A pinch of Christmas spice lore
In order for something to have the smell or taste of Christmas, a trace of certain exotic spices is all that’s needed. Take anise, cloves or cinnamon, for example. But why are these spices always stored in the ‘Christmas drawer’? Do they not have the same right to be used in our kitchen throughout the year like their fellow spices salt and pepper? We did a little research on spice history and found an explanation.
How exotic spices turned into Christmas flavors
Exotic spices haven’t been around this part of the world for as long as you’d think. For the longest time, people here knew only of salt and a few herbs. This all changed in the Middle Ages, when exotic spices from the Orient were brought to Europe with the crusades. Since the sea routes were very dangerous and laborious for importing, spices were very expensive and considered particularly precious. As a result, they were only bought and used for festive occasions like Christmas. Even though the goods are now much more attainable than they used to be, this tradition has continued to this day.
Test your spice knowledge
How well do you know your Christmas spices? Could you recognize them all by smell or taste? We have put together a small test with the ten most popular Christmas spice varieties for you. While it would be rather difficult to conduct a real taste test on the blog, we’ve gone to great lengths to describe the particular smell/taste experience and to give a delicious example of how the spice is used. At the bottom of this page you will find the answers. But hey, don’t cheat!
- Slightly spicy taste and an intense aroma due to the high amount of essential oils. Used in gingerbread, grog and burnt punch.
- Tastes sweet and spicy and smells a bit of camphor. Used to flavor gingerbread, spiced cookies and punch.
- Smells and tastes of licorice, can be sweet or bitter depending on the type. The typical spice for peppernut cookies.
- Spicy-sweetish, slight peppery taste. Honey gingerbread and gingerbread taste like it, but it is also suitable for soups and stews.
- Velvety-tangy. Used for a specific, specially shaped type of cookie, but also for many other baked goods. It even provides a special touch for meat dishes. Supposedly also helps diabetics reduce their blood sugar level.
- Intensive aroma which should be used sparingly because it can quickly taste soapy. A touch of it gives gingerbread, grog, mulled wine and more the right taste. Can also be used year-round, for example to flavor spinach.
- Citrus-spicy taste, often used in Asian cuisine. Used here at Christmas time for cookies or gingerbread, available as sticks year-round.
- Smells of lemon and musk, tastes of orange peel, cinnamon and nutmeg. Used to flavor gingerbread and Printen. This herb is the order of the day in Arabic, Indian and Thai cuisine.
- Has a licorice-like aroma and refines the taste and appearance of gingerbread, peppernut cookies and Christmas tea.
- Mild, aromatic flavor for varied and year-round use – whether in cakes or cookies, desserts or ice cream.
- Star anise
So, did you get all of them right? Whatever the case, you’ve probably worked up a good appetite by now … Maybe we can provide a little remedy. Visit the ‘Christmas’ section of our online shop to find many spiced treats such as Christmas pralines, honey gingerbread, Stollen, Christmas chocolate, Christmas fruit spread, Christmas tea …
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