Florida Keys Business
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Rub it in
Local woman plays with words and spices to make meat, fish and poultry taste better

Key West Rubbers come in discreet, square packages and are available in several tantalizing flavors.

No, they're not what you think they are, but creator Susan Miller has a great time playing with the double entendres that accompany her seasoned rubs for meat, fish and poultry.

Made from all-natural ingredients, without MSG (monosodium glutomate), Miller combines dry spices and seasonsings to create bold flavors that can be applied to all types of meat, tofu or vegetables before they're grilled, sauteed, baked or broiled. She even mixes a 1-ounce packet of her favorite rubs with a package of cream cheese to create a unique dip or spread for crackers, pita and other snacks.

"This is what happens after too many martinis -- you end up starting your own small business," Miller said laughing in her Big Pine kitchen last week and gesturing to the pile of Key West Rubbers splayed out on her counter.

The Ohio native started Key West Rubbers about three years ago, "but just got serious about it a year and a half ago," she said.

Miller works full-time as a property manager for Habitat for Humanity in Key West, but spends weekends mixing up the rubbers and selling the 1-ounce packets at local outdoor festivals and installing displays at Keys retail vendors, which include Summerland Wine and Spirits, Boondocks, Key Largo Chocolates, Key West Winery and Pizzaworks, which also doubles as her commercial kitchen on weekend mornings, when she mixes up vast batches of her rubs.

"We started with five basic rubs, and have since branched out to about 10 different options," she said, adding that the newest addition to the Key West Rubbers assortment are called "Master Basters" -- there's that double entendre again. The basters include recipes to make them into liquid marinades when mixed with olive oil or other liquid.

Other fun and enticing names of rubs include Mess-quito Control, Smokin' Strokin', Thai Won On, Booty Call and Morning Woody (so named because it's made with coffee that adds a whole new flavor dimension to beef).

"My husband, Brad, has always grilled and I've always experimented with food and spices," Miller said, adding that she also worked in a health food store in Athens, Ohio, and recognizes the importance of high-quality ingredients.

Many of the rubs, including the Booty Call blend of Italian seasonsings, are made without salt.

"They're so flavorful, you don't even miss the salt," Miller said, adding that she has been promoting Key West Rubbers as stocking stuffers for the holiday season.

One 1-ounce packet is enough rub for six strip steaks or chicken breasts, and they come in resealable Ziploc-type bags so chefs can save the remainders if they're only cooking for two people at a time.

Miller has been pleased with people's response to the rubs, which sell well at local festivals and craft fairs.

"I've gotten nothing but good feedback on the flavors," she said, adding that Key West Rubbers are also available online at www.keywestrubbers.com. Bulk orders for restaurants and other large venues are also available.

Miller will deliver displays to any retailer interested in selling KeyWest Rubbers, and will be selling the rubbers for $3 apiece at upcoming festivals, including the Key West Botanical Garden's GardenFest 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and at the Key West Seafood Festival in Bayview Park on Jan. 19.

mmiles@keysnews.com

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