Sunday, April 27, 2014

For The Love Of A Spice Cabinet

I love spices for their colors, flavors, and smells. They're all different and each have something unique to offer. For this, I just grabbed a few of my favorites items out of the spice cabinet and started playing around. Instead of just tossing together a few pictures, I figured I'd add a little info about each so that your time spent reading this post was put to good use….

First let's start with cocoa; now technically, some people say cocoa is a spice and others say it isn't. I'm siding with those that say it isn't, but it really doesn't matter! Cocoa is really ground up cocoa beans from the cacao tree. 
When the pods are harvested, they are laid out in piles or on grates and allowed to "sweat", this means that the thick pulp vanishes and leaves behind the beans. Then the wet beans are taken to a place where they are dried and then they ferment. After that, they are shipped to places to make the cocoa powder, chocolate, etc. The beans are roasted, then cracked and their shells are removed. After all of this, the pieces of cocoa beans are called "nibs". The nibs can then separated into cocoa butter and cocoa powder, using a hydraulic press. Now you've got the cocoa we get in our little brown Hershey's boxes!

Next comes a wonderful smelling spice… Cinnamon! The name "cinnamon" came from the Greeks and not only has the spice been considered a gift for kings and gods, it's referred to in the Hebrew Bible in Proverbs and Song of Solomon.
Cinnamon comes from either the Ceylon Cinnamon tree or the Cassia tree. The tree is grown for two to three years and then coppiced (the tree is cut back to ground level, covered with soil, and then the shoots are allowed to grow out of it). Once the shoots have grown out of the stump, they are cut off and then stripped of their bark, which is laid out in the sun to dry. When the bark dries, it curls into "quills" (or what we call sticks) and then is packaged and shipped. For the ground cinnamon, the sticks are ground up gently and you're done!

My favorite thing about paprika is the color. I love the bright red! 
Paprika is a spice made from dried and then ground, sweet bell or chili peppers. Hot, sweet, smoked, plain, Spanish, Hungarian - There are many different variations of paprika and it's the fourth most used spice in the world. One use for paprika is coloring. Whenever a dish is bland and colorless, paprika is generally heated and added; because when heated, paprika releases its color and flavor.

Ground mustard (also known as dry mustard) is made from ground mustard seeds. Not only are the seeds of the mustard plant used, but the leaves and stalk can be used as well. There are three different kinds of mustard seeds; white (or yellow), brown (Asian), and black. Black mustard seeds have mostly been replaced by brown seeds as they can be grown and harvested more economically. In terms of how pungent the seeds are, black is much more pungent than the mild white seeds, while the brown seeds are in between them. 
Typically, to make English mustard, the white and brown seeds are blended together; for Chinese and European mustards, the brown seeds are the main ingredient.

Ok, so yes. Parsley is an herb, not a spice. But it was one of those things I grabbed and it's in the picture. So I think I'll tell you a bit about it anyway! 
Basically, dried parsley is just that. Dried parsley! While there are more than 30 different varieties of parsley, the most common of them are the curly-leaf parsley and then the more flavorful flat-leaf parsley. Since parsley doesn't hold up very well during cooking, it's generally added at the end of making the dish. Dried parsley adds mostly color and curly parsley is used for garnish, while Italian parsley is used for flavor.

The last thing I grabbed was peppercorns. Whenever I'm cooking, I like to grind peppercorns instead of using the pre-ground pepper as I feel it adds more flavor if it's just been ground. Peppercorns are the fruit from a flowering vine called the Pepper plant. The fruits (peppercorns) are dried and then sold whole or ground. Black pepper is the world's most traded spice. There are actually six different varieties of peppercorns; Pink, Green, Malabar Black, Sarawak White, Tellicherry Black, and Muntok White.

Well, I think I'm feeling rather hungry after typing all of this!


No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave a comment as I love hearing from you guys! Please type nice, no rudeness or foul language, and no links.