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Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.
All About Mace
by Sandra Bowens
Legend has it that the birds are intoxicated on the islands where nutmeg grows because the aroma is so strong. Mace grows there too.
You cannot enter into a discussion about mace without mentioning nutmeg. Why? Because their origins are so intertwined. Myristica fragrans, the nutmeg tree, is the only plant that gives us two spices. Mace is the outer covering, or aril, of the nutmeg in its shell.
Lacy in appearance, mace is a bright red skin that must be removed by hand or knife when the nutmeg is harvested. The mace is flattened out and left to dry in the sun for 10-14 days, although some producers may use mechanical dryers. The intense aroma of the spice develops during this curing process and the color fades to a rusty orange.
Indonesia and Grenada are the world's largest suppliers of mace. The tall, slow growing trees are native to Indonesia's Moluccas Island. The first crop of nutmeg and mace will not appear until the trees are at least seven years old. One productive acre will yield 500 pounds of nutmeg but only 75 pounds of mace.
This naturally makes mace more valuable than nutmeg. Europeans have enjoyed the two spices since Arab traders introduced them in the sixth century A.D. Records show that in fourteenth century England one pound of mace was worth three sheep.
Mace is a bit more delicate in flavor than nutmeg but they can be used interchangeably. The warm, spicy-sweet taste is a frequent seasoning for baked goods and desserts. Some say mace is what makes doughnuts taste like doughnuts. Mace will enhance meats, stews and sauces as well.
The flattened and dried pieces of mace are called "blades." Some suppliers will sell these blades but it is more common for mace to be marketed as a ground product. The blades are an excellent way to flavor a clear soup or other recipes where a powdered seasoning might be unattractive. Like a bay leaf, the mace blade would be removed before serving.
A common misconception is that mace the spice can be used as a weapon. The Mace we associate with personal protection is a trade name for a company that sells tear gas and pepper sprays.
Chocolate Cherry Chews
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa, preferably Dutch processed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 heaping teaspoon ground mace
1 1/2 cups rolled oats, not instant
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cherries, minced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat two baking sheets with non-stick spray.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Add the flour, cocoa, baking powder, mace and salt; beat until smooth. Stir the oats, chocolate chips and cherries into the dough by hand. Mixture will be very stiff.
Using about 1 Tablespoon of dough, drop cookies onto prepared baking sheets about an inch apart. Bake 10-12 minutes or until the tops appear dry but not browned. Remove to a wire rack and cool completely. Store in an air-tight container.
Makes about 25 cookies.
Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.
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A collection of over 100 recipes for making your own spice combinations gathered from spice shops and herb farms all over America.