All About Spices

SALT:

Sea Salt
Buy coarse kosher salt or sea salt for more complex flavor than you will find in common table salt. Run through a pepper mill or specially designed salt grinder to serve if desired.

Kosher Salt
This salt is the work horse of the gourmet kitchen. Apply this salt with your fingers to season whole chickens, or sprinkle over eggplant and other vegetables to extract bitter juices. This is an all around great salt for every cooking need.

Herb Salt
Grind together 1 tbs of sea or kosher salt, 1 tsp dried thyme and 1 tsp dried marjoram. Use in sews and to season cooked meats and vegetables.


PEPPER:

Whole Pepper
cracked fresh in a pepper grinder is the best way to use pepper. It provides the best flavor profile possible.. There are many varieties of peppercorns. When you are using black pepper the best varieties are either Tellicherry or Sarawak.

Four Pepper Blend
Match up equal amounts of black, green, white and pink peppercorns. Use in any recipe in place of black pepper.

Spiced Pepper
Combine 1 tbs each of ground white pepper, nutmeg and mace, and 2 tsp of cayenne. use in soups, stews and with cooked fruit.

ALLSPICE:
Allspice tastes like several spices at once; pepper, cloves and cinnamon. It grows on trees in South America, the West indies and Jamaica, where the berries, which resemble oversize, wrinkled peppercorns, ripen in the sun. Crush whole berries in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle. If you’re adding allspice to one of your recipes, don’t use cloves too-but it does work well with most other spices. Generally it is an important ingredient in spice mixtures for savory foods. Match ups – Drop allspice into long simmering soups and stews, or into marinades. Ground, it wakes up meat loaf and baked beans, seasons sweet potatoes and curries, and gives and edge to squash dishes and pumpkin pies. Try a sprinkle in waffle or pancake batter.

Cardamom
Is native to Sri Lanka and India. Cardamom plants produce pods that contain seeds; those in green pods are notably lemony and aromatic; in black they are hearty and almost smoky tasting. To taste cardamom at it’s best, grind the seeds just before using; packaged seeds as well as the ground version–loose flavor quickly. So avoid using if possible. To perk the seeds up toast them briefly in a hot skilled. Match ups -Grind into meat and vegetable curries, cream soups; gently flavor mulled wine, stewed fruit and cooked puddings. Set aside a few seeds to chew as you cook; they sweeten breath and aid digestion.

Cinnamon
This popular spice comes from the inner bark of two related Asian trees, cinnamon and cassia. Most of our generic, sweet, spicy cinnamon is cassia. look for stronger, sweeter Vietnamese and Chinese cassia, as well as citrusy Ceylon cinnamon . The flavor of the sticks tends to be milder.Don’t stock up on large amounts of ground cinnamon; the flavor deteriorates quickly. Match ups –  use sticks to flavor broth for making risotto and rice pilaf, add them to mulled drinks, or serve in cocoa or cider. Use ground in chocolate sauce, gingerbread, apple pie, puddings and fruit butters, as well as in BBQ sauces, beef, chicken and pork stews.


Cloves
Cloves are actually flower buds that are harvested before they ripen, then sun dried until they turn brown. Press the stem of a clove with your thumbnail; if it is fresh a small bit of oil will ooze out. Use sparingly since it’s pungent flavor can be overpowering. Remove whole cloves before serving. Match ups- Stud ham with whole cloves before baking; stud an onion, then add to stews. Add to ground pork dishes, sweet potatoes, fruit salad, baked beans, tomato sauces or spice cakes.

Cumin
Has a rich, hot, lemony flavor, cumin is native of Egypt, but has long been a revered flavoring for Asian, Indian, Mexican and Latin American cuisines. Cumin seeds are difficult to grind finely. It is worth the investment for a good coffee grinder which will accomplish this task with flying colors. Toast the seeds to bring out their flavor. Ground cumin looses it’s flavor rapidly, so it’s best to buy whole seeds and grind you own. Match ups- Incorporate ground cumin into meat and vegetable curries, tacos, eggplant dishes, omelets and scrambled eggs; whole seeds with baked and broiled fish, beef stews and stuffings.

Fennel
Produces a celery like bulb that’s used as a vegetable; common fennel is a variety that produces the spice seeds. both have licorice like overtones of anise. The seeds are often served in Indian restaurants at the end of the meal as a breath freshener and to aid digestion. As with other whole seeds, fennel takes to a brief toasting in a dry pan to bring up flavor.Serve the fresh fennel bulb raw or braised. Match ups- Stir seeds in bouillabaisse, fish soups, shrimp and lobster salads, potato salads, meat stews; add to breads, meat loaves, pates, and to provide a double dose of flavor to fresh fennel. Sprinkle it on pork before roasting. Grind into fresh or bottled tomato sauce.

Ginger
Ginger is sold fresh, ground and crystallized. For fresh buy firm, unwrinkled “hands” The distinct flavor is at the same time hot, spicy and sweet. Store whole ginger in the refrigerator. To mince, first peel with a vegetable paring knife. slice into thin coins, cut the coins into thin horizontal strips, then cut the strips crosswise, or rub through the small holes on the side of a box grater. Match ups – Slip chopped fresh ginger into pear pies, stir fries, marinades, stews and curries; add ground ginger to soups, especially with squash and other root vegetables, and spice rubs for chicken, pork beef or fish. Use crystallized in gingerbread mincemeat, cookies and candies.

Nutmeg
Produces two spices in one; a heavy seed called nutmeg-sweetly spicy-and it’s lighter outer covering called mace, which is more pungent. keep whole nutmegs in a tightly sealed jar; when needed grate against the small holes of a box grater. Add freshly grated at the end of cooking. Match ups -Grind atop eggnog; pair ground with ginger in BBQ sauces. Add to spice rubs, cheese dishes and white sauces.


Paprika
There are dozens of paprika peppers, ranging in flavor from mild and sweet to fiery hot and spicy. The peppers are dried, then ground to make the distinctive reddish orange powder. Purchase small quantities and store tightly sealed in the refrigerator to keep the flavor as fresh as possible. Add paprika toward the end of cooking as it often turns brown if exposed to long to slow simmering. Match ups- Saute to bring out flavor, then stir into goulash, stuffed cabbage, rice dishes, breading mixtures for fried chicken and seafood, sour cream and mayonnaise based dips, chowders and cream soups and shell fish. If you wish, shake on white or other pale foods for a burst of extra taste and color.


Saffron
Saffron is the worlds most expensive spice. To get just one pound, as many as 80,000 fall flowering crocuses in Spain have to be handpicked; an acre of land yields only about 10 precious pounds. Keep saffron threads away from light, tightly sealed, for a few months. Remove the top and sniff they should have an intense aroma. One gram equals about 2 teaspoons of crumbled threads. Match ups; Use just a bit-a little goes a long way-to impart bright orange color as well as flavor to paella, risotto, bouillabaisse and other seafood stews, couscous, pork, lamb and beef curries, cream sauces and Swedish breads and cakes.

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