Nutmeg

What I love about nutmeg, is it is just an average looking brown nut.  Nothing out of the ordinary, just brown and oval.  But like people, once you grate it and get a hint of what it offers, you find a woody, warm, exotic scent and flavor.

History
In the early 1500s, explorers were on ships travelling all over the globe, in search of spices. Some voyages brought these adventurers to the tropical Spice Islands in Eastern Indonesia. There, an evergreen tree with fruit that looked very similar to a peach or apricot, was found. Once the fruit is cracked open, you can see the seed, which is nutmeg. This seed is covered with a reddish membrane that once dried is known to us as mace.
Appearance
The nutmeg is a brown oval-shaped seed the size of a nut. Its exterior is extremely hard, yet it is extremely easy to grate. You can find nutmeg in the spice section of your local grocery store where it is sold in two forms: whole and grated. Nutmeg has a much more spicy, pungent, warm flavor when freshly grated, so it is recommended that you buy whole nutmeg and grate it as needed. A simple zester or other small grater will do the trick. Nutmeg, like other spices, should be stored in a cool, dark place.
Flavor Affinities
Nutmeg goes wonderfully well with:
  • apples
  • breads (sweet)
  • butter
  • cabbage
  • cakes
  • cardamon
  • carrots
  • cheese
  • cherries
  • chicken
  • chocolate
  • cinnamon
  • cloves
  • cream
  • cream-based soups
  • curry
  • custards
  • eggplant
  • fish
  • ginger
  • greens
  • ham
  • hot drinks
  • milk puddings
  • mulled wine
  • mushrooms
  • onions
  • parsnips
  • pate
  • pears
  • pepper
  • pies
  • pork
  • pumpkin
  • sage
  • shellfish
  • spinach
  • stuffing
  • sweet potatoes
  • terrines
  • tomatoes
  • turkey
  • veal
  • winter squash

Cultural Affinities

You will find these cultures frequently spice up their local dishes with nutmeg!

Nutmeg is also found in these spice blends: garam masala (Indian), quatre epices (French), pumpkin pie spice and apple pie spice.

Substitution Guide

Use mace in place of nutmeg and vice versa in recipes. Due to mace’s delicate flavor, you may need to double the amount of mace used in recipes that ask for nutmeg, and half the amount of nutmeg used in recipes that request mace. Also, 1 whole nutmeg will produce 2 – 3 teaspoons of grated nutmeg.
Cooking Tip
Add freshly grated nutmeg at the end of cooking as the heat destroys a lot of the flavor.
Health Benefits
Nutmeg, historically, has been used to alleviate diarrhea, gas, aiding digestion and improving the appetite. Nutmeg contains 10% of a volatile oil, known as nutmeg oil. This oil has been known to support the adrenal glands. Also, nutmeg oil has aided in the recovery of gout, arthritis, aches, pains, nausea and aid in sleep issues.  In the Middle East, it is a known aphrodisiac.
Nutmeg Essential Oil has antiseptic and antibacterial qualities. Holistic beauty experts state that a paste made from milk and nutmeg reduces the inflammation from acne.
* Nutmeg can produce severe toxity at doses exceeding one teaspoon. Nausea, vomitting, dizziness and hallucinations can be some of the effects. Myristicin is the component in nutmeg believed to cause these reactions.
 
Folklore
Due to the high cost of nutmeg, Europeans in the 1800s used to carry around their own nutmeg and graters. Then, they could add their own nutmeg to their food. Soon, people began to wear graters around their necks as a pendant.
Pagans also use nutmeg as symbols of luck, money, health and fidelity.
In Other Words….
  • Arabic جوزة الطيب
  • Chinese 肉荳蔻
  • Danish muskatnød
  • French noix de muscade
  • German Muskatnuss
  • Greek μοσχοκάρυδο
  • Hebrew מוסקט
  • Hindi जायफल
  • Italian noce moscata
  • Japanese ナツメグ
  • Spanish nuez moscada
  • Swedish muskot
  • Thai ลูกจันทน์เทศ
  • Turkish küçük hindistan cevizi
  • Ukrainian мускатний горіх
  • Vietnamese cây đậu khấu
  • Yiddish מושקאַט

Recipes

In the Caribbean, nutmeg is so popular, you can find nutmeg syrup, nutmeg honey, nutmeg jams and jellies!

Cole Slaw

  • 1/2 head purple cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
  • 2 large carrots, shredded
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, sliced diagonally
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup plain non-fat yogurt (or soy yogurt or 1/2 cup Greek yogurt)
  • 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

Mix the cabbage, carrots, green onions, celery, apple, walnuts and cranberries in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the yogurt, dill, nutmeg, lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper, until smooth.

Mix together and chill up to 4 hours before serving.

Yields: 12 servings

Rutabaga Casserole

A very traditional Finnish Christmas dish.

  • 2.5 lb. rutabagas
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 3/4 cup light cream (or unflavored soy creamer)
  • 1 cup of pale breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup of maple syrup (or light molasses)
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 / 4 teaspoon white pepper

Instructions:

Peel and chop the rutabags into small pieces. Boil them in salted water until soft.

Puree the rutabagas with the water they were cooked in.

Add the cream-breadcrumb mix (it is good if you allow the breadcrumbs to soak in the cream for a little bit), eggs, syrup and spices. Beware of too much flavoring. Especially nutmeg flavor intensifies during cooking.

Sprinkle with bread crumbs. Make a pattern on the surface with a spoon .

Bake the casserole in a casserole dish, 425 – 450 degrees for about 2 hours.

Yields: 8 servings

Mushroom Soup with Nutmeg

A traditional recipe from Grenada.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1.5 lb. mushrooms, chopped
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or soy creamer)
  • 2 teaspoons steak sauce (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Dill, for garnish

Instructions:

In a medium sized stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Saute the onion until translucent.

Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes.  Add stock and wine.Bring to boil and simmer gently for ten minutes.

Puree until smooth.

Stir in cream, steak sauce, lemon juice, nutmeg, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Garnish with dill sprigs.

Yields: 8 servings
Nutmeg Scones
Nutmeg Cake  

All recipes and articles are copyrighted:
©2011 Jennifer A. Wickes

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