Traditional Holiday Herbs and Spices
Traditional Holiday Herbs and Spices
Designed by Lynn Smythe
All Rights Reserved
Here blowest thyme and bergamot;
Softly on the evening hour,
Sweet herbs in their spices shower.'
~Walter de la Mare, The Sunken Garden, 1917
There is nothing like the smell of a freshly baked pumpkin pie or roasted turkey to put you in a festive holiday mood. I have included some of the classic holiday herb and spice blends which can be used throughout the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Many of these blends can be found in the spice section of your local grocery store. You can also experiment and make your own blends to lend a unique flair to your own recipes. Commercially available herb and spice blends often contain salt, filers or anti-caking agents so I prefer to make my own blends whenever possible.
Allspice (Pimenta diocia) - the dried, ripe fruits of this plant are used either whole or ground into a powder. Allspice is sometimes referred to as Jamaica pepper as most of this spice that was available on the market came from Jamaica. Allspice tastes like a blend of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg with a slight peppery essence mixed along with the other flavors.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) - the dried inner bark of this plant is used either in large pieces, called quills, or ground into a powder. Cinnamon is seen as a symbol of healing, protection, and love and has even been used magically to help attract money.
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum) - Cloves are the dried, unopened flower buds from a tree which is native to Indonesia. The trees can grow to be 40 feet tall when they reach maturity. The dried flower buds resemble a tiny nail head giving rise to the folk-name little nails or nail head in many countries.
Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) - the dried seed, or nut of this plant is used in powder form. You can sometimes find whole nutmegs and nutmeg graters available for sale in gourmet stores. Nutmeg can exhibit dangerous hallucinogenic properties if used in excess; however, used in moderation it makes a delightful sweet and spicy addition to your meals.
Sweet Spice Blend
This recipe makes approximately 3 tablespoons of sweet spice blend. This blend is perfect to use throughout the holidays in all your apple and pumpkin pie recipes. This blend also tastes terrific sprinkled on top of eggnog.
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
Apple Pie with Cheddar Cheese Crust
Golden apples were thought to be a food of the gods. The old wives tale 'an apple a day keeps the doctor away' rings true as these sweet treats are full of health giving vitamin C and other nutrients.
For the cheddar cheese crust:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup butter - chilled
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 egg - separate the yolk and egg white
1/3 cup cheddar cheese - shredded
In a mixing bowl sift together the flour, salt and nutmeg. Mix in the butter with a pastry knife or two knives until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal. In a small bowl mix together the water, vinegar and egg yolk and add to the flour mixture. Stir in the shredded cheese. Use your hands to form the dough into a ball. Divide the dough in 1/2. Lightly flour a large wooden board and rolling pin. Roll out a circle of dough that is approximately 1/8" thick. Use a 9" pie pan to measure out a circle of dough that is 2" larger than the pie pan. Place the dough into the bottom of the pan and press well against the sides.
For the filling:
6 cups apples - peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons sweet spice blend
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar - packed
Place the apple slices into a large mixing bowl and stir in the lemon juice to coat all the slices. Mix in the remaining ingredients. Place the filling into the prepared pie shell. Roll out the remaining half of the dough into a 9" diameter circle and place on top of the filling. Seal together the bottom and top edges of the pie crust and use a sharp knife to trim off any extra. Brush the top of the crust with the reserved egg white. Bake at 375 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes until golden brown. If the edges of the crust begin to brown too much before the pie is done you may cover the edges of the pie with a ring of aluminum foil. Makes one 9" pie.
This spice blend can be used to make hot mulled cider. Nothing signals the holidays like the spicy aroma of hot mulled apple cider permeating your house and greeting your guests. Offer your guests a glass of this wonderful brew as soon as they arrive at your holiday celebrations.
1 gallon apple cider
Fresh orange peel - from 1 orange
2 whole cinnamon sticks - broken into pieces
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
Unsalted butter (optional)
Ground nutmeg (optional)
Pour the apple cider into a large stock pot and place the pot on the stove over medium high heat. Place the pieces of cinnamon sticks, cloves, and allspice berries onto a piece of cheese cloth. Fold the edges of the cloth over, and tie it up with a piece of string. Place the spice bundle along with the orange peel into the pot of apple cider and let it come to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes before serving. To serve, fill a mug with the spiced cider and if desired, add a small pat of butter to the top and sprinkle with some of the ground nutmeg.
Marjoram (Origanum majorana) - Marjoram is a symbol of love, honor and happiness. The scientific name for marjoram is Oreganos from the Greek words oros meaning mountain and ganos meaning joy; in other words the scientific name of this plant means joy of the mountain.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) - Rosemary is a symbol of love, friendship and remembrance. Scholars once utilized the memory enhancing properties of this herb by wearing wreaths of rosemary or carrying sprigs of rosemary with them to help them when taking exams.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) - The scientific name for sage comes from the Latin word salvere which means to cure or to be saved. Sage, also know as the herb of immortality, was once thought to be capable of promoting a long and healthy life.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) - Thyme has a variety of attributes associated with it including increasing ones courage and helping to prevent nightmares. Thyme planted in your garden is supposed to help you see fairies by attracting them to your yard.
Poultry Seasoning Blend
Use this seasoning blend to flavor chicken, turkey, duck, or Cornish game hens. It also makes a great addition to any kind of stuffing that you serve along with your poultry dishes. I am lucky to be able to grow fresh herbs year round in my USDA Zone 10 subtropical garden which I can use in my holiday recipes. If you don't have access to fresh herbs you may substitute 1 teaspoon of the dried herb for 1 tablespoon of fresh.
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram - minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage - minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Sage and Sausage Stuffing
At one time sage was thought to be a magical plant of immortality and would ensure a long and healthy life to anyone whom consumed it on a regular basis. I like to use sage flavored pork sausage in this recipe. It can be found near the bacon section of most grocery stores.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
One (16 ounce) package bulk sausage - sage flavored
1 1/4 cups onions - peeled and diced
1 1/4 cups mushrooms - sliced
One (16 ounce) package unseasoned cornbread stuffing
1 recipe Poultry Seasoning Blend
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup butter - melted
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook for 5 minutes. Add the onions and mushrooms and continue cooking until the onions are translucent and the sausage is thoroughly cooked. Break up any large lumps of sausage with a spatula or large spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside. Place the bread crumbs and poultry seasoning into a large mixing bowl. Add the chicken broth and melted butter and mix well. Stir in the sausage, onion and mushroom mixture. Place the prepared stuffing into a large baking dish. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.