Allspice takes its name from its aroma, which smells like a combination of spices, especially cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg, hence the name ‘wonderpeper’ in Afrikaans. It’s produced from the unripened dried berries of an evergreen tree native to Caribbean regions.
Dried allspice berries resemble large brown peppercorns and can be ground into a powder, which is the form that is the most popular in the United States.
The unripe berries are harvested and sun dried until the seeds in them rattle. They vary in size between 4 to 7 mm in diameter and are dark brown with wrinkled skins. The outer case contains two dark, hard kidney-shaped seeds. Sometimes the whole berry will be called ‘pimento’.
Aroma and Flavour
Bouquet - pungent and aromatic, like a combination of nutmeg, clove, ginger and cinnamon. Flavour - warm and sweetly pungent like the combination described above with peppery overtones.
Allspice is suitably named for its bouquet and flavour. The spice smells of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon and some even detect a hint of mace and peppercorns in its aroma.
When crushed or ground, allspice has quite a pungent flavour.
Ideally, buy the whole spice and grind it when required as the ground spice soon loses its punch.
The round berries have a rough surface because of tiny oil glands; inside, there are two hard, kidney-shaped seeds, but most of the flavour comes from the husk.
- Purchase and Avoid
- Whole allspice berries should be even in colour, dark reddish brown, and rounded, with a rough surface and no musty smell. Ground allspice should be a rich dark brown with a warm aroma. It should be somewhat oily in consistency, never dry and dusty.
- Store whole or ground allspice in a cool, dark place with low humidity. Whole allspice will keep up to 3 years before its flavour fades; ground, up to 1½ years.
Allspice can be used as a substitute, measure, for measure, for cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg. Conversely to make a substitution for allspice, combine one part nutmeg with two parts each of cinnamon and cloves.
To grind allspice at home, do not use a grinder with plastic parts, because the oil in the spice can cloud plastic.
In South Africa, allspice is an essential ingredient in many Cape Malay and traditional dishes such as bredies.
Jerked meats like pork, chicken and kid reflect the Spanish/Jamaican background of allspice.
It’s a particularly popular spice in European cooking, an important ingredient in many marinades, pickling and mulling spices. Many patés, terrines, smoked and canned meats include allspice. A few allspice berries are added to Scandinavian pickled herring, to sauerkraut, pickles, soups, game dishes and English spiced beef.
Traditionally, allspice has been used in cakes, fruit pies, puddings, ice cream and pumpkin pie.
Some Indian curries and pilaus contain allspice and in the Middle East it’s used in meat and rice dishes.
In Jamaica, a local drink, known as Jamaica dram, is made from allspice and rum. Allspice is also one of the ingredients in Benedictine and Chartreuse. The whole berries are a popular ingredient for mulled wine.
A Few Ideas to Get You Started.
Add a few whole allspice to your pepper grinder, along with a mixture of black, white, and green peppercorns for a unique seasoning blend.
Try mixing 2 ml ground allspice with 1 kg of ground beef to give a unique flavour to meatloaf or hamburgers.
Add 5 ml of ground allspice to angel food or white cake mix for a sensational spicy flavour.
Aromatic whole allspice is a great addition to potpourri.
For an intriguing spiciness, add whole, cracked berries to marinades for chicken and pork, simmering beef stew, pot roasts, or hearty bean soups.
Season marinated herring, pickled vegetables, pâtés, and smoked meats with allspice.
Enhance simple desserts such as applesauce, fruit compotes, and oatmeal cookies with the warm, sweet flavour of ground allspice.
Add a few whole berries (not powdered, which will darken the colour) to poaching liquid for fruit, removing before serving.
Add a pinch of ground allspice to barbecue and tomato sauces as well as cooked winter squash and carrots.
Category: Spices and Herbs
Sub Category: Spices
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