In Western cooking, mace is used in fish and shellfish dishes, veal and chicken stews, sauces, cakes and pastries. In the Middle East and many parts of Asia, mace is used for meat and chicken casseroles, rice dishes, or stuffing.
Nutmeg is used worldwide with vegetables such as spinach and sprouts, in sauces, puddings, custards, cakes, eggnogs; ingredient in many sweet spice mixtures. It is profusely used in baking and sweet dishes. It is also widely added to vegetable dishes and sauces. It has less applications with savory dishes, although gives a special flavor to patés in France or potted meats in England.
How to identify mace and nutmeg
Mace and nutmeg come from a tropical evergreen tree that grows quite high, about 33 feet (10 m) more or less. The tree takes more than 10 years to mature and produce the spices. A the tree that has reached this stage will render about 2000 nutmegs every year for the following 70 to 75 years. It is female trees the ones to bear the fruits.
The fruit reminds of a peach and the seed resembles a red peach kernel. The web-like aril covering the core, with a crimson coloring, is mace. The core itself is nutmeg.
Mace is dried and then takes a brown color. Mace is sold whole, as small blades, or ground. Good quality blades should feel greasy and release a little oil if pressed. Ground mace should have a rather strong spiced aroma, somehow sweet. Mace is expensive, therefore often mixed with lesser quality nutmeg plants.
How to use and store
Ground mace is best for baking and the blades are good for cooking in liquid. Blades are brittle therefore very difficult to grind at home. Keep ground mace in an airtight container but buy only in very small quantities as ground mace loses flavor and aroma very fast and it is best to renew often.
Use ground mace to flavor creams, custards and puddings;, or to flavor a hot chocolate. It can add a nice touch to soups and casseroles but it is essential to make French paté o stuffings, and a must-have to make the very British potted fish, potted meat of potted cheese recipes. Mace is also used for pickling and preserving, chutneys, relishes and in some cocktails.
Nutmeg can be found as whole kernels or ground. Buy whole kernels best and grate as needed. There are graters designed exclusively for nutmeg. Store whole nutmegs in an airtight container, in a cool, dry, dark place.
Nutmeg kernels come in a dark brown color or white, when they are limed. Lime coated nutmeg is not the best quality, as this is often done to improve appearance and hide problems, such as worms. If the kernel is good quality, some oil should come out when pressed.
Nutmeg is often used ground in puddings, pies and baking in general. It is also a common ingredient in baking spice mixes or those for mulled alcoholic drinks. It is used to flavor all sort of vegetables, from boiled sprouts to steamed spinach, and vegetable dishes. . it is an essential in béchamel, a French white sauce, and stuffing for cannelloni, ravioli, or tortellini, in Italian cuisine. Nutmeg will find its way into spicy stewed lamb dishes in the Middle East.
Cooking with mace and nutmeg
Use mace in all sorts of recipes, such as potted meat. Use sparingly as it has a powerful flavor.
Mace goes well with green vegetables and those with a sweet or mild taste. Try adding a little to dishes with green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, corn, eggplant, greens, parsnips, spinach, summer and winter squash, sweet potatoes, or turnips - or add mace to the plain vegetable, steamed or roasted.
Mace matches fruits in general. Try adding mace to a fruit salad or poached pears. Mace will highlight the sweetness of red summer fruits such as cherries.
Mace will enhance many a cheese recipe. Add it shamelessly to soufflés, spreads, or fondues.
Many meats and poultry benefit from the flavor and aroma mace gives off. Try it with beef, ham, pork, rabbit, or venison, either in a casserole or roasted. Chicken, duck, goose or turkey dishes have benefited from mace.
Mace will not harm, quite the opposite, if you are cooking with chocolate. Mix a little in the dough for bread, both sweet and savory, if you feel adventurous.
Of course, most stuffing recipes will improve with the addition of mace and we have already mentioned baking, puddings, soups, potted meat or fish, stuffing and French paté.
Try sprinkling some grated nutmeg over plain potato mash. Cheese dishes also benefit from nutmeg when the cheese is mild flavored.
Nutmeg goes along fruits in general. Try a little grated with poached or baked apples, or summer fruits such as apricots and peaches. Nutmeg can enhance the flavor in red fruits, such as cherries, especially if cooked in wine or spirits. Nutmeg is great in fruit pie spice blends.
Many green vegetables love nutmeg; try it on such as spinach, winter or spring greens. So do love it bright and sweet flavored vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin or sweet potatoes. Eggplant, mushrooms, onions, parsnips or tomatoes also like nutmeg, add it to winter squash but not to the summer one.
Add nutmeg equally to cakes or sweet breads, and to baked ham.
Many dishes with white and less red meats, such as pork, veal, chicken, and turkey, improve with a little grated nutmeg.
For drinks, add it to your mulled wine and mulled cider recipes, or sprinkle a little over your eggnog or hot chocolate.
Most stuffing recipes and dishes that include mild cheese will improve with the addition of nutmeg.
If you are working on a recipe that lists ground mace among the ingredients and you don't have it at hand, use instead same amount of:
- ground nutmeg
- ground allspice
- apple pie spice mix
- ground cinnamon.
And if you are working on a recipe that lists ground or grated nutmeg among the ingredients and you don't have it at hand, use instead same amount of:
- ground mace
- ground allspice
- apple pie spice mix
- ground cinnamon
- apple pie spice mix or pumpkin spice mix.
1 tablespoon ground mace is about 1/4 oz or 6 g
Mace has a sweet taste, similar to that of nutmeg, but stronger and with a hint of cinnamon.
Nutmeg has a sweet, nutty taste, with a hint of wood aroma, spicy and strong. The taste is similar to that of mace, but softer and more elusive.
From the two, nutmeg and mace, nutmeg is considered the less delicate.
Mace and nutmeg come from the same plant. Mace is the membrane that covers the seed while nutmeg is the actual seed. The proper name for that membrane is aril.
Mace originated in the Moluccas and New Guinea. It is grown successfully in other tropical countries such as the West Indies and Sri Lanka.
Nutmeg was one of the great spices that made European countries plot and battle for the trade monopoly. During its golden age, people were known to carry their personal silver nutmeg grater so they would be able to add freshly grated nutmeg to their food and drink. They might have been addicted to myristicin, a chemical in nutmeg that can induce to euphoria and produce hallucinations if taken in large amounts. Myristicin is similar to mescalin, but don't worry. It is harmless in the quantities we use when cooking today.
How to grow
The nutmeg tree likes tropical climate and the sea. It is very difficult to grow out of these zones. Some of the best mace in the world comes from Indonesia.
French: macis, noix de muscade.
German: Mazis, Muskatnuss.
Spanish: macis, nuez moscada.