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Allspice :: Herb of the Month

Posted Dec 26 2009 11:59pm

Allspice :: Herb of the Month

Pimenta dioica

I love the scents and flavors of the holidays. Fresh pine from a Christmas trees and burning wood from a fireplace are warm, cozy, and welcoming scents, and allspice is one of the seasonings that we use to flavor holiday recipes.

Allspice is a spice native to the West Indies and Central American regions. You may have heard allspice referred to as Jamaican allspice. It’s used to flavor Jamaican and West Indies cuisine, it’s like their pepper. You’ll also find that allspice is used to season Eastern Mediterranean, Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and North American cuisine. This spice is at home in the kitchen as is salt and pepper. It can be considered an all-purpose spice. In fact, it resembles a large peppercorn.

I’ve seen those gorgeous allspice berries up close right on the tree when I visited Jamaica. In the summer these tropical Pimenta dioica trees are covered with clusters of small white blossoms and the air is filled with its spicy perfume. All parts of the tree is scented - the bark, leaves, flowers, and berries.

As for taste, allspice mimics an combination of other spices. Some say it reminds them of a mix of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg; others claim it has a touch of black pepper, and others say it has a hint of ginger. I’ve taken a handful of allspice berries and my nose tells me it has a multi-scent mixture of clove, nutmeg, and black pepper. Maybe a very subtle hint of ginger but I don’t get the cinnamon scent at all. With all the various notes, it’s no wonder how allspice gets its name, and because it smells like a combination of spices, allspice has been misunderstood to be a combination of spices. I’ll be honest, at one point in time I believed allspice was a combination of a mixture spices. I know better know.

I’m definitely giving allspice more play time in recipes. It goes well with apples, apple sauce, beets, cabbage, nuts, onions, pineapple, spinach, salsa, sauces, tomatoes, root vegetables, and winter squash. It’s compatible with herbs and spices like cinnamon, cloves, coriander, curry powder, garlic, ginger, mace, mustard, nutmeg, peppercorn [esp. black], rosemary, and thyme. If you need a substitute for cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and nutmeg, allspice is a good replacement.

Allspice is used like pepper in some cases and one of its flavor notes is like pepper, so I’ve made my own special blend of peppery allspice mixing equal amounts of allspice, black, white, and green peppercorns. I put my peppery allspice mixture in a grinder called The Everything Mill by Kyocera. This works out great and I’m able to incorporate more allspice flavor easy and effortlessly.

How often do you use allspice in recipes?

Allspice Giveaway

At the end of this month a name will be drawn from the comment section of this post, and our wonderful sponsor Mountain Rose Herbs will send a gift of Allspice to the winning participant.

Thank you, good luck, and have fun spicing things up with allspice.

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