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The peppery clove-like aroma of allspice makes us think of warm gingerbread and mulled wine, things we crave when the temperature starts to drop and we want to be warm inside and out. This spice doesn't get a lot of play time the rest of the year, so we try to find lots of ways to use right now when it will be appreciated most!

Allspice comes from the dried berry of a tropical evergreen related to the myrtle tree and look a lot like peppercorns. It was called allspice because it seemed to combine flavors and aromas from several different spices, namely clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon. In fact, allspice can be substituted for these spices and vice versa in a pinch!

You can find allspice as dark reddish-brown dried berries or as a ground powder. A few berries will infuse an entire braise or pot of rice with their warm, spicy flavor. We also like adding allspice to the brines for turkey, pork, and other meats for a more subtle flavor.

The powdered spice is incredibly potent, so remember that a little goes a long way when using it in any dish! Try sprinkling a little onto roasted root vegetables and squashes or adding a half teaspoon or so to your next pot of chili. We also love it in desserts when we want more spiciness than sweetness - like gingerbread, carrot cake, and some dark chocolate desserts.

Do you have allspice in your cupboard? What do you use it for the most?

Related: Look! DIY Spice Bags for Mulled Wine and Cider

(Image: Flickr member Elenadan licensed under Creative Commons)