Friday, November 11, 2011

Five Essential Holiday Spices

Five Essential Holiday Spices
The holiday season is the time for inventive baking and creative cooking. The key to making any good dish this holiday seasons is learning to use the right spices. It can be an art form to learn which spices will make things taste just right. If you want to make your holiday treats even tastier this year, try using these essential holiday spices in your cooking and baking:

Despite its name, allspice is actually not a mix of several spices. Allspice is a small berry that grows in the forests of Jamaica. This spice is unique, in that it smells as if it really were a mix of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg rather than a single seed. Uses for this spice in powder form include puddings, pies, and breads. Allspice seeds can be used as a flavor enhancer for baked meats and even cider.

Star Anise
Anise is that wonderfully delicious flavor that is found in black licorice. Star anise, not to be confused with regular anise that grows in small seed form, has a similar taste but is slightly different. The seeds of a star anise come from southeast Asia and grow in the shape of a star, obviously! This spice can be ground up and used for cooking seafood, pumpkin or tropical vegetables. It may also be used in whole seed form as a flavor enhancer for meets or cider, along with allspice.

Your experience with cloves has probably involved eating a ham with small black things poked into its skin. Among the strongest of the spices listed here, cloves come from Madagascar and are a small black seed with one round end and one pointy end. In powder form, cloves can be used in moderate amounts to flavor pies, ciders, sweet potatoes, squash, apples and onions. And as with ham, they can be used in seed form to add a unique flavor to baked meat.

Fresh ginger looks like a knotted little root. You would never suspect that its flavor comes with such a punch. Fresh ginger can be used to flavor a wide range of dishes as it pairs well with most meats, vegetables, and other spices. Slice it up and put it it soups, sauces, marinades, glazes, or even boil it in water to make ginger tea. Dried ginger is also useful in baking pies (including pumpkin!), cookies(ginger snaps, ginger bread men), and breads.

Nutmeg is seed found inside the pit of an apricot-like plant grown in southeast Asia. The shell of the pit is called mace and can also be used as a spice. Nutmeg has a slight hint of clove to it, while mace has a mild lemony taste.

Nutmeg is used best in powdered form. You can use this unique spice in a wide range of dishes because it makes a good complement to eggs, seafood, chicken, and vegetable dishes with potatoes and carrots. And of course, it can be used in sweeter treats like pumpkin pie and the ever-famous eggnog.

About the Author
Natalie Clive writes for My Colleges and Careers helps people determine if an online education is right for them. By attending one of the best online schools, students can earn a college degree and qualify to work in some of the best careers in the job market.