Allspice Demystified

Allspice … we know it helps give our pumpkin pies that delicious, unmistakable taste. I even used it in my Pumpkin Refrigerator Pickles. But what the heck is allspice, anyway?

Photo by jeffreyw via Wikimedia Commons

 

Take a poll of people in most any setting, and I’ll venture to guess that the most common opinion would be that allspice is a mixture of spices—perhaps cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. But when you look for allspice on the spices shelf at your local grocery, you might notice that one option is to buy allspice berries. So there goes the mixture theory …

Allspice—also known as Jamaica pepper, myrtle pepper, pimenta, pimento, English pepper, and newspice—actually got its name as early as the 1600s because it tasted like a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. But those berries you saw on the shelf were actually the dried fruit of the P. dioica plant. And in addition to its use in baked goods, sausages, and curries, allspice has also had an interesting history of non-culinary uses—including one in Napolean’s army. Check out this video from the American Chemical Society to find out more. (Spoiler alert: you’re either going to find the narrator endearingly adorable … or annoying. 🙂 )

Leave a comment 3 Comments

  1. Cindi says:

    I will mind the spoiler alert and wait until I’m fully awake to watch the video. 🙂 Actually, doing a little self pat on the back here because I knew that about allspice. Not too early for a little I-knew-it dance ~ is it? Oh and hey! That pie with the pecans on top… those look very much like the spiced nuts my mother made every Christmas! I’ve never seen them outside the family. It is an old recipe that seems unlike any other spiced nut recipe I have ever seen. Such a powerful little berry. You only need a little bit of allspice in most recipes but food is not the same if you skip it!

  2. Winnie Nielsen says:

    I knew that Allspice was a berry because I have bought them whole for various recipes. However, it is fascinating to learn about the tree, leaves, and other medicinal properties too. Thanks for sharing this and I have to agree with the speaker, Pumpkin Pie is one of my favorites too.

  3. Denise says:

    Didn’t know this. I figured it was a mixture because lots of substitute charts say to use a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Hmm, go figure.

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