Mace - Sister Spice of Nutmeg

Mace - Available in ground form and as dried "blades.
Mace - Available in ground form and as dried "blades.

The dried lacy coating of the nutmeg seed is used to make mace, a yellowish-brown spice. It comes in ground and dried "blades" and is frequently combined with other aromatic spices. Mace is often used in Asian, Caribbean, Indian, and Moroccan foods, as well as British, Dutch, and French cuisines. It's used in spice blends and baked goods, as well as savoury foods including soups, sauces, and poultry and fish dishes. The "mace" utilised in defensive pepper spray has nothing to do with the spice.

What is Mace?

Nutmeg is produced by the nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans), which is a tropical evergreen that also produces mace. The crimson lacy coating (known as the aril) that encases the nutmeg seed is mace. When the fruit of the tree ripens, it cracks open, revealing the aril and seed inside. The aril is plucked by hand from the fruit, flattened, and left to dry outside for 10 to 14 days. The red aril dries to an amber, yellow, or orange-brown colour and is known as a "blade" of mace when left whole. The blades can be purchased whole or ground into a spice.

Mace is native to Indonesia, but it may also be found in the Caribbean islands, particularly Grenada, where nutmeg is the national symbol and features on the flag.

Origins

The evergreen Myristica fragrans tree is native to Indonesia's Moluccas Islands, often known as the Spice Islands. This plant is widely grown in different tropical regions, from China to Sri Lanka, the Caribbean, and South America. Despite the fact that Arab merchants brought mace to Europe in the 12th century, it was the lucrative spice trade of the 16th century that made it more readily available around the world, alongside cloves, nutmeg, and black pepper.

Whole vs Ground

Although mace is marketed as full pieces called blades, the ground form is more frequent. For the most authentic flavour, buy entire mace blades and grind them as needed, just like nutmeg. Ground mace keeps its flavour better and longer than ground nutmeg and other spices. Keep in mind that one tablespoon of mace blades equals one teaspoon of ground mace when moving between the two forms.

What Does It Taste Like

Mace has a sweet, woody, warm flavour with a faint pungent kick, similar to nutmeg but softer and less sweet. Mace has a flavour that is similar to a blend of cinnamon and pepper.

Cooking With Mace

Ground mace is used in most recipes. It requires no preparation and can be used straight from the jar. In a similar way as ground nutmeg, add it to a dry spice mix, incorporate it into a dish, or sprinkle it on top of desserts, oatmeal, or beverages.

Using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, mace blades are easily ground. Gently roasting the blades and allowing them to cool before grinding helps to wake up the essential oils, making the spice more aromatic and preventing the oils from clogging a spice grinder. Mace blades should be toasted in a dry pan until crisp and fragrant; other whole spices such as cardamom and cloves can be toasted at the same time.

Substitutions

Using a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, mace blades are simple to grind. Gently roasting the blades and allowing them to cool before grinding activates the essential oils, making the spice more aromatic and preventing the oils from clogging the spice grinder. Mace blades should be roasted in a dry pan until crisp and fragrant; other whole spices such as cardamom and cloves are commonly toasted at the same time.

For certain recipes where the flavour change would not distract from the meal, ground cinnamon and ginger are suitable alternatives. A pumpkin pie spice mix may also work well to substitute all the spices in a dish that calls for mace, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice (or other aromatic spices).

Storage

When stored correctly in a firmly sealed jar or container in a cool, dark environment, mace has a longer shelf life than most other spices. Ground mace and blades should keep their flavour for up to a year, but their power may fade after six to eight months. Mace blades that produce a small amount of oil when squeezed with a fingernail are still considered fresh, even if they have dried. Mace should not be kept in the refrigerator, and only a limited amount should be purchased at a time to ensure that it remains fragrant and tasty.


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