Essential Herbs and Spices for the Holiday Season
The winter holidays are once again upon us, and that means it’s time to re-stock the pantry with these essential herbs and spices to keep you cozy (and healthy) all season long.
A staple for mulled wines and hot ciders! Allspice berries can be used ground or whole, and are a key warming ingredient for holiday soups, stews and pickling brine. Add a pinch of allspice to beef or lamb dishes as well for a subtle, yet sensational, melt-in-your-mouth flavor.
Perhaps the most commonly used spice for holiday baking, cinnamon is a surprisingly versatile ingredient and can be added to beverages, main courses and finds its way into a variety of winter squash dishes, in addition to cookies, cakes and pies. Try adding a cinnamon stick to your homemade cranberry sauce for a festive finishing touch.
The mention of clove often brings to mind holiday food favorites, such as eggnog and honey-glazed ham, yet cloves can be incorporated in many ways to enhance both sweet and savory dishes including sauces, soups and rice. While used sparingly in its ground form, whole cloves can be found decorating apples and oranges for holiday treats and table settings throughout the holiday season.
Classic holiday baking wouldn’t be the same without ginger, most popularly used to make ginger snaps and gingerbread cookies that ‘zing’ with flavor. Beyond sweets, however, this tastebud-tickling spice is also added along with pumpkin and apple to enhance the flavors of pork dishes, or paired with turmeric for a piping hot, immune-system-boosting herbal tea.
Mint and the holidays usually means peppermint bark and warm peppermint-infused drinks, yet fresh mint can be used in several ways to garnish meats, such as lamb, and to brighten vegetable dishes containing potatoes, carrots and peas. Boldly bring a hint of mint to your next holiday party by adding a taste to creamy pasta dishes.
Another essential for holiday treats, the sweetly spicy flavors of nutmeg bring new life to cold winter days. When added to cream based sauces like bechamel or curry, nutmeg creates a delicate balance between the worlds of sweet and savory.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Appearing from early fall into late winter, pumpkin pie spice is a combination of several holiday spices, such as allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg, conveniently combined into one cohesive mix that can be used for sweet and savory dishes alike. Toss some into pancake batter, coffee grounds or on top of spiced nuts to give dishes an instant ‘cool weather’ coziness.
A member of the mint family, rosemary is a tasty and tantalizing herb often added in whole sprigs to soups, stews and casseroles, as well as a garnish for various meat dishes. For a savory holiday delicacy, try infusing rosemary into garlic butter to top homemade breads and rolls with.
Sage is primarily used during the holiday season as an addition to turkey stuffings, and often accompanies rich, heavier dishes where a lighter, herbaceous touch is needed. Add sage to savory scones, breads, pies and pastries as an earthy companion for these carbohydrate-heavy delights.