When the air turns crisp, we reach for one of the most aromatic spices in our cupboard: cloves. Along with cinnamon and ginger, this sweet and peppery spice is essential for autumn favorites like pumpkin pie, gingersnaps, and baked apples. How do you like to use cloves? Cloves are the unopened flower buds of the evergreen clove tree (family Myrtaceae). They are harvested by hand and dried in the sun in countries like Indonesia, Zanzibar, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, and India. Sweet, pungent, and warming, this is an intense spice and a little goes a long way. It's usually best to buy whole cloves and grind them yourself, as the powdered form loses its flavor quickly.
Though we often associate cloves with baked goods and sweets, the spice can also add depth to savory dishes, pickles, and Indian, Middle Eastern, and North African dishes. Cloves pair nicely with the flavors of apples, oranges, ham, pork, and chocolate, and other aromatic spices like cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom. We like adding a couple of whole buds to a stew or a light sprinkling of ground spice to baked winter squash.
Emily Ho is a writer, recipe developer, and educator. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches classes on food preservation, wild food, and herbalism. Emily is a Master Food Preserver and founder of LA Food Swap and the international Food Swap Network.
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