Sunday, December 07, 2008

Fresh from the tree...

fresh nutmeg

What was the photo in my last post? Donna of Wine Stained Cloth guessed it--it's a fresh nutmeg, covered in mace. The seed is found inside the fruit and the red veins are mace. When peeled, the mace dries in about a week then it can be ground and used as spice. After the mace covering is removed, the pod can be cracked open and inside is the part of the nutmeg that is ground and used as spice.

Freshly ground nutmeg is wonderfully fragrant and adds a distinctive spicy flavor to a variety of baked goods and desserts such as pumpkin pie, gingerbread and custard. It is also used in eggnog and mulled wine or cider. Often paired with cinnamon, it is also used in savory dishes in some parts of the Middle East, Greece, and in Caribbean and Dutch cuisine. I like a tiny bit added to bechamel sauce and also to spinach. At home I use a microplane for grating whole nutmeg. I don't know if it is any stronger in the fresh form, but I'll let you know when I try it.