Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Get Creative! Make Your Own Seasoning Mix!

Seasonings [Description: Round white bowls full of different seasonings]

Now that I have recovered from the DNC and all the visitors have gone home, it is time to get back to my main love; food. Well, I guess I shouldn't say my main love, but it ranks up there, sometimes edging the children down the list.

Part of the reason I created this blog was to give a platform for topics as simple as seasonings. When I was growing up, it was the period of Julia Child and French cooking, which seems to consist of taking any meat, seasoning it lightly with salt and pepper and spending the next half-hour on the sauce or sides. Well, growing up in a house with a West Indian-born Mom and going to a church full of southern-born men, that was what we called "naked meat."

How could it possibly have any flavor with just salt and pepper? In fact, until the Louisiana and Southern cooks began to break into television, I didn't see anyone cooking the way my Mother taught me, and how I saw the men season the piles of meat before laying them on huge home-made grills.

As a child, we had a cabinet full of seasoning, dried mostly, but occasionally fresh were bought for a special occasion dinner or event. I was taught early on how to rub, poke, lift the skin and hide seasonings on various kinds of meat.Vegetables also were seasoned, not as heavily as meat of course, but there was no dropping veggies in a salt bath and leaving it at that.

Today, we have the benefit of many ethnic groups contributing to our seasoning IQ. Indian seasonings can be found on grocery store shelves and ethnic stores abound, where you can wander down aisles perusing seasoning additions. Right here in Charlotte, where food entrepreneurs abound, we have a shop dedicated to nothing but seasonings, called The Savory Spice Shop. Classes are held and dishes prepared showing locals how to sharpen their seasoning sense.

So, you know as a grown person who finally sees seasoning on television the way I learned, I have to have a slew of seasonings in the house. I don't have a spice rack, not even a shelf. I re-purposed an old bookshelf/CD Rack into a SpiceCase. Yep, that's what I call it: The SpiceCase. Here is a picture:

The Spice Case [Description: Six-shelved black bookcase filled with spice bottles]
Now, I am also a collector of recipes. As usual, I print out more than I can use, but I have created a book of Tried and True recipes that have stood the taste tests of my children and were deemed worthy to repeat. I also have a book that has nothing in it but condiment, seasoning and clone recipes.

These are great when you are living on a budget (most people with disabilities that I know are living on a pretty stringent one), and you want to be able to whip up something without spending a lot of money or deal with pre-processed, pre-packaged foods. Also, if you are dealing with sodium restrictions, you can alter the mix as you please, leaving out any ingredient that doesn't fit in with your dietary needs. I have been making my own fajita, taco and chili seasoning mix without store-bought packets for years now.

Recently, I came across three meat rubs, and realized I hadn't tried any of them. Well, we had just bought two packs of ribs (end of season nostalgia) and I thought, hmmm....what a great way to have end of summer ribs and see if this rub mix would pass inspection to be save in the Tried and True book for next summer!

So, true to my nature, I didn't try one or two, but combined the ingredients for all three and came up with my own. After mixing, mostly by eye (though I did make a mental note of which measuring spoon I used), I came up with "Aunt Judi's Master Rub!" Well, that's what I called it when I finished mixing it all up. Right now, it is the only rub I'll use. Why?

Because the ribs came out fantastic BEFORE I put a drop of BBQ sauce on them! Couldn't snap a picture. As I told friends on FB, they were gone before I could blink!

There was an underlying sweetness from the brown sugar, but not overbearingly so. The pepper, which tasted so strong when I first tasted the dry ingredients had softened to the tenderest of heat and smoke. The rest of the ingredients became one cohesive taste that reminded me of church outings along the Hudson River near Bear Mountain in New York State.

I was flabbergasted! Instead of mixing together just a bunch of seasonings, I had recreated my childhood summers!
The Master Rub [Description: Seasonings in a round plastic container]

So, I share with you the rub recipe. I can't rightly call it mine, since many an old deacon has obviously mixed up the same thing, but I don't mind. If you and your kids get to taste a bit of what my childhood was like, it is worth it! Enjoy!

Aunt Judi's Master Rub ( I couldn't help it! Love the way it sounds!)

It is pictured in a plastic bowl, but if you can, store the rub in a recycled glass jar, which is better for herbs and spices.

3 TB brown sugar
2 tsp paprika (smoked if you can get it)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp kosher salt (or as needed)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp powdered ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (My mother would have grated it from whole)
1/4 tsp powdered cumin
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp mustard powder

Combine all ingredients and mix until incorporated with a fork.

Rub generously on ribs, chicken, pork chops, turkey or steaks for barbecuing.

Wrap meat in wax paper or foil and let marinate for at least 4-5 hours (overnight is best!) before cooking or grilling.

For my ribs, they went into the oven at 250 degrees for 6 hours. Perfectly tender! Slather with sauce and let warm as you please, but can be eaten "dry."

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