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Opening your culinary world to allspice

Close-up with Allspice.
Close-up with Allspice.
gregor williams

Allspice is the dried berry from an evergreen tree native to the rain forests of South and Central America. Allspice is now commercially grown in tropical environments in the western hemisphere with the world’s largest exporter is Jamaica.

Allspice flavor profile is similar to a combination of clove, nutmeg and cinnamon with notes of juniper. Allspice is used in not only sweet dishes but also it has many savory uses. It is used in Caribbean curries, Jamaican jerks, Mexican moles, piquant pickles, savory sausages, and has traveled to become a favorite in many eastern Mediterranean dishes.

Allspice can be purchased pre-ground or whole. Using the whole allspice peppercorn is the best for preserving the precious volatile oils that oxidize when exposed to air. Whole allspice peppercorns can be ground in a pepper grinder, grated on a microplane, ground in spice/coffee grinder or used whole in a sachet with other spices.

It is best to use fresh allspice. That container that has been sitting in the back of your spice cabinet since the elder Bush administration will not provide the exciting character that allspice is cherished for; it is best to just pitch old bottles of pre-ground allspice in the trash. Personally I like getting aromatic spices from stores that serve a population that uses these spices regularly and in great quantities: Middle Eastern, Caribbean, and East Indian neighborhood groceries.

Always put a date on newly purchased allspice. That way you can know how old it is. A good way to use old allspice without just throwing them away is to place them in a sauce pan and cover with some water and gently heat on the stove. This potpourri mixture helps spice up the stale December air of closed up heated homes and add some Holiday cheer.

It is best to store Allspice in a cool dark location in an airtight container.

Quick Allspice Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

1/4 cup allspice peppercorns, 4 garlic cloves, 1 small white or yellow onion, 1 seeded Jalapeño pepper, 1TBL coriander seeds, 2 TBL dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup quality oil (live, grape seed or avocado) large pinch of kosher salt or sea salt, and 8 peppercorns black pepper.

1. grind spices: allspice, coriander and pepper.
2. Place all ingredients in food processor and emulsify until all ingredients form a smooth paste.
3. Mix paste on chicken, pork or beef.
4. Let sit for in jerk seasoning for 1-24 hours in refrigerator.
5. Grill meat to desired temperature.

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