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Choosing the right ingredients: Nutmeg

whole nutmeg kernels have a nearly identical flavor to the orange colored mace
whole nutmeg kernels have a nearly identical flavor to the orange colored mace
by Travis Baker

The nut of an evergreen tree in Indonesia is the source for both nutmeg and mace. The fruit of the tree is split open to reveal both the large kernel inside known as nutmeg, and the delicate aril which clings to it known as mace. Both spices have a similarly warming flavor with a hint of pine.

Nutmeg is generally sold ground or as a whole kernel. Mace is usually available only in ground form. Ground nutmeg loses its flavor quickly so buy in small quantities, or better yet, grind it as needed. Whole nutmeg will keep for a long period of time in an airtight container.

Nutmeg has many uses in both sweet and savory dishes. It pairs well with eggs and cheese, flavors stews and casseroles, and is usually incorporated into custards. It can often be found around the holidays grated onto eggnog, and is famously paired with cinnamon and cloves in many desserts.

Spaetzle is a traditional German dumpling flavored with nutmeg. It is used in soups or simply sautéed and served with sour cream. To make spaetzle, you will need a spaetzle cutter which is a long, flat metal utensil with holes into which the batter is pressed over boiling water, or a ricer which is a metal device resembling a large garlic press.

Beat 2 eggs with ¼ cup of milk, ½ teaspoon of salt and white pepper and a teaspoon of grated nutmeg. Sift a cup or so of flour into the mix to form a smooth, thin batter. Let the batter rest for 10 minutes.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Pour the batter into the spaetzle maker over the water and press it through. Give the dumplings a stir and simmer for a few minutes until firm. Drain, chill in cold water, and drain again.

Heat a tablespoon of butter in a traditional skillet. Add the spaetzel and sauté. Season with salt and pepper.


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