While not, strictly speaking, an herb, nutmeg is a popular flavouring. In honour of Christmas and the many spicy concoctions made at this time, I felt we should look more closely at this seed.
Nutmeg, along with cloves and pepper, has been cultivated for over a thousand years. It's used extensively in baking and for flavouring holiday drinks.
According to Penzey's, the finest nutmeg in the world grows on the Island of Grenada. They recommend buying it whole and grating it as needed in order to take full advantage of the flavourful essential oils contained therein.
Nutmeg grows on trees which can be as tall as fifty feet high. There are actually two spices harvested from the nutmeg tree. The nutmeg seed is the inner part, and its lacy outer coating produces mace. Both are, in fact, the inner seed kernel of a fruit that is yellow and peach-like. The fruit of the nutmeg tree is itself usually discarded, but is occasionally made into jam.
Nutmeg is widely used in both Eastern and Western cooking. It is considered an important meat flavouring in India and South East Asia and in the West it can be found in both sweet and savoury dishes. Quite often, you will find nutmeg as part of a spice mixture such as France's quatre epices, the Middle East's la kama, India's masala and many more besides. Use it to flavour your sauces including Bechamel and Mornay. Use it as the Italians do to flavour their spinach dishes and their pastas. Remember to add it to your Steak and Kidney Pie and your Oyster Pudding, not to mention Baked Custard. And don't forget, West Indies' Rum Punch wouldn't be the same without it!
Try sprinkling some of this into an open campfire. If you like, you can use it in your fireplace, just make sure your room is well ventilated.
1 oz sandalwood powder
1/2 oz coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1/2 oz cardamom seeds, lightly crushed
1 tsp myrrh crystals
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1 oz dried lavender flowers, ground to a powder
1 oz gum benzoin powder
2 - 3 drops essential oil
Mix together the sandalwood, coriander, cardamom, myrrh, nutmeg and lavender. Stir in the gum benzoin which will act as a fixative, and then the essential oil. Store in an airtight container. Sprinkle a few large pinches over a fire.
Yields: 4 ounces
Preparation Time: a few minutes once all the ingredients are gathered