Hey everyone! I decided it was time to step up my favorite pork rub today in anticipation of an upcoming friendly family cook-off later this month. Not that there's anything wrong with my current favorite, I have a couple of brother-in-laws (which we haven't seen in years) who we'll be meeting back in our home stomping-grounds. Judging from the phone conversation I had with them yesterday, one of them and his buddy will be tossing a little challenge of sorts - Pork Ribs being the category of choice. They say they have tons of smokers, grills and a newly built fire-pit to play with, and it sounds like they're not pulling any punches. I don't know their methods, amount of experience or skill-level, so I'm not going to throw this event and take it easy on them, oh no. I'm always looking for a good cooking challenge, so I can't just lay on the couch and let it ride. I have proven methods to achieve the finished texture and smoke flavor I desire and can develop a nasty-bad smoke ring, but I think there's a bit more I can do with my favorite pork rub. I want to leave them with a memory of what my dry rubs and smoking skills are all about, and of course, find out if they're up to their own challenge. That's it...I'm sucked into the game now...there's no turning back! It's time for another adventure while I test this recipe modification that I put to paper late last night.
This rub is intended for pork, ribs in specific, and, low & slow cooking only, as the natural sugars in the fruits will scorch quickly with high-heat cooking. It has a sweet and mildly spicy profile with no processed sugars. If you're familiar with my Hawg Heaven Rub or Blueberry/Cherry/RBP Rub, this is similar, and has changes in ingredients for a deeper, sweeter profile with a slightly milder spiciness and, hopefully an even smoother overall flavor.
Warning: this recipe is not for everyone. However, if you prefer a milder version, you can omit/reduce the cayenne (back-ground heat...it slowly sneaks up on you if the concentration is high enough...makes for interesting results during those taste-testing stages...LOL!!!) and black pepper (up-front bite). The white pepper can be reduced or omitted as well, though it lends little to no up-front bite to the overall flavor. White Pepper is very mild, that's why it's used in so many soup and sauce recipes (ever toss black pepper in a bowl of soup and regret spooning up the last of it?). I added White Pepper for just a bit deeper pepper flavor when combined with the red bells and peppercorns. Garlic is a milder heat-provoking ingredient as well, though it does add spiciness in the background. Please, make adjustments as you feel is necessary based on your personal preferences. Obviously, if you (or others who will eat this) can't tolerate much, if any, heat, drop all of the pepper and garlic from this recipe.
If you like sweet & moderately spicy, this rub will get your mouth watering. If you crave a bit more heat, add some dried Scotch Bonnets or whatever gets you that adrenaline-rush...I try not to make stuff that hot for a general recipe build...not my thing. You can also jack up the Cayenne Pepper...if you do, consider increasing the Cinnamon, as it reduces the bitterness in the background. I used Cayenne only because it's a common item that most folks have in their spice cabinet. There are numerous substitutes. Just be aware of whom you share the hot recipes with...others may not have the same passion for heat as yourself. Some may even have an allergy.
WILD HAWG DRY RUB
All measures are pre-grind, except if listed as powder.
4 Tbsp dried whole Blueberry
4 Tbsp dried Tart Cherry
3 Tbsp dried 3/8" diced Red Bell Pepper
5 Tbsp Apple powder (any sweet variety)
2 Tbsp dried minced Garlic
1-1/2 Tbsp Black Peppercorn
1 Tbsp ground White Pepper
2 Tbsp Sea Salt (sub with Himalayan Pink Salt,Kosher Salt, Salt Substitute, etc)
1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika (sub with Spanish Paprika)
1 Tbsp Rosemary
2-1/2 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Fennel Seed
1-1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper powder (sub to your liking)
1 tsp Cinnamon (optional: reduces bitterness of Cayenne)
1 tsp ground Cumin
3/4 tsp rubbed Sage
Yield is approx. 1-3/4 to 2 cups (I made a 1.5X batch and yield was ~3-3/4 cups...yeah, I'm confident this will be a good dry rub).
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, toss/tumble well. Portion 1-1/2 to 2 Tbsp into your blade-type (coffee) grinder at a time. You can add more if your grinder will not overload or stall. Use less if the grinder stalls/jams. Grind to near your desired particle size and place in a second container until all ingredients are ground, then repeat grinding for smaller particle size, if desired, and to aid in blending all of the ingredients of the dry rub for the best consistency. Also, pay attention to your grinder motor/housing temperature...it will heat up, and you don't want to fry the motor doing a larger dry rub batch. The blueberries and cherries will take a bit of time to break-down, so give your grinder a breather after about 1/2 of the batch's 1st grind...cover your rub containers and just take a break...your grinder will thank you for it. My old Mr Coffee grinder is pushing it's 8th year providing me with wet/dry rub and sauce/glaze ingredients...expecting it to die a couple years back I bought a replacement...it's still in the box.
Grinding the dry ingredients with the fruits will aid in preventing/reducing the formation of paste and stalling your grinder, as well as making for much easier clean-up. This is a very effective method for grinding dried fruits for use in a rub blend. The main draw-back to grinding all ingredients together is if you want larger particle sizes with certain spices but not others, although some of them could be ground separately or not ground at all, if desired, such as the Salt and minced Garlic. Keep in mind that the less spices, salt and herbs there are to mix with the dried fruits the more likely the blend will form a paste when grinding.
If you have a dehydrator to super-dry the fruits immediately before measuring ingredients helps a lot in avoiding paste formation. I super-dried the already dried Apple wedges, Cherries and Blueberries for 4 hours @ 235*, then, overnight for about 12 hours @ 225*. This made a huge difference with this batch, as there was absolutely no clumping or pasting in the grinder with the blended ingredients. The Apple (ground separately, then blended) had a slight tendency to clump, but was easily removed with a butter knife. The Cherries and Blueberries should be dried to a very firm texture when pinched, while the Apple should be dried as near to the point of being crisp as possible. The additional drying may be a necessity in higher humidity environments...the price you pay for a unique and delicious fruit-based dry rub.
This particular recipe (as well as it's predecessors) tends to clump soon after blending if tumbled in the container, so a regrind may be necessary prior to application onto your pork. Today's batch was easily tumbled in the container and flows very well, thanks to additional drying of the fruits. Clumping is due to the sugars and small amount of moisture in the fruits and is normal. This will be more noticeable in high-humidity climates. Application with a shaker container may give the easiest application results if any clumping is noticed. Do not compress this mixture until it is on your meat if signs of clumping exist, or it may pack to a very firm consistency, making a re-grind difficult, but necessary. With this new batch today, I was able to grab a pinch at a time with bare fingers and dust the ribs with no evidence of compression or clumping, whatsoever. I really appreciated the benefit of taking the time to dry my fruits well before grinding and blending, so, that said, I would recommend that you make use of your dehydrator, if you have one.
I smoked this new recipe with Apple, Hickory and Cherry. Cherry is a moderately sweet, somewhat heavy flavor, so blending with Apple (lighter, moderately sweet) and/or Pecan (pungent aroma) can lighten it up and smooth it over. I generally reserve Cherry smoke for beef, unless I'm blending smoke woods. Hickory is sharper, but still lends a sweeter background flavor, and is excellent with most pork cuts/preparations. Peach would also be a good choice, especially in combinations. And, let's add Almond to the list, while we're at it.
Baby Back getting the treatment...I applied the rub on rinsed, still moist ribs, bone side first. Just sprinkled it on all surfaces, rested for a few minutes while I got the fire going, and they went straight in before the fire was even established or the cooker heated up. Membrane still on:
I just tossed them into my Weber OTG 26.75" grill with the last 2 Yellow Taters I could find in the house and an Onion Blossom (yellow, cut 16-ways) in foil with a splash of water for steaming. I did not use a drip-pan for this smoke, as they can tend to baffle heat from getting to the center and far side of the grate...depends on the situation...sometimes I use them, but only if it's going to get really messy without a pan I thought about firing the WSM 18, but just revived this Weber kettle a few weeks ago after an unfortunate leg-support failure during the smoke of last Thanksgiving dinner sides. With only a few cooks in it this season I wanted to rekindle the fire, so to speak...besides, I like to expand my skills at any and every opportunity. Yes, these ribs look like they're from a medium suckling pig laying on this huge grate, and, sadly, this is not full load for this cooker by any means...(it's just the Mrs and myself for dinner tonight or I would have it loaded up):
2.5hrs in...grate temps ran ~225-235* fired with briquettes in a charcoal basket and one fire in the rear...lid venting towards the front for the best heat flow throughout the cooker...worked pretty well, so far:
I decided to foil this time around, just for a bit softer bark on the ribs...I rarely foil my ribs anymore (if I use that method I pan/tent with foil), but the wife likes them with a bit less firmness in the bite...4 hours into the smoke (I built the fire back up with about 15 hot briquettes before foiling)...bend-test looked good...firm, but with a bit of sag on the heavier end, and some pull-back (if you look closely...bad angle for viewing that)...time for foiling:
My meat fork had a bit of rendered fat on the tines, so things are coming along nice and slow...just the way I like it.
I've had problems with bone-in meats puncturing the foil in the past (nearly always), so I decided to lay the ribs meat-side down, then close the foil with triple-layer over the bones, then, fold the ends over and placed meat-side down on the grate...no added liquids. Steam away, lil' buddy:
A squeeze-check after foiling the ribs indicated that the smaller tater was finished, and the onion blossom looked dandy, so out the went:
5.25hrs into the smoke I yanked the 2nd (larger) tater out...1.25hrs in the foil...back to open grate to set the bark for a bit...I figure 30 minutes and it's chow-time!!! I wouldn't have believed it without seeing it myself, but this simple change in foiling method worked well. It had about 2 Tbsp of rendered fat and moisture ( with zero leaks!!!) in the foil when I opened it up, and, to place back on the grate it was already inverted (meat-side down), so I just tipped the foil to flip the ribs bone-side down and we're off to the finish...nice and easy with no leaks...I can't complain:
So, even this old rib-smoker can still learn a few tricks...LOL!!!
5.75hrs in...30 minutes on open grates...good thing I'm hungry, 'cuz the wife and I can't eat a full slab of BBs, but I'm gonna try...anyone brave enough to drop by for a taste of this new recipe?:
These came so close to my definition of perfect Baby Backs that it's almost scary...beauty of a smoke ring, tender bite, not FOTB, teeth marks in the meat, and juices abound...OK, so I lied...they're perfect. The flavor of the rub was even better than I expected, and it will now replace my former go-to pork rubs, Hawg Heaven and Blueberry/Cherry/RBP. It is a far smoother overall flavor profile than either of it's predecessors, and as such is an even better match-up for pork...well, for ribs, at least. With picnic or butts for pulled pork it may seem almost too smooth. I thought I might have gone too far for the average rib-lover, but considering how little Cayenne was used, yeah, it should be no surprise that it is what I would call a milder flavor profile. The combining of blueberry and apple really made the grade, as well...this is part of what I felt I was missing, and losing the Oregano changed it up for the better, as well. I'm ready for that throw-down...YEAH, BABY!!!
BTW, if you haven't already, now would be a good time to cover your keyboards and grab a roll of paper towels to mop up your drool...
OK, enough talk...let your eyeballs roam around on this:
I'm chalking up this recipe and smoke as a 100% success. I usually have something that I criticize in my recipe builds, or even the overall finished product...some little annoyance that makes me think I could have done this or that better...today, I could not find anything that I would have wanted different...dry rub, smoke, finished ribs...nope, everything was great. I am completely pleased with this smoke, and that almost never happens.
I'm glad I was able to crank out a big batch of this rub, 'cuz I'm fresh out of blueberries now...and this is just too good to not do again. I'll be spying every store I can hit up for more. I'll likely dehydrate my own apple slices from now on...dried apples at the store still need a lot of drying time for grinding and blending into dry rubs.
For those of you who have previously geared-up for the Hawg Heaven or Blueberry/Cherry/RBP rubs (drying/grinding the fruits), you're all set to give this version a whirl.
I think I covered everything for the recipe build (it's been a long afternoon of uploading and editing...LOL!!!), but if I missed something for the new guys & gals, give a shout.
Great smokes to all, and to all a good night!!!
Edited by forluvofsmoke - 8/7/16 at 7:17pm