Even though its name suggests a mixture of spices, allspice is a single berry from the Jamaican bayberry tree, with its pungent and aromatic bouquet and a flavor reminiscent of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Also called Jamaica pepper, kurundu, or newspice, allspice is a staple of Caribbean cooking.
Allspice is the only spice that is grown exclusively in the Western Hemisphere. Allspice was used by the Mayans as an embalming agent and by other South American Indians to flavour chocolate. Christopher Columbus discovered allspice in the Caribbean. It was introduced into European cooking soon after, in the 16th century.
Allspice is indispensable in Caribbean cuisine, used in Jamaican jerk seasoning, in moles and pickling. It is also a key ingredient in commercial sausage making and in curry powders. Allspice is important in Middle Eastern cooking, where it figures prominently in stews and meat recipes. In America, allspice appears most frequently in desserts. The Polish call it kubaba, and use it in soups and pickling. In the West Indies, an allspice liqueur called "pimento dram" is popular.
Allspice matches well with beef, beets, cabbage, carrots, corned beef, fruit pies, game, grains, lamb, meats, onions, pumpkin, rabbit, soups, spinach, squash, stews, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, turnips. Try some crushed allspice with peppercorns for a fresh take on steak au poivre.