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Warm Autumn Spices

Crisp autumn weather is the perfect time to savor the pleasures of warm spices. These fragrant flavors enrich almost any fare including baked apples, muffins, roasted meats, pumpkin pies, steaming beverages and more.

Spices are meant to be used sparingly and may be kept for long periods of time, up to a year. Buy them in small amounts to ensure freshness and store in a tightly capped jar, preferably away from direct sunlight. To get the best flavor out of spices, you can toast them gently over a low flame in a skillet before using. Place whole or ground spices in a skillet and stir two to three minutes until the aroma is released. (If using whole spices, you may need to grind after toasting.) This will give your spices a more robust, nutty and earthy flavor. Make sure you toast in small batches because the intense toasted flavor will diminish relatively quickly – and try to use them within a day or two after toasting. Check out some of our favorites to spice up your rack.

allspice – So named because it tastes like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, but it is a berry of its own. This piquant powdered berry adds depth to a variety of dishes from classic pumpkin pie to Jamaican jerk chicken. This spice is prominent in Indian cooking and generally used sparingly due to the intense flavor.

cinnamon - A mildly sweet spice, cinnamon is most often used for baked goods. It possesses a delicate aroma and is sold in the form of cinnamon sticks or ground. When ground, it’s a must add-in for pies, cakes, breakfast rolls and crumbles. It also makes wonderful ice cream or try using the sticks for mulling cider. Cinnamon is a superb complement to both apples and chocolate. Try a sprinkle on top of hot chocolate for a Mexican flavor. Or, add a little cinnamon to your coffee grounds to make your own flavored coffee.

clove – When used whole, these rosebud-like spices are glorious studded into baked ham or cooked with rice for an Indian flavor. A pinch of ground cloves will go a long way adding depth and complexity to gingerbread and pumpkin pie. It is also used in Indian and Mexican cuisines.

ginger – This hard-working spice puts the snap in gingersnaps, is a happy surprise in lemon curd and lemon squares or adds intensity to jams and jellies. It also blends well with cinnamon and nutmeg for many baking applications. Some countries flavor coffee and tea with it. Ginger is prominent in Indian and Asian cuisines. With its slightly sweet, robust flavor followed by a kick of heat, ginger is the one-two punch of the spice rack.

nutmeg – Look for the whole spice, shaped like an undersized pecan, and use a Microplane grater or the finest side of a box grater to release its unforgettable flavor. Nutmeg, soft and easy to grate, will add zip to your next batch of snickerdoodles or French toast. It’s also fabulous in cream sauces over your favorite pasta. Don’t forget to use sparingly because nutmeg can overpower the flavor of your dish.