|Nutmeg comes from a very unique tree that actually produces two spices – nutmeg and mace. The scientific name of Nutmeg is Myristica fragrans. The aromatic Nutmeg tree is an evergreen that grows upwards of 66 feet and features fragrant flowers and brownish-yellow edible fruit that are approximately the size of a small peach. Nutmeg is the dried seed of this fruit and the nutmeg seed is surrounded by a bright red, lacy covering called mace (this is also known as mace blades or the aril).
The Nutmeg tree reaches full harvest maturity after 20 years but nutmegs can be harvested when the trees are between 7 and 9 years old. Native to the Banda Islands of Indonesia (which along with the Maluku Islands make up the Spice Islands), today nutmeg is commercially cultivated in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Grenada, and Sri Lanka. Due to its higher oil content East Indian Nutmeg is considered superior to Caribbean Nutmeg. Our Nutmeg is grown in India.
During the Middle Ages, nouveau riche Europeans carried their own whole nutmegs and graters to diner gatherings as a status symbol sign.
In the Middle East nutmeg is used in lamb and mutton recipes, in tomato sauces and vegetable stews. Europeans use it in mashed potatoes, rice dishes, pastas, soups, rice puddings, pies, biscuits, and processed meats. The French use it in meats that are cooked for a long time especially in stews and ragouts. Nutmeg is a key spice in Caribbean cuisine in everything from jerk seasonings to pastries, ice cream, fruit punches, eggnogs, breads and cakes.
In this country Ground Nutmeg is a classic baking spice and adds it intense and spicy aroma to pastries, cakes, sweet rolls, banana bread, pumpkin pies, apple pies, ice cream, chocolate, lemon desserts cookies, coconut milk, fruit pies, muffins and in sweet breads. Use as a topping for custard, eggnog and whipped cream.
In addition to its uses in sweet dishes nutmeg also works well in savory dishes and is considered by many chefs to be a secret ingredient in eggs, stew, creamy soups ((especially split pea and tomato soups), sauces, seafood chowders, lamb, meatballs, milk dishes and with sweet potatoes.
Widely used in spices blends from France, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the Caribbean including garam masala, quatre epics, baharat, Tunsian five spice (also called qalat daqqa), ras el hanout, various Indian and Indonesian curry blends and jerk seasoning.
Nutmeg has a piney, camphorlike aroma and the flavor is spicy, sweet and slightly bitter with hints of clove. Nutmeg and Mace posses closely related sensory qualities, with nutmeg being slightly sweeter and mace having a lighter, more delicate flavor. Ground Mace is best used in light dishes due to its bright orange hue it provides.
Nutmeg compliments cabbage, carrots, cheese dishes, chicken, eggs, onions, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes and veal.
Nutmeg partners well with cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, mace, pepper, rosebuds and thyme.
Nutmeg is used crated, crushed or ground. Like many higher oil content spices freshly ground nutmeg is much more flavorful than pre ground nutmeg. In small amounts, Nutmeg blends in effortlessly. Nutmeg should be added towards the end of the cooking process.
2 to 3 teaspoons of ground nutmeg is equal to one whole nutmeg.
Some of our favorite recipes using nutmeg is our Creole Bananas Foster Sundae, Jazzy Rice Pudding, Seafood and Corn Chowder and Sweet Potato Skins.