It is often used to substitute cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg but there isn't a single spice that can capture the essence of allspice.
Allspice is often confused with the term 'mixed spices' but it isn't a spice blend at all. It is a fragrant berry used in both savory and sweet dishes. Curious to know more about allspice? We've got you covered!
What is Allspice?
Allspice is native to Jamaica. It is one of the spices Christopher Columbus encountered on his trip to the island back in 1494. He mistook it for black pepper, the main spice he set out for, which is why the tree that produces allspice is referred to as the pimiento tree (pimiento is Spanish for pepper).
Prized as a preservative and warming agent, allspice is commonly used in food, beverages, candy, perfumes and medicine.
Fun fact: During the Napoleonic wars Russian soldiers sprinkled allspice in their boots to keep their feet warm.
Uses for Allspice
Round and small, allspice is used in Jamaica's famous jerk seasoning.
Its antiseptic qualities made it ideal for the preservation of meat centuries ago. Germans and Scandinavians still use it for that purpose, whether its in sausage making or pickling fish or meats.
Allspice is also an ingredient in some recipes for Mexican chicken mole (such as the one pictured below).
Allspice is featured in the French spice mix quatre épices and is also used to season the classic Greek recipe of stuffed grape leaves.
While it is used in many savory dishes, allspice is famous the world over for its use in pastries. It's found in everything from pumpkin and apple pies to gingerbread cookies.
Allspice is also widely used in the production of soft drinks, flavored rums and liqueurs. It is also popular as a mulling spice.
How to Buy Allspice
When buying allspice, opt for buying it whole. The berries should be round, even textured, dark brown and aromatic. The spice loses a lot of its potency when ground so it is best to grind only when needed.
How to Store Allspice
Keep allspice in an airtight container away from light and moisture.
Medicinal benefits of Allspice
Allspice is full of antioxidants and has warming and antiseptic properties. It's been used to treat athlete's foot, alleviate rheumatoid arthritis and ease menopausal symptoms. Studies have shown it can also help lower blood pressure, according to Healing Spices, written by Bharat B. Aggarwal, PhD and Debora Yost.
Interested in other spices? Get to know more about cardamom.