Allspice (Recipe: rhubarb apricot chutney)
First published in May 2008, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and a few tweaks to the recipe. If you missed it the first time around, please enjoy this seasonal rhubarb recipe and some fun facts about allspice.
Next time I reorganize my spice rack, I'm abandoning my usual system.
Next time, I will not group the little jars into peppers, salts, baking spices, warm spices and leafy green herbs.
Next time, I'll sort my dried herbs and spices this way:
- miracle cures
- brings prosperity and good fortune
- used for embalming pharoahs in ancient Egypt
That covers just about everything on my spice rack, including allspice (a triple whammy: numbers 2, 3 and 4).
The dried berry of a myrtle tree native to the West Indies and Central America, allspice was discovered by Christopher Columbus, who, thinking it was pepper, named it pimienta. Subsequently it became known as Jamaican pepper, because most of the best quality crop grew there; the English gave it the name "allspice", because it mimics the aroma of several spices, including cloves, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg.
According to Herbs & Spices by Jill Norman, "allspice is the only important spice that still comes almost exclusively from its region of origin -- which also makes it the only one grown almost exclusively in the New World." Today the majority of the world allspice harvest goes to the food industry, for use in commercial ketchups and other sauces.
One of the so-called warm spices, allspice is the star component of Jamaican jerk seasoning, and often features in ras-el hanout, Syrian spice, and the American inventions apple pie and pumpkin spices.
Whole allspice berries should be a dark reddish brown, and rounded, with a rough surface and no musty smell. Ground allspice should be a rich, dark brown with a warm aroma. I always have ground allspice in the pantry, and occasionally there are some whole allspice berries, too.
If you prefer to grind your own, five whole berries equal one teaspoon of ground allspice; if you have to substitute, try equal parts cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg.
Properly stored in a cool, dry place, allspice will keep for more than a year (whole allspice berries will keep longer, up to three years).
And if it brings you a bit of prosperity and good fortune... well, there's nothing wrong with that.
I love chutney; it's sweet and tart and a little bit spicy, a perfect accompaniment to roast chicken, grilled fish or pork, and a condiment for Indian curries. Adapted from Magic Spices: 200 healthy recipes featuring 30 common spices, by Donna L. Weihofen.
Makes approximately 3 cups.
2 cups diced rhubarb (2 large stalks)
2 cups dried apricot halves, diced
1 small red onion, minced
1 cup honey
1 cup golden raisins
2 cups cider vinegar
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger root
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
In a heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is thick but still has a small amount of liquid (it will thicken as it cools). Serve warm or cold.
Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator (if using a canning jar, replace the metal lid with a plastic one, so the acid in the chutney won't corrode the lid), for 2-3 months.
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Gingerbread biscotti with apricots, from Cooking on the Side
Rhubarb, beet and blue cheese salad, from Mostly Foodstuffs
Rhubarb apple bread, from Two Peas & Their Pod
Spiced rhubarb compote, from Cookin' Canuck
Syrian eggs scrambled with rhubarb, from The Taste Space