By Anne Lamberton, RD, MPH, DrPH
November and December are fantastic months to enjoy the rich, deep flavors and spices of fall. The days are getting shorter and it’s cold and wet outside: a perfect time to warm up the house with some roasted squash in the oven, or with a big pot of soup on the stove. Recipes using spices like ginger, and cinnamon are very popular during this time of year. From pumpkin pie, to ginger carrot soup, the flavors of fall are here for each of us to enjoy. Below is a list of some of my favorite fall spices that you might not be as familiar with:
Allspice – also called Jamaican pepper, Allspice is the dried fruit of the P. dioica plant. The fruit are picked when green and unripe and are traditionally dried in the sun. When dry, they are brown and resemble large brown peppercorns. The whole fruit have a longer shelf life than the powdered product and produce a more aromatic product when freshly ground before use. A most important ingredient in Carribbean cuisine, allspice is used in the U.S mostly in desserts, but it is also responsible for giving Cincinnati-style chili its distinctive aroma and flavor.
Cloves – Cloves are the aromatic flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae, Syzygium aromaticum. Cloves are used in the cuisine of Asian, African, and the Near and Middle East, lending flavor to meats, curries, and marinades, as well as complement to fruit such as apples, pears, or rhubarb. Cloves are often used in combination with cinnamon or cumin.
Cumin – This is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native from the east Mediterranean to India. Its seeds (each one contained within a fruit, which is dried) are used in the cuisines of many different cultures, in both whole and ground form. In addition, it is also used as a medicinal plant, serving as a digestant, as well as being used to treat anemia and the common cold.
Nutmeg – Nutmeg is the seed of one of the species of the Myristica tree. It is usually used in powdered form. It has a slightly sweet flavor and is used in many ethnic dishes, like Indian and Indonesian cuisine. In Dutch cuisine, nutmeg is added to vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and string beans. In the US, nutmeg is known as the main pumpkin pie spice and often shows up in simple recipes for other winter squashes such as baked acorn squash.
Mace – Mace is the second spice from the Myristica group of trees. It has a more delicate flavor than nutmeg . Mace is often preferred in light dishes for the bright orange, saffron-like hue it imparts. It can be used in desserts, sauces and savory dishes.
Here is a recipe for a wonderful flavorful hot spiced cider. It will make your whole house smell like fall and it tastes delicious:
2 quarts bottled apple cider
2 TBSP packed brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 tsp salt
1 pinch ground nutmeg
2 tsp whole cloves
1 large orange
Pour the cider in a large pot. Add sugar, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. With a peeler, make a large orange peel (about 3 inches long) and add to the pot. Take the whole cloves and press each clove into the orange as if making a pretty Christmas ornament. Add the whole orange, full of cloves to the pot.
Heat it up slowly, almost to a boil and simmer for about 20 min. Enjoy hot or cold!