The best spices for pork will vary depending on which parts of the pig you are cooking. Consider the fact that a pork loin has very different properties when compared to a pork belly, shoulder, or ribs. Factors that you will have to take into account include the fat content of the meat as well as the cooking method.
Allspice gets its name from the fact that its flavor evokes those of other flavorful spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. It brings the classic Jamaican jerk flavor to any cut of pork. It adds a complex and savory flavor that includes notes of clove and black pepper that perfectly complement both fatty pork cuts and lean ones. Use allspice for both braised and open-flame cooking methods.
Caraway seeds offer the sweetness of anise combined with earthy and nutty notes. All of this can help to cut through the fattiness of some pork cuts while enhancing the savory flavor of leaner ones. Note that caraway seeds do not pair well with all other spices; this spice works best with other spices from its family, such as cumin. Caraway seeds may be added to a dry rub or to a braising liquid.
Cumin is an all-purpose savory spice that can add its intense nuttiness and earthy qualities to almost any savory preparation, including pork. It works well with other spices to help cut the mouth-coating fattiness of pork belly and similar cuts while helping to add flavor to leaner parts of the pig like the loin. Ground cumin is effective as a part of a rub for a roast or barbecue or added into a stew.
Ginger is not often associated with savory foods outside of Asian and Caribbean preparations, but it is essential if you are cooking foods from any of those food cultures. The peppery and assertive nature of ginger can help to tame a strong pork flavor and will work well in combination with the other spices on this list. Fresh ginger may be grated or chopped and added into a braising liquid; use dried ginger for your rubs.
Celery seed has the distinctive herbal flavor note that you would associate with the celery herb, but it is considerably more intense. It also has a mildly bitter quality that can help to enhance the flavor of pork. Some varieties of celery seed have a subtle citrus aspect to their flavor and aroma, both of which are excellent for pairing with pork. Whole celery seeds work better for braising; ground celery seeds or celery salt work best for rubs.
Juniper berries are traditionally used for flavoring meats with strong flavors. The meats that fall into that category include venison, lamb and pork. Juniper berries bring a sharp pine note to pork along with a little bitterness and pepperiness. This is another flavor that can help to offset fattiness. Juniper berries work best when crushed and added to a marinade.
Garlic’s intensely sulfuric and umami flavor qualities make it essential for any savory dish. With pork, it serves as an excellent and versatile background note to the other flavors listed here. Use fresh garlic when braising and garlic powder when grilling or smoking your pork.
When it is combined with garlic and other savory seasonings, rosemary greatly enhances the savory and meaty qualities of pork. It is highly aromatic and is a great way to enhance the complexity of a pork dish with sweet, minty and slightly piney flavor notes.