December’s Spice Merchant Tips

(Photo courtesy of Savory Spice)

The holiday season is a time when many of the world’s most popular spices come out of the cabinet to the forefront of our feasts. One spice that becomes especially popular and prominent during the holidays is nutmeg.

For over a thousand years, this seed of the nutmeg fruit has been used medicinally and in cuisine around the world. It is hard to imagine holiday eggnog or a glass of mulled wine without the pungently sweet and citrusy aroma of freshly grated nutmeg. Many wars were fought over this precious and uniquely flavored spice which is native to the Banda Islands, a small group of islands in Indonesia. During the height of the spice trade in Europe, these islands at one time or another were controlled by the Portuguese, English and Dutch. Interestingly, in the Treaty of Breda which ended the second Anglo-Dutch war, the Dutch secured all of the nutmeg islands and in return, the English were given a Dutch colony in the North America which included New York City.

Unless you are using nutmeg throughout the year, the best way to buy it is in its whole form and to grind it as needed. The shelf life of whole nutmeg (five to eight years) is considerably longer than the ground (three to nine months) option and taking the time to grind it yourself will be worth it on those holiday recipes.

Spice Merchant Matthew Perry
Live Life Full


Best Ever Eggnog Recipe
YIELD: 4 to 5 cups

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups whole milk
2 4” Indonesian Cassia Cinnamon Sticks
4 Whole Ceylon Cloves*
1 Mexican Vanilla Bean*
1 tsp. freshly ground Grenada Nutmeg, plus more for garnish
1 cup heavy cream
2 oz. brandy per serving (optional)
4 egg whites beaten to soft peaks with 1 tbsp. sugar (optional)

Whisk egg yolks in an electric mixer until lightened in color. Slowly add sugar, beating after each addition, whisking until fluffy. Slice vanilla bean and scrape seeds into egg-sugar mixture, mixing until incorporated; reserve rest of vanilla bean. Combine milk, one cinnamon stick, cloves and remaining vanilla bean in a thick-bottomed pan. Slowly heat until the milk is steaming hot but not boiling. Slowly whisk about ¼ cup of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolks to temper them; add slowly so as not to scramble the eggs. Pour egg mixture back into the saucepan of milk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens coats the spoon. (This is usually around 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.) Remove from heat and stir in cream and nutmeg. Strain mixture through sieve then cover and refrigerate to chill for at least one hour. Serve garnished with a fresh grating of nutmeg and cinnamon (from the remaining cinnamon stick. Optional: Stir in 2 oz. of brandy per serving for a boozy version and/or fold in or top with beaten egg whites to for a fluffy version.

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