Fall and Spice and Everything Nice
As we’re on the heels of fall, more and more recipes with warm aromatic spices are popping up all over the place. Recipes heavily influenced with great spices populate our feeds and limited-time-spiced-everythings line the shelves of our supermarkets. But have you ever really stopped to learn about the history of these great spices, what their uses are, and where they come from? Stick around as we journey through fall’s top spices...
An important spice throughout time, cinnamon was not only was used as flavor in recipes and for its aromatic purpose like it is today, but it was also used for its medicinal purposes and a showcase of wealth for the elite. A dried bark, cinnamon was traditionally used in ancient Egypt during the embalming process because of its uniquely pleasant aroma as well as for its preservative capabilities. At the time, cinnamon was reserved for the wealthy or for noblemen because it was simply a costly spice that was reserved for the upper class. Today, while cinnamon is far more attainable than it once was before, it’s used in goodies galore. They say variety is the spice of life and, with cinnamon, great recipes for muffins, pies, breads, buns, flan, and even ice cream take the cake each and every day.
Whoever first decided to use nutmeg as a spice may, in fact, have been a little nutty, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Nutmeg is a small, oval-shaped, fragrant spice which is the seed of the nutmeg tree. Typically grated on a rasp and added to, both, sweet at savory dishes, nutmeg has a slightly sweet, slightly peppery flavor that lends a taste that is not always evident, but contributes quite nicely to the overall profile of a dish. Native to Indonesia’s Banda Islands, also known as the Spice Islands, nutmeg was once a highly prized spice during the spice trade. Today, nutmeg can be found in everything from pies to pastas to potatoes.
The tiny buds from an evergreen tree, cloves have a highly fragrant aroma, perfect for baking, beverages, marinades, and more. Popular in Asian, African, and Near and Far Eastern dishes, cloves are the ideal balance between great taste and wonderful scent. An ancient Chinese leader of the Han Dynasty even demanded that anyone who spoke to him first chew on a clove to freshen his breath. Today, while the tradition of chewing on cloves has dwindled, cloves are quite commonly used in pie spice blends, namely for pumpkin pies and apple pies.
Ginger, an ugly-looking beast at best, is simply the root of a most beautiful tropical flower. Used for ages for its important medicinal values, it has been said that ginger helps with ailments from nausea, to indigestion, to even motion sickness. From the ginger root, much like its flower, beautiful recipes can emerge. Ginger’s use is vast, though what we typically know of it is its use with sushi, in beverages like ginger ale and ginger beer, baked goods, and even savory fragrant bone broths.
The funny thing about allspice is that, when it was originally named, it was aptly done because it smells like, quite literally, all the spices put together. With hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, allspice can be found in delicate pastries and breads and in big bold spices mixes like Caribbean jerk seasoning and curry powders. Most commonly, allspice can be found in pies of all kinds throughout the cooler months. Pumpkin pie, apple pie, and sweet potato pie are some we enjoy the most.
This autumn, dive right into flavor and experiment with classic spice flavors and those that are new to you, too. Bold enough to add flavor on their own, but more fun to use together, this fall, fall for spices.