No, it’s not the same as the stuff in a can that is used for self-defense! We’re talking spices here!
So what exactly is mace you ask? Mace is the lacy jacket or aril surrounding the seed of the nutmeg fruit. The seed is what we commonly call ‘whole nutmeg’ as this is what is milled to make ground nutmeg. When fresh, the mace is bright red in color and beautiful against the dark brown seed. When separated from the seed and dried, it becomes a light orange color. It is then sold as whole or ground mace.
As you might guess, this native of Malaysia and Indonesia has a flavor much like the nutmeg seed it protects, yet milder. Its aroma is a combination of pepper and cinnamon and it must be crushed or ground before use in order to release its essential oils.
Although widely used in baking here in the US, mace is a prominent spice in savory dishes and curries in Indian, Caribbean, Moroccan and Asian cooking. One of the best known Moroccan blends utilizing mace is Ras ElHanout which means “top of the shop”, or “head of the market”.
In medieval times, mace and nutmeg were so valuable that the Dutch waged a war to control the island of Banda, the major nutmeg production in the Spice Islands. The English and French all vied for control of this prime real estate, one of the few locations able to sustain the growth of nutmeg.
Once thought to fight the plague and found only in the kitchens of nobilities, this fine spice is easily available now and is ready for your next gastronomic adventure.
Put some spice in your life!
Photo by Eileen Delhi, Licensed and used by permission of E. Delhi