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Spice market: allspice

Susan Jung

 

All or nothing Because of its name, I used to think allspice was a mixture akin to five-spice, ras el hanout, quatre epices and shichimi. It does actually taste somewhat like a blend of strong, aromatic spices such as clove, cinnamon, nutmeg and peppercorns.

The fruit of a type of myrtle shrub, allspice is important in Caribbean cuisines, especially that of Jamaica, which grows much of the world's supply and where it's used in the spice mixture for jerk-style barbecued meats. In Europe, it's used in some types of sausage and meatball, in mince pies and Christmas pudding, and in spiced breads such as lebkuchen, honey cake, gingerbread and pain d'epices.

In aromatherapy, allspice essential oil is believed to be an aphrodisiac, help with digestive problems and have antioxidant and sedative qualities; but it's also said to be a skin irritant, so it should be heavily diluted with milder oils.

Jerk seasoning varies greatly from cook to cook, and it also depends on the type of meat being used. In general, though, it contains ground allspice along with other aromatics including garlic, onion and chillies, and an acidic element such as vinegar or citrus juice. In Jamaica, the meat is cooked over aromatic allspice branches.

 

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