Beyond the Kitchen tips

A Lesson in Nutmeg

We need to talk. It’s important.

I can’t have you using that Ground Nutmeg you have in your pantry. I know it’s easy. I know it’s cheap. I just can’t in good conscience let this continue.

Let’s talk about nutmeg. I have The Internets so I know everything I need to know.

Nutmeg comes from a type of evergreen tree in southeast Asia and Australasia. Now, before I continue, am I the only one that didn’t know what Australasia was? Australasia includes Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Ginuea. True. Fun fact!

So two important culinary items come from this magical evergreen type tree:  nutmeg and mace.  Nutmeg is actually the seed of the tree.  It’s slightly smaller than an egg, solid and hard, but when grated, has an interesting lace like design.  Mace is the dried, reddish covering of the arillus seed. Huh?  Yea. Pay attention, we’re still learning.  Mace has a slightly more delicate flavor than nutmeg and when baked, imparts an almost saffron like orange glow.

The beauty of nutmeg is that it’s so versatile.  It’s an integral part of a spice cake like carrot cake, or my beloved Sugar and Spice Cinnamon Rolls, but also shines when sprinkled over sauteed spinach or mixed into cheese sauces.  The key to nutmeg is to always (always! always!) go for the fresh stuff.  It’s easy.  I promise.  It’s not a pain in the ass.  All you’ll need is a jar of the nutmeg seeds (they often come in a jar with between 6 and 8 ) and a microplane.  Microplanes are just about the handiest zester/grater ever!

When a recipe calls for freshly grated nutmeg, you’re good to go.  If a recipe simply calls for 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, you might want to use a dash less.  Go for 3/4 teaspoon of the fresh stuff instead.  Fresh nutmeg is stronger, more aromatic and more forward that the pre-ground, dusty nutmeg.

Pre-ground nutmeg is a poor excuse for such a beautiful spice.  Go fresh.  It’s the only way to go.