Spice Tips & Gooey Holiday Ham

by Ross Bowen, Tastemaker in Residence

A friend of mine, Steve Bennett, has a spice business, DipStix. I know Steve from the competition BBQ circuit in Minnesota. He is very easy going, and he and his wife Mary are well-liked by the other BBQ teams.  

Steve started the spice business in 1993, after years in the restaurant business. His best known line is DipStix dip mixes, with flavors like Classic Onion and Bacon Horseradish. His first batch of 1000 sold out in 2 hours and he knew he was on to something. For 19 years he had a booth at the Minnesota State Fair, but now his business focuses on the internet and specialty stores.

Many teams use his spices in competition and everyone welcomes his open manner in sharing BBQ tips. The other day we spoke and he gave me some ideas to share on spices and also shared his holiday Ham recipe.

Spices - Tips

The key to spices is freshness. You should write the date on your spices when you buy them and periodically toss the older spices. Try to buy the spices from a high-turnover store.

For DipStix spices, Steve mixes his spices within two weeks of receipt of the ingredients, and often on the first day. The Habanero, Jalapeno, Chipotle, Ancho, and Passila Negro chiles he uses are fresh ground in New Mexico. Garlic and onion are fresh ground in Wisconsin.

Getting the Flavor Right
You should not just taste a rub to try it. You have to cook with it. For instance, chiles are fat soluble. This means that you are not going to get their full flavor until they are cooked with the meat, and the actual result is going to be hotter than you might have expected from just testing the dry rub.

When you let a recipe sit overnight, the flavors are going to intensify. The acids will break down. Reheating will also increase the strength of the spices.  

The Right Rub for the Right Meat
Pork is the most common rub you will find. A basic pork rub will include sugar, salt, chili peppers, paprika, garlic, and onion.
Beef will generally follow the pork recipe but with less sugar. The flavor should be less powerful overall.
Chicken can take almost any kind of flavor, and needs more spices overall since chicken meat is less flavorful.  

Store your spices in a dry, cool place. Sorry, the freezer does not qualify as a dry place, so keep them in a dark cupboard. If pouring a spice directly into a soup, don’t hold the shaker in the steam, because the moisture could get into the bottle and affect the spice.

Holiday Gooey Ham Recipe

1 Bone-in half ham (do not use spiral sliced ham)  
Whole cloves (if desired)
3 cups brown sugar
Ground cinnamon
Powdered ginger
Ground clove
DipStix Mary's Favorite Rub (if you don’t have Mary’s Favorite Rub, use a mix of ½ cup salt, ½ cup sugar, ¼ cup paprika and ¼ cup pepper)
Ham Prep Instructions

  1. Trim off skin, bark & fat to expose ham (meat).   
  2. Score diamond pattern in ham. This is important! Helps Goo stick & absorb into meat.
  3. If desired, insert whole cloves in points of scored diamonds. (Steve personally doesn't think this is necessary unless you want a pretty presentation. With clove in the Gooey Mix, don't waste time inserting the whole cloves since you have to take them out later anyway).
  4. Place ham in an aluminum half pan, cut side down.

 Gooey Mix Instructions

  1. Mix the 3 cups brown sugar, cinnamon, powdered ginger, ground clove & Mary's Favorite Rub. NOTE: all ingredients except brown sugar should be mixed to your taste. Taste dry mixture and add additional ingredients to your liking. If you like clove, feel free to add more ground clove (and cinnamon too!!)
  2. Moisten mixture with a little bit of water to make a gooey paste. Add the water slowly. You want the paste to be thick goo, not too soupy.

Cooking Instructions

  1. Place a blob of the Gooey Mix on top of the ham.
  2. Place ham (in pan) on smoker or in oven. (Since ham is pre-cooked, all you need to do is warm the ham to eat).
  3. Baste ham with melted Gooey Mix from bottom of aluminum pan every 15 minutes. Since fat and skin have been removed, make sure to baste so meat doesn't dry out. After a while a coating will start to form on the outside of the ham.
  4. Once ham is warm, remove from smoker/oven & remove whole cloves (if inserted).
  5. Slice and drizzle Gooey Mix from pan over slices & serve!  

You can find out more about DipStix at dipstix.com