Chef’s Favourite Spice – Mace

Whenever my mom used to mutton stew…I saw her secretly adding this powder to it…and the taste of the dish and its aroma…used to be wild-hunger-instigating…There were certain aunts whose lives revolved around their kitchen and food…they kept prodding mom to disclose to them the complete recipe of the stew to which mom modestly pretended to shy away and fobbed them off saying there was nothing special or unusual about the dish…

 I was never a kitchen person…so tho’ I knew there always was something ‘special’ in mom’s ‘usual’ dishes…but never bothered to ask…But today when I have to cook myself…I realize…I should’ve asked mom her ‘secret’ spice… 

And again…I feel it’s okay…what are search engines for? Laying the ins and outs in front of you at just a click…And that’s exactly how I got to know about this spice called ‘Mace’… 

I’ll brief you about this wonderful and now a part of my secret pack of ‘spices’…Mace is the aril (it’s the bright red…lacy covering) of the nutmeg seed shell…The mace actually is removed from the shell and its broken parts that are called blades…And it’s a fact that the past of mace is closely tied to the history of nutmeg…though the two items have been treated separately…Because the yield of mace is much less than nutmeg’s it has had greater value…A pile of fruit large enough to make one hundred pounds of nutmeg produces a single pound of mace… 

I think I should brief you of its related history simultaneously…It’s of the time when the Dutch controlled the Moluccas (the Spice Islands)…one colonial administrator sent orders that the colonists should plant fewer nutmeg trees and more mace trees…Reason being…Mace had made a market and place for itself…
I am sure you must be eager to know about the itself now…hmm…Well…In its natural state…mace is a bright crimson lace up to 35 mm long…encasing the brown nutmeg in irregular…fleshy lobes…As it is dries…it develops its characteristic aroma but loses its bright red colour…Mace from the West Indies is a yellowish brown colour and with fewer holes than mace from East Indian nutmegs which are more orange when dried….The mace from either locale can become brittle and horny…though the best quality mace will retain some pliability and release a  little oil when squeezed…It is also sold ground and sometimes  still enclosing the nutmeg…

There is not much of preservations needed for this ultimate spice…Dried mace pieces are not easy to crush….Ready-ground mace is easier to use…but will deteriorate much more quickly…Whole mace pieces can be steeped in liquid and then the liquid can be used…or the mace pieces can be removed after cooking…You know just one ‘blade’ is strong enough to add taste to a meal of almost four to six portions….

You won’t be surprised to know…Like I mentioned initially…Mace and nutmeg are very similar…though mace is somewhat more powerful…Mace is a lighter colour and can be used in  light-coloured dishes where the darker flecks of nutmeg would be undesirable….A small amount will enhance many recipes…adding fragrance without imposing too much taste…Mace works especially well with milk dishes like custards and cream  sauces…It contributes to flavouring light-coloured cakes and pastries…especially donuts…Mace is an exotic spice…It can enhance clear and creamed  soups and casseroles…chicken pies and sauces…Adding some to mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes creates a more interesting  side dish…Some beverages improve with a little mace…especially chocolate drinks and tropical punches…

Phew! That’s too much work for one little spice…But bravo…I love it

Okay…Go through the content of our reference links now…

  1. Mace Recipes by about.com
  2. History of Mace Spice by Peggy Trowbridge Filippone
  3. Mace…Indian Spice by indanetzone

Pinch Of Mace Powder To Dishes

Must have seen the advertisements for these packets of spices…those if added to any dish…would give it a kick…a tangy…yummy taste…you know it would turn any bland tasting dish to this super sizzling recipe… 

Mace powder…consider it one such addition only…which…as a matter of fact…is a part of almost every second dish that is cooked in any Indian household…call it a staple spice there… 

Hmm…This Mace is the crimson hued spice or condiment…present as the second membrane covering the seed of the nutmeg fruit or the nutmeg….The taste of it is milder than that of nutmeg and is used in recipes which are delicately flavoured….and do not require a sharp and pricking smell…It consists of the essential oils…which give out its peculiar flavour and aroma….

A fine fact is that…this powder is available almost everywhere…You can find mace in almost all the grocery stores…containing spices…Also check supermarkets and food malls…It is generally available in glass bottles in powdered form or as a whole or in small pieces….Another valuable tip for you…While buying…check for the crispy nature and the red or orange intense colour of the mace…The mace powder if brown in colour…check for any lump formation in it….

This Mace powder is one amazing thing I tell you…it is used to flavour cakes and other sweets…but mace is also used in many savoury dishes…These include

  • Meats
  • Sauces
  • Curries
  • Pickling
  • Ketchup
  • Worcestershire sauce

Mace can be in fact it IS used as a nutmeg substitute in most recipes….Reason being this spice is sweeter and milder…than anything else at it’s competition…

Also mace is often used in place of nutmeg when dark coloured flecks of nutmeg might ruin the appearance of certain dishes….C’mon you can well understand that not so tempting looking dishes…no matter how tasty…can repel the eaters…and gawkers…Whereas often the most nicely garnished and nicely served and coloured dishes…attract the maximum masses and most of the times they deceivingly turn out to be puke-inducing…Anyway…back to the topic…Ground mace can be substituted in light coloured sauces…clear broths…omelettes and mashed potatoes…

Take two useful tips from me..

  1. One tip I would give you is that…Crush or grind whole mace before use to release its essential oils…flavour…& aroma… 
  2. Also….Add it at the begin of the cooking process to allow its full flavour to come out…and spread… 

Hmm…enough of information now….have a look at our references now…

  1. Spice Substitution Chart by about.com
  2. Mace Powder Recipes by Yummly
  3. Herbs and Spices by apinchof.com