Spices are essential in the cuisine of every country. Sold dried, either whole or in powder form, spices add flavor and character to most every food. Whole spices, ground as you need them, will give the best flavor. Whole nutmeg and cinnamon can be ground with a special nutmeg grinder or a fine, hand-held grater. Peppercorns and allspice berries can be ground in a peppermill.
Other whole spices such as cumin or fennel seeds, dried chile peppers, or cardamom can be ground in coffee grinders or pulverized into a powder with a motor and pestle. To eliminate the residue of coffee grounds from your grinder, run a slice of soft bread through the grinder before doing spices. When you purchase a spice, mark the container with the purchase date and use within 6 months.
Here’s a list of the spices that are essential for making the recipe on this website:
allspice: a dried dark brown berry of the evergreen pimiento tree with a flavor or fragrance similar to that of combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.
cardamom: a warm, aromatic member of the ginger family, sold whole or ground with a pungent aroma and warm, spicy-sweet flavor. Native to India and Central American, we use it in Indian curries and sometimes in cookies and cakes. Be frugal with cardamom; a little goes a long ways.
cinnamon: a familiar spice for holiday sweet dishes baking and savory dishes in Middle Eastern cooking. The reddish inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree, cinnamon is stripped and rolled into whole sticks or ground.
clove: the dried, unopened buds of the myrtle flower, sold whole or ground. Used in dishes, from savory to sweet, clove is one of the world’s most important spices.
coriander: the seed of the cilantro plant (also known as Chinese parsley), coriander has a sweet, lemon-sage flavor and bears no resemblance to its lacy leaves. Sold as whole seeds or ground, coriander is used in baked goods, curries, and savory soups.
cumin: pale-brown, aromatic and nutty-flavored seed sold whole or ground. An essential ingredient in chili powder and popular in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Asian cooking.
fennel seed: sweet, greenish-brown seed of the common fennel plant. Used in sweet and savory foods; often used in sausage, especially Italian sausage.
ginger: gnarled and bumpy root that can be purchased fresh or dried, either whole, powdered, or candied. Flavor is peppery and slightly sweet; aroma is pungent. Indispensable in gingersnaps, gingerbread, and many spiced cookies and baked goods.
mace: the reddish-brown, lacy covering of the nutmeg husk, mace is similar in flavor to, but more pungent than, to nutmeg. Sold ground.
nutmeg: spicy-sweet seed of the nutmeg tree, a tropical native of the Spice Islands. Usually sold ground, but better when bought whole and freshly grated for a delicately warm, spicy, and sweet flavor.
paprika: a blend of dried, sweet red pepper pods; can be hot or sweet for use in recipes and as a garnish for a myriad of savory dishes.
pepper: once valued as highly as gold in 11th-century Venice, pepper is sold whole and coarse or finely ground. The processed berries of the pepper plant, pepper can be either white, black, or green depending on ripeness. Pink peppercorns are the dried berries of the Baies rose plant.
saffron: the most expensive spice in the world comes from the dried stigmas of the crocus flower that must be picked by hand (each flower only contains 3 stigmas). Turns dishes yellow and flavors foods and beverages.
star anise: an eight-pointed dark brown fruit pod, native to China. Often used in Asian cooking.
Turmeric: a root with bright orange-yellow color and a sharp, bitter flavor. Related to ginger and native to India. A primary ingredient in American-style prepared mustard, it’s used in East Indian and curry recipes.