and pestle, or another powerful spice pulverizer, grind the blend until it reaches a medium to fine consistency.
Mix the spice blend with the ground coriander, salt, and sugar.
Store in airtight jar until you’re ready to give an amazing rack of ribs the special rub treatment. It should keep for around 6 months at room temperature before it loses it’s intensity.