Minty Fresh!

Just in case you didn’t get enough chocolate in the run up to Valentine’s Day this week, take comfort in knowing that National Chocolate and Mint Day is just around the corner, February 19. And while we’ve dedicated lots of time and attention to our love of all things chocolate, we haven’t spent nearly as much time focused on yummy, refreshing mint.

Let’s rectify that oversight right now.

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Rory’s ‘Smokin’ Coffee’ Chili Recipe Showcased in Latest DSM Magazine

There is a little piece in the latest issue of DSM Magazine about AllSpice Owner Rory Brown’s chili that was written by local food writer Wini Moranville for her “I Snagged the Recipe” column.

Moranville says, “From college until just a few years ago, I made the same chili recipe winter after winter. Then I tasted Rory Brown’s Smokin’ Coffee Chili and realized there was no going back.”

She especially loves (no suprise!) the spices in Rory’s chili recipe: “that blend of warming seasonings that thaw you through and through on a cold winter’s night.”

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Jerk 101

11-Roast-Fish-Jerk-Chicken-stand-ConeyIsland-Jason-LamWhat is jerk? Jerk is a Spanish word that comes from the Peruvian word charqui: a word for dried strips of meat like what we call jerky. The word jerk started as a noun referring to the dish, and then became a verb, jerking, or poking holes in meat so the spices could permeate the food.

More broadly, jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica where meat is poked with tiny holes and coated (either dry-rubbed or wet marinated) with a fiery spice mixture called Jamaican jerk spice.

Where’d jerk come from? Formerly enslaved Coromantee Africans in Jamaica are thought to be the originators of the jerk style sauce, developed as an adaptation, seasoning and slow cooking wild hogs over native allspice wood and using local herbs and spices, such as the fiery-hot Scotch Bonnet pepper.
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Shortbread, Plain and Fancy

History you can eat. This weekend we celebrate National Shortbread Day, on January 6. The history of shortbread is a long one: shortbread evolved from medieval “biscuit bread,” a twice-baked bread roll dusted with sugar and spices. Eventually, the yeast from the original bread-roll recipe was supplanted by butter (yum), which was becoming more of a staple in Britain and Ireland.

Mary-Queen-of-Scots-movie-2018-focus-featuresAlthough shortbread was prepared in Scotland as far back as the 12th century, the refinement of shortbread to its modern sugar+butter+flour form is credited to Mary, Queen of Scots in the 16th century.  (Queen Mary liked her shortbread savory, seasoned with a bit of caraway).

In the “olden days,” shortbread was expensive to make, and was reserved as a luxury for special occasions such as Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and for weddings. In some parts of GB, shortbread is still a treat served on important days; in Shetland, it is traditional to break a shortbread cake over the head of a new bride as she enters her new house.

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Easy as 1:2:3. The recipe for shortbread is perhaps the simplest cookie recipe you’ve ever made: 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter, and 3 parts flour.

That’s it: sugar, butter, flour. What could be easier?

But oh, the fun things you can add to or do with a basic shortbread recipe, to make this delicious buttery cookie into a fancy treat!

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Here Comes the Sun: Yuletide Traditions You Can Eat

allspice-holiday-window-decorations-2016Christmas is just around the corner — and on our way to that holiday later this week, we celebrate the Winter Solstice. The solstice marks the moment the sun shines at its most southern point, directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.

As soon as the solstice has passed, the days will start getting longer again and you can start looking forward to Spring. Celebrated by pagans for thousands of years, Winter Solstice is marked as the “sun’s rebirth” and new solar year.

Many of the traditions and rituals of rebirth, now associated with Christmas, had their roots in winter solstice celebrations – Yule logs, mistletoe, Yule songs (Christmas hymns and carols) and Christmas trees to name a few.

AllSpice_Holiday_sleigh_decorationAnd like with many other familiar traditions and rituals, some of the most beloved symbols associated with the winter solstice, and the solstice-linked Germanic celebration of Yule, are customs centered around food.

Food-centered Yule celebrations included sacrificing and eating a Yule pig (this tradition has given rise to the popular Christmas ham), as well as Wassail, a hot and spicy beer.

Familiar shapes and colors. Many of the special celebratory foods of Yule are hollow circles: breakfast kringle pastry shaped like a wreath (the wreath itself a symbol for the cyclical, repeating “wheel” of the year).

Other treats are full circles – round cakes and pies and cookies, shaped like the sun.

In keeping with the “here comes the sun” theme of Yule, too, many feast foods are made in sunny colors, whether they are delicacies and drinks colored with strong winter spices, or casseroles, curries and paellas made bright with saffron, turmeric, and chilies.

Traditional solstice / Yule foods also feature the circle gone 3-D: dishes and desserts featuring sun-like spherical ingredients like apples, oranges, and even eggs.

Traditional foods of Yule include: cookies and caraway cakes soaked in cider, fruits, nuts, pork dishes, turkey, eggnog, ginger tea, spiced cider, wassail, or “lamb’s wool” (ale, sugar, nutmeg, roasted apples), apples, mulled wine, beans, and oranges.

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