Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Truth About Nutmeg...

If there is one thing I have learned along my journey of baking, it is that freshly ground nutmeg is king and anything less is just a waste of culinary goodness. It will give your cakes, breads, and puddings a taste that leaves your guests wondering "what is that?!".  So go ahead, soak up the compliments of your secret ingredient and read on to find out why a little extra elbow grease will lead you to some beautiful baking.

As with most herbs and spices, fresh always reigns supreme. However, I am a realist here too and know that a) fresh ingredients are more expensive and b) you never actually end up using them all, thus wasting most of what you bought in the first place. Also, fresh herbs and spices always mean a little more work than just dipping into that small glass jar. That is why, in reality, I am with you on the dried, jarred ingredients...that is except nutmeg!

The joy of nutmeg is that when you buy it whole, the "seeds" actually come in a jar (similar to very large nuts). This means that there is no expiration date and no worries about not using up all that you paid for. The whole nutmeg can be pulled out as needed and gently grated on a microplane zester to add the greatest depth to all your dishes and any remaining seed that goes unused can simply be placed back in the jar! 

The flavor compared to jarred nutmeg is worlds away. This is because the essential oils contained in the whole seeds dry out in pre-ground nutmeg and little real flavor is left, leaving much to be desired in your dessert. I can promise you that once you begin to grate the seeds and start to smell these flavorful oils coming out of the freshly ground nutmeg, you will be converted.
So go ahead, kick your spices up a notch. Once you grind, you'll never go back!