By Sabrina Sucato
Discovering real, honest-to-goodness flavor isn’t easy. Unfortunately, most of the spices we use to stock our pantries come overloaded with additives, salt, and chemical coloring. When it comes to tracking down savory, untainted spice options, grocery store pickings are slim to none.
Rockerbox Spice Co. produces pure, pulverized spices from quality ingredients, without the addition of chemicals, preservatives, or salt. But as a self-proclaimed allium aficionado, the upstate New York producer really won my heart through garlic. Before Rockerbox, the mash-ups happening inside of my spice bottles never crossed my mind. Then I tried Garlic Dust, the golden child of the Rockerbox line and the product that started it all for founder Raema Rotindo. Thanks to a love affair with garlic and a dehydrator, Garlic Dust was born, and, soon after, so was Rockerbox.
“I kept filling up little jars and bringing them to friends and family and food swaps,” Rotindo recalled of her early spice-making days. Rockerbox Garlic Dust has just one ingredient: garlic. Rotindo dehydrates New York state-grown garlic over low, slow heat to capture its purest, most pungent natural flavor. Garlic Dust looks like pulverized sand in tiny hipster glass jars, but it tastes as strong and as recognizable as a whole head of garlic.
I grew up smearing whole cloves of roasted garlic on bread (I was a weird kid). I eat garlic the way many people eat salt. It goes in stir fries, on pasta, in casseroles, over eggs… you get the picture. One taste of Rockerbox Garlic Dust, and I was hooked.
There is a beauty in the simplicity of Rockerbox spices. The Shallot Flakes are made from dehydrated organic shallots, while the Garlic Flakes are manufactured the same way at Rockerbox’s Hudson Valley facility. The BBQ Rub may have a longer ingredient list, but it remains free of artificial dyes and preservatives. And as far as dry rub goes, you can’t get much more natural than garlic, onion, dark brown sugar, sea salt, coriander, cumin, and black pepper.
“Most of the garlic is California-grown,” Rotindo revealed, adding that the majority of the onions she uses come from New York state. The emphasis on domestic and organic ingredients is a critical aspect of Rockerbox’s mission. Rotindo says staying local and sustainable helps her honor her grandparents, who made a living as garlic farmers in Webster, New York after emigrating from Sicily in 1914. It’s a stark contrast from the low quality, over-farmed garlic and onions used in mass produced spice blends, usually made in China and shipped around the world—and that’s even before the additives required to extend shelf life for international travel and big market sales.
Rockerbox succeeds in an often overlooked corner of the food world. We use the spices we find in the store, and don’t often think too much about what they’re made of or where they come from. After discovering Rockerbox, I couldn’t help but wonder why the current focus on fresh, quality ingredients hasn’t yet grown to include spices. You may not be the kind of garlic-lover to spread whole cloves on your morning toast, but if you’re going to commit to eating hormone-free, organic chicken or local, sustainably-farmed vegetables, wouldn’t you like the seasonings you cook them with to be natural too?
Photos: Chia Messina & Jose Espaillat