Thursday, November 17, 2011

The truth about Allspice

I don't normally cook with Allspice.  Actually, I really only use it in Pumpkin Pie (and most recently in my edited version of previously posted Pumpkin Pie Pudding).  But I feel like there are a lot of questions around Allspice.  The name would lead you to believe that it's a combination of spices.  BUT IT'S NOT!!!

So Let's have an Alton Brown moment.

Allspice is also known as Jamaica Pepper, Myrtle Pepper, Pimenta and Newspice and is a dried, unripe form of Pimenta Dioica, a tree native to the Greater Antilles.  It's called Allspice because the English felt that it combined the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Traditionally, the fruit is picked when it is green and unripe, and then dried in the sun.  When they're dry, they actually look like peppercorns.  When left whole, they have a longer shelf life and when ground freshly before use, they have more flavor and are more aromatic.

Some uses of Allspice:

  • Allspice is a key ingredient in Caribbean jerk seasoning
  • Allspice is an ingredient in commercial sausage preparations and curry powders
  • In Middle Eastern Cuisine: specifically in stews and meat dishes
  • In America:  It's used mostly in desserts, as well as chili
  • In Great Britain:  It's used commonly in many dishes, including cakes

Some extra history:  Allspice was found by Christopher Columbus while on his second voyage to the new World.  It was found in Jamaica and introduced into European and Mediterranean cuisines in the 16th century.  It's primarily grown in Jamaica, but is also produced in a few other Central American countries.

My opinion of Allspice:  I love it.  I agree with the "culinary experts" in that it encompasses the flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, but I like it a lot because the flavor blend is much more subtle than that of actual nutmeg and cloves (which I don't really like).

So there you have it.  Allspice is it's own berry, but it tastes like other seasonings.  


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