Allspice (Jamaica pepper)

Allspice (Jamaica pepper)

Allspice is also called Jamaica pepper although it does not actually belong to either the pepper or capsicum (bell pepper and chili) families. This spice is native to the Caribbean and Central America, and received its name because it appeared to have a combination of different spice flavors. Its flavor is reminiscent of pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves at the same time, hence its name, allspice. Allspice berries are picked before ripening and dried. They are very fragrant but devoid of the sharpness of pepper, making them suitable for both savory and sweet dishes.

Allspice is found as whole berries in gourmet or exotic grocery stores, or in ground form in Caribbean grocery stores. In supermarkets, these berries are often included in an assortment of peppers. Allspice is mainly produced in Jamaica, which is the main producer and exporter of this “false” pepper.

Allspice can be ground before use to enhance its flavor.

Allspice withstands long cooking times and poses no problems with being heated.

Allspice is one of the spices used to make spice bread. It is used to aromatize cakes, compotes, chocolates, and chutneys for a combination of sweet and sour flavors. The berries are great used for shellfish and fish marinades (it is used in Sweden with herring) and for marinating meats for grilling (barbecuing; Jamaican jerk cooking). Leaves from the allspice tree, also known as the pimento tree, can easily replace bay leaves.

Allspice berries should be kept in their packet, protected from the air and in a dry place. Ground allspice should be kept in its tightly closed packet or in an airtight jar protected from light and air.

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