Fill your home with the scents of our five favourite Christmas spices
We love this time of year. Everywhere we go, the air is heavy with the wonderful spices of mulled wine, and gingerbread. Find out more about our five favourite Christmas spices and how you can use them.
Would Christmas even be Christmas without cinnamon? It’s definitely one of our most loved holiday spices as it’s perfect for flavoring sweet and savory treats and delicious in hot winter drinks. Around two thirds of the world’s cinnamon comes from Indonesia, or more specifically, from the inner bark of the cinnamon trees that grow there. Fun fact: you can buy cinnamon in sticks because when the inner bark is shaved off it naturally rolls up in distinct quill-shapes. Cinnamon can be bought just like this, or ground up into a powder. Just add a sprinkling of ground cinnamon to apple pies, baked pears, spiced lattes, french toast, or even your morning coffee for a sure-fire way to get you and your loved ones in the mood for Christmas!
Nutmeg, with its pungent aroma and warm sweet taste is another essential Christmas spice! Nutmeg is the dried nut of the fragrant nutmeg tree, which also grows on several islands in Indonesia. The seeds are picked from the tree and left to dry for six to eight weeks, then, when the shell is hard it’s broken open and the nuts or nutmegs are picked out. It is these that you can buy at the market or supermarket – whole or ground up in a powder. Nutmeg, either grated or ground, is a delicious addition to mulled wine, christmas pudding, stollen and eggnog recipes, just stir some in to the mix and try it for yourself .
Aromatic cloves can be found in kitchens all over the world, especially at Christmas time. The word clove comes from the Latin clavus, which means “nail,” since they look like little nail heads. You’ve probably seen oranges covered in spiked cloves, not only does this make the orange taste more pungent, it also gives you top points for presentation! Cloves are the dried flower buds of the clove tree, which is also native to Indonesia. Cloves can be used to spice up warming winter soups, or can be added to cookie mixes, pumpkin pies, eggnog or mulled wine.
Gingerbread lattes, freshly baked gingerbread and lebkuchen are some of our favourite things to eat at Christmas time. For all of these you’ll need another fantastic Christmas spice – ginger. Ginger is a fiery root with rough beige skin and hard, juicy, pale yellow flesh. Fresh ginger is juicy with a sweet, spicy taste which adds a lovely warmth to sweet and savoury dishes. The dried ground root is much stronger and packs a real punch. You can also buy stem ginger which is young ginger which has been preserved in sugar syrup or crystallised and rolled in sugar.
Star anise, even look like Christmas spices! These cute little six and eight-pointed stars are the seed pods of the fruit of the Illicium verum plant that grows in Southwest China. The pods are dried before they can be used as a spice, which is why they are deep brown in colour. Each pod has six to eight points, each of which contains a single seed. Unlike other spices, both the seeds and the pod itself contain the sweet, licorisey anise flavor so you can use them whole. Whole star anise can be used in mulled wine, just make sure to run the wine mixture through a sieve before serving, as the pods can't be eaten. We also recommend using whole pods to glaze your Christmas day carrots, or ham, or even your Christmas pudding – just remember to take the pods out before serving.
Have fun filling your own kitchen with the scents of these wonderfully festive spices!