To answer the question “ what is mace ” involves discussing its sister spice, nutmeg. They both are products of the nutmeg tree, or Myristica fragrans, which is indigenous to Moluccas Island off of the Indonesian coast. Today the trees are cultivated in other areas of Indonesia and also the West Indies.
Nutmeg is the actual seed from the nutmeg tree while mace is the covering of the seed and is removed by hand during the harvesting process. These related spices are considered to be interchangeable since they both have a warm, spicy flavor with mace having a more subtle taste.
In asking the question “what is mace”, historically speaking, mace has been the more valuable spice since a smaller quantity of it is yielded from the harvest. Flattened and dried in pieces called blades, the aroma of the spice evolves during the two week curing process. Both spices were valuable cargoes for Arab traders who imported them into Europe during the Middle Ages. In these early European times one pound of mace had the equivalent value of three sheep.
What is Mace in Cooking
Often used in conjunction with cinnamon and allspice, mace can be employed to flavor cakes, donuts, and other pastries. An ingredient of Worcestershire sauce, this spice is also used to add zest to meats, broths, mashed potatoes, stews, and sauces. Mace needs to be ground into a powder for the full flavor of the spice to be appreciated and it should be one of the first ingredients added in any recipe to allow this flavor to infuse into the food. Also used in pickling, the blades may be used instead of powder but should be removed from the dish before it is served.
Usually interchangeable with mace, nutmeg characteristically flavors pies, cakes, eggnog, and cookies. It can also be used in soups and egg dishes as well as certain bland vegetables such as cabbage. Eastern European and Middle Eastern recipes call for nutmeg to season various lamb dishes.
A tasty mace recipe for chocolate cherry chews includes the following ingredients:
Mix the butter and sugars and beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Then add the other ingredients and lastly stir in the cherries, chocolate chips, and oats. Next, form the cookies and bake for 10-12 minutes at 375° Fahrenheit.
To contrast the tastes try this easy nutmeg sugar crisp recipe. Combine the following ingredients:
Mix in the butter, sugars, egg and vanilla. Next, add the remaining ingredients and refrigerate for one hour. After shaping the cookies bake at 350° Fahrenheit for 10-12 minutes.
What is Mace in Medicine
The ancient Arabic world used mace for its supposed aphrodisiac effects. It was also used at various times to ameliorate the muscle and joint pains. Both nutmeg and mace evoke hallucinogenic effects if taken in large quantities which can be fatal. It has also been used as an aid to digestion and treatment for diarrhea.
What is mace and how does it relate to nutmeg is simply answered; they are sister spices from the same tree similar in flavor. Both add a warm aromatic flavor to a multitude of dishes.