Nutmeg is the large, light grayish brown, speckled, wood-hard kernel that grows inside the apricot-like fruit of a tropical tree (Myristica fragrans). Surrounding nutmeg in the fruit is a web of mace, called the aril, that is brilliant scarlet when harvested but changes to a dull reddish orange after drying. Both spices are strongly aromatic, with a warm and slightly musky flavour. Nutmeg is a bit spicier with a sharper aroma, while mace is gentler, fresher, and more rounded in flavour. Nutmeg quickly loses its fragrance when ground, so it’s best freshly grated. Whole nutmeg, though hard on its surface, is easy to grate by hand.
In the Arab world and northern India, nutmeg and mace flavour delicate meat dishes. In Europe and North America, these spices flavour cakes, crackers, poached fruits, and cheese sauces. The Dutch favour nutmeg, using it to season cabbage, potatoes, meat, soups, stews, and sauces. Mace complements seafood and lighter meat dishes as well as pickles and ketchup. Many spice mixtures contain nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg and mace can be used interchangeably in many dishes.
- Other Names
Nutmeg: Basbasa (Arabic); chan thet (Thai); djus hendi (Farsi); egoz musqat (Hebrew); gabz (Amharic); hindistancevizi (Turkish); jaiphal (Hindi); jou tou kou (Chinese); moschokarido (Greek); muskatnuss (German); muskatny oryekh (Russian); noce moscata (Italian); noix de muscade (French); noz-moscada (Portuguese); nuez moscada (Spanish); pala (Indonesian)
Mace: Besbase (Turkish); dok chand (Thai); fleur de muscade or macis (French); fuljan (Arabic); javatri (Hindi); macis (Spanish, Portuguese); muskatblomme (Danish); muskat-bluete (German); muskatnyi tsvet (Russian); sekar pala (Indonesian)
- Purchase and Avoid
- Buy nutmeg whole and grate it as you need it. Avoid using ready-ground nutmeg, which quickly loses its flavour. Good quality whole nutmegs will be hard and heavy for their weight with no tiny holes, a sign of insect damage. Mace is more expensive than nutmeg because it takes 180 kilograms of nutmeg to make 500 grams of mace. Whole blade mace is the most expensive form; mace is most often found ground.
- Whole nutmeg and mace will keep quite well. Powdered nutmeg and mace are more perishable.
Grate fresh nutmeg into creamed or buttered spinach.
Grate nutmeg over steamed potatoes, winter squash, carrots, or cauliflower.
Flavour pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, and gingerbread with nutmeg.
Sprinkle mace on seafood before grilling or pan-frying.
Season stock with mace and use it to steam shellfish.
Sprinkle mace over applesauce and baked apples.
Food Affinities Nutmeg
Food Affinities Mace
Category: Spices and Herbs
Sub Category: Spice
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