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Cayenne-Cinnamon Ribs with Maple Glaze


When people find out I’m the chief spice buyer for McCormick, the first question they often ask is, “What’s the most popular spice?” In the United States, the king of spices is black pepper. However, on a global basis, another hot spice – red pepper – surpasses black pepper tenfold, with an estimated worldwide production of 6 billion pounds! By far, it is the most widely consumed spice in the world.

There are over 200 varieties of red pepper, collectively known as capsicums. They are prized for the color, flavor and heat they bring to a wide range of foods. Generally speaking, the smaller the size of the pepper, the hotter it will be. Larger pepper varieties, such as paprika, are grown for color and minimal heat, while smaller peppers, such as chiles and cayenne, deliver explosive heat. Most red pepper varieties, like Mexican chiles, are in the middle heat range, which is still plenty hot for the average U.S palate.

Indigenous to the Caribbean and Latin America, red pepper was discovered by Christopher Columbus on his journey to find a quick passage to the East Indies to source spices such as black pepper, ginger and turmeric. Seeds from red pepper plants were brought back to Europe and eventually found their way to India, where it became the most prevalent spice. Today, with an annual production of over two billion pounds a year, India remains the largest producer and consumer of red pepper.

To get a good picture of this year’s red pepper crop in India, early spring is the best time for me to visit the growing area. The pepper plants are plentiful, and the harvest season is at its peak. The first harvest comes in late February, with new fruit maturing every 4 to 6 weeks, yielding up to four pickings through early summer. India’s largest production regions are in the central and southern parts of the country, including the state of Andhra Pradesh — the largest grower of chiles.

Arriving in India, I found myself reminiscing about my first trip here over 20 years ago. I had been working the Malabar coast region and decided to take an all night train to a small town in southern Tamil Nadu, since air travel was very limited. The old, outdated train chugged along at a modest speed, stopping at each local village to take on new passengers, along with vendors selling food and drinks. I dined on Roti sandwich wraps, filled with curried chicken and highly seasoned with spices and red pepper! The train ride was fascinating, and as one can imagine, not a lot of sleep was had that night.

While much progress has been made in the years since my first visit, the growing region remains virtually unchanged. Both sides of the road as far as the eye can see are endless rows of chile plants, laden with red pepper pods waiting to be hand harvested by farmers. This area on the eastern side of the Ghat Mountains is very hot and dry — ideal for growing red peppers. The red pepper plant, Capsicum annuum, is in the same botanical family as bell peppers and tomatoes, yet very different in flavor. Red peppers are primarily grown for their pungency value, which is the measure of capsaicin contained within the pod. This natural ingredient ignites the heat sensation in the mouth, and is found in the top half of the pod in the inner lining and around the seeds.

The pepper plant grows anywhere from two to four feet in height, and each plant contains multiple pods. Much like tomatoes, the unripe fruit is green, gradually changing to a vibrant red, just before harvest. Unbelievably, all of the chile pods are picked by hand and sun dried. It is very common to see large fields converted to drying areas, with rows of pods piled high. After drying, the farmer bags his harvest into burlap sacks and takes his crop to market.

Murugan, my local expert for over two decades, accompanies me to the marketplace to observe the chile ‘auction.’ The selling of chiles is a captivating process to watch, as the price of each 50 pound bag is negotiated. Spice merchants like Murugan have become our trusted agents, ensuring the best quality chiles from a select group of farmers. Following a time-honored tradition, sellers finish each sale through a hand to hand exchange with the buyer under a large napkin-sized cloth, with the final price being paid in secrecy.

At the end of the day, my host prepared a banquet dinner. The entire extended family greeted me by presenting a lei made of cardamom and marigold flowers. The dishes of food prepared for the evening were some of the best Indian cuisine I have tasted. Lamb and chicken curries and masalas were accompanied by plain yogurt to take away the heat of the red pepper. And, a bread pudding flavored with cardamom was the perfect dessert.

I hope you have a flavorful summer, and look forward to sharing one of my next trips with you soon.


McCormick’s chief spice buyer, Al Goetze, travels to exotic ports-of-call, trekking across varied terrain in search of the finest herbs and spices.

Cayenne-Cinnamon Ribs with Maple Glaze
This two-step method for cooking baby back ribs produces sweet-spicy ribs
that are “fall off the bone” tender.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon McCormick® Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon McCormick® Paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon McCormick® Ground Cinnamon
1/2 to 1 teaspoon McCormick® Ground Red Pepper*
3 pounds baby back pork ribs
1/4 cup maple syrup

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix brown sugar, spices and salt in small bowl. Rub spice mixture onto both sides of ribs. Place in single layer in foil-lined roasting pan. Cover with foil.

2. Bake 1 hour or until meat starts to pull away from bones. Meanwhile, preheat grill to medium heat.

3. Brush baked ribs with maple syrup. Place on grill and cook 3 to 5 minutes per side or until browned.

Makes 6 servings.

Directions to Cook Ribs Completely on Grill: Preheat grill to low heat. Rub ribs with spice mixture as directed. Wrap ribs in 2 to 3 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil, sealing ends tightly. Grill 1 hour or until tender. Remove ribs from foil. Brush with maple syrup. Grill ribs over medium heat 3 to 5 minutes per side or until browned.

*Test Kitchen Tip: Use 1 teaspoon McCormick® Crushed Red Pepper in place of the Ground Red Pepper.

Nutritional Information per One Serving: About 463 Calories, Fat 31g, Protein 26g, Carbohydrates 20g, Cholesterol 122mg, Sodium 700mg, Fiber 1g

Zesty Corn and Cucumber Salad

Flavorful ingredients, such as cilantro, lime juice and cumin, add Southwestern flair
to this simple salad accented with paprika.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Refrigerate: 2 hours

2 cans (15 1/4 ounces each) whole kernel corn, drained
1 cup diced seeded unpeeled cucumber
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon McCormick® Paprika*
1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Garlic Salt
1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Ground Cumin

1. Mix corn, cucumber and onion in large bowl; set aside.

2. Mix remaining ingredients in small bowl until well blended. Add to corn mixture; toss lightly to coat. Cover.

3. Refrigerate 2 hours or until ready to serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Season’s Best: To use fresh corn, husk and cook 4 ears corn-on-the-cob until tender. Cool and cut off kernels to measure 3 cups.

*Test Kitchen Tip: Use 1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Ground Red Pepper or 1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Crushed Red Pepper in place of the Paprika.

Nutritional Information per One Serving: About 175 Calories, Fat 11g, Protein 3g, Carbohydrates 16g, Cholesterol 7mg, Sodium 560mg, Fiber 2g

Chicken Under a Brick

Just add a sassy marinade and…a brick. That’s right, a brick!

HUNT VALLEY, MD (June 2007) – A marinade and a brick are about to become America’s favorite new tools for summer grilling. McCormick®, the flavor expert, presents “Chicken Grilled Under A Brick.” It’s a Tuscan technique guaranteed to turn ho-hum chicken into a juicy, crisp-skinned, flavorful delight. Called pollo al mattone in Italian, the dish starts with a flattened chicken and a savory marinade. Add a foil-covered brick to hold the chicken flat to the grill while it cooks.

The result is the crispest possible exterior and a juicy, evenly cooked interior. Switch up the marinade – recipes for four delicious versions are offered here – for extra fun. Of course there’s nothing new about it, Italians have been cooking this way for centuries. Yet, for today’s busy cooks, pollo al mattone is an easy, nearly foolproof technique – and a definite conversation starter for parties.

Smaller chickens do best. Cornish game hens or “fryer” chickens less than three pounds are perfect candidates. Cut the chicken lengthwise along the breastbone and press to flatten it out. This exposes the maximum amount of the meat’s surface to the hot grill. Marinating for two hours, or even better overnight, brings luscious flavor and makes for a juicier chicken overall.

Then, fire up the grill, lay the chicken skin-side down and quickly cover it with a foil-covered brick. That’s what keeps the chicken flat so that it cooks evenly, retains all its juices and develops a beautifully bronzed, incredibly appetizing exterior. Turn once about halfway through cooking. Wait for the applause.

Summer fun is on the way with these recipes for “Chicken Grilled Under A Brick,” complete with Tuscan, Asian, Southwest and Orange-Thyme marinades.

“Chicken Grilled Under A Brick”

Step 1: Preparing the Chicken

Unwrap 2 Cornish game hens (about 1 1/2 pounds each) OR 1 whole chicken (about 3 pounds). Remove giblets from cavity; rinse and pat dry.

Place Cornish hens or chicken on cutting board breast-side-up with open cavity facing you. Using poultry shears or kitchen scissors, cut through the entire length of the breast area. Flatten Cornish hens by pressing firmly down with both hands so it resembles one large flat section. (OR ask the butcher where you shop to split and flatten the Cornish hens OR chicken for you.)

Step 2: Prepare Marinade

Mix all ingredients for selected Marinade (see next page). Place Cornish hens or chicken in large resealable plastic bag or glass baking dish. Add Marinade; turn to coat Cornish hens or chicken evenly. Seal bag or cover dish.
Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight for best flavor.

Marinating Tips:

  • Crushing herbs before adding to marinade will release their natural oils and increase the flavor of the marinade.
  • For maximum flavor, marinate overnight in refrigerator, turning Cornish hens or chicken occasionally in marinade.

Step 3: Prepare Bricks and Grill

One brick will be needed for each Cornish hen and two for the chicken.
If necessary, rinse bricks before using. Wrap each brick in 2 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil.

Ensure that grilling surface is clean and ready to use. If using nonstick cooking spray; apply only to a cold grilling surface.

Step 4: Grilling

Preheat grill 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low (target cooking temperature is 325°F to 350°F).

Remove Cornish hens or chicken from marinade. Place skin-side down on preheated grill.
Carefully and quickly position bricks on top of Cornish hens or chicken; close lid. Discard any remaining marinade.

Grill Cornish hens 20 to 25 minutes or chicken 40 to 50 minutes or until cooked through, turning halfway through cooking time. Remove bricks using oven mitt, turn Cornish hens or chicken and place bricks back on top to finish cooking.

Grilling Tips:

  • Metal tongs work best for turning the Cornish hens or chicken.
  • Avoid excessive charring and prevent “flare-ups” by maintaining target cooking temperature at medium to medium-low (325°F to 350°F).
  • Bricks are heavy and can be awkward when handling so use caution when handling.
  • Also, the bricks become very hot while the Cornish hens are cooking. Use heavy duty oven mitts to remove bricks when turning the Cornish hens or chicken.

CAUTION: Bricks may retain heat for up to 60 minutes after being removed from grill.

Tuscan Marinade

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons McCormick® Garlic Powder
2 teaspoons McCormick® Rosemary Leaves, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick® Basil Leaves
1 teaspoon McCormick® Coarse Ground Black Pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients in small bowl until well blended.

Asian-Style Marinade

1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons McCormick® Sesame Seed
1 tablespoon McCormick® Garlic Powder
1 tablespoon McCormick® Ground Ginger
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Crushed Red Pepper

Mix all ingredients in small bowl until well blended.

Orange-Thyme Marinade

1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons McCormick® Garlic Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick® Thyme Leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Coarse Ground Black Pepper

Mix all ingredients in small bowl until well blended.

Southwest Marinade

3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon McCormick® Ground Cumin
2 teaspoons McCormick® Oregano Leaves
2 teaspoons McCormick® Garlic Powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Crushed Red Pepper

Mix all ingredients in small bowl until well blended.

McCormick® Grill Mates® Fires Up Three New Flavors For Summer Grilling

Three New Flavors For Summer Grilling

HUNT VALLEY, Md. (May 2007) – One of America’s favorite pastimes, grilling, goes hand-in-hand with summertime, long weekends and hanging out with friends and family in the backyard. So, it’s no surprise that more than 75 percent of grillers fire up the barbecue at least once a week at this time of year.* What every great griller needs is an exciting way to spice up the meats, seafood and vegetables they make week after week. With three new Grill Mates® items, McCormick®, the expert on flavorful grilling, is helping to satisfy cravings for bold taste and variety.

  • Grill Mates Lemon Pepper with Herbs Seasoning is a vibrant blend of lemon, coarsely ground black pepper and select herbs. This shake-on seasoning tastes great with grilled fish, shrimp and chicken.
  • Grill Mates Garlic and Onion Medley Seasoning is a savory blend of garlic, onion and spices. Use it to jazz up grilled vegetables, potatoes and meats, and keep people coming back for more.
  • Grill Mates Hickory BBQ Marinade – Grilling enthusiasts can now enjoy one of their favorite flavors – hickory barbecue – in a homemade marinade. Unlike brush-on barbecue sauces, which are added at the end of cooking, marinades ensure that the flavor is infused throughout – keeping meat from drying out during grilling and turning up taste in every bite. Just add oil and vinegar and marinate 15 minutes for the perfect weeknight meal.

Try these along with the entire McCormick Grill Mates family of flavors. There’s something for everyone, including:

  • Seven additional bold shake-on seasonings: Montreal Steak, Spicy Montreal Steak, Montreal Chicken, Mesquite, Hamburger, Barbecue, and Roasted Garlic & Herb
  • Five spice rubs: Spicy Hickory and Mesquite wet rubs and Steak, Pork and Chicken dry rubs
  • Nine additional marinades: Montreal Steak; Mesquite; Zesty Herb; Southwest; Teriyaki; Peppercorn & Garlic; Chipotle Pepper; Garlic, Herb & Wine; and Tomato, Garlic & Basil
  • Two salt free, shake-on seasonings: Salt Free Steak Seasoning and Salt Free Chicken Seasoning

The suggested retail price for the shake-on seasonings, which are located in the spice aisle of grocery stores, is $1.99. Look for the marinade in the seasoning mix section; suggested retail price is $0.99. All three new Grill Mates flavors are available nationwide.

With an extensive network of researchers, trend experts, chefs, home economists, food technologists, and sensory analysts, McCormick & Company, Inc. keeps its finger on the pulse of flavor. McCormick was founded in 1889 in Baltimore, Maryland, and today is the largest spice company in the world. McCormick sources only the finest ingredients from around the globe to bring the highest quality flavors to consumers. For more information visit us online at or call 1-800-MEAL-TIP (1-800-632-5847).

* National Eating Trends 2004