I’m about to give you a meat rub that will change your life.
I first discovered sugar meat ribs when I ate ribs in the Caribbean. They were slathered in an ebony syrup like jerk sauce that was so fantastic, but I kept feeling as though there was something more. I always get this way with food – always looking for the ‘A-HA!’ moment as to why something tastes so good. This time, it was a sugar rub.
I did a little sniffing around and discovered that incorporating sugar into a meat rub is fairly common in the Caribbean islands. The dark, treacly sugar acts as a sweet seasoning for the meat which contrasts the savour of the meat. I was told this is why sugar rubs are often reserved only for darker meats (not chicken or fish – insert flight attendant joke here) as the contrast of the sweetness against the tang of dark meat is a beautiful contradiction.
A beautiful contradiction. What a dramatic way to think of food.
But it’s true when you think about it. Adding sugar to savoury dishes is no wheel-invention. I’m often throwing sugar into dishes that include tinned tomatoes as I find tinned tomatoes to be quite acidic, but using sugar as a means of enhancing a flavour as opposed to countering one is a whole other ball game. And it’s the only sport I’m happy to try.
Back on UK soil I put my brain to work and tried to create a mix of seasoning and spices that would not only flavour a piece of meat in a unique way, but blend spices together with the sugar to create a full balance of flavours that veered off of just savoury and sweet. I wanted smoke and an aniseed smack around my face and I feel these flavour combinations are the perfect balance.
This post has no official ‘recipe’ per se, all you need to do is grind some spices together. These measurements make quite a lot mind so play around with the quantities as you see fit, but I like to make big a big jar full so that I can rub my meat whenever I need to. So take about 80g of soft brown sugar in a bowl and add a teaspoon of celery salt and a teaspoon of sesame seeds.
Add a tablespoon of caraway seeds along with a big tablespoon of smoked paprika. Now grind everything together. Easier if you’re doing in a pestle and mortar but not the end of the world if you combine everything and just use your fingers. We’re rubbing meat later so using your hands is probably a good start anyway.
That’s literally the end of the brown sugar rub essentially, now what you do with it from here is completely up to you. I feel like a Greek god giving you some kind of power and encouraging you to run away and prosper but like I said, this rub is literally going to change your life.
I have continued through with my original inspiration for this and have rubbed it on to a rack of ribs (below) covered with foil and baked for two hours on 180C and then 30 minutes without the foil on 200C – and that was delicious. I served that up with rice and beans and some spiced butter roasted corn. A good island inspired feast.
But the real gag here – and you’re just going to have to trust me on this – is to try it on bacon. Oh yes. You make think tampering with the bacon sandwich is a little unorthodox and almost bordering on criminal, but you will thank me. Take a few rashers of bacon and gently smear the brown sugar rub over them. Give them two shakes to get rid of the excess and drop them into a pan of melting butter. Fry. Put in a bun. Eat.
And then thank me later.