From The Spice Cupboard: Mace

Many of us probably associate "mace" with the defensive pepper spray, but the real mace is actually a pungent spice related to nutmeg! In ground form, it can turn dishes a lovely mustard yellow and add delicate sweet-spicy flavors. Have you ever cooked with mace?

Mace is actually made from the lacy outer coating that covers the shell around the nutmeg kernel (see above). It's removed and dried separately from nutmeg, and you can find it sold as whole "blades" or ground into a powder.

In flavor, mace is very similar to nutmeg, though more subtle and delicate. If you find nutmeg too potent or astringent, try using mace instead for a gentler flavor.

While mace can be used in sweet dishes just like nutmeg, this spice really shines in savory dishes. It's often used in spice blends for flavoring meat dishes, stews, curries, savory sauces, and homemade pickles. It was also the original spice used in hot dogs!

The flavor can become bitter if it's cooked too long, so it's best to add mace toward the end of cooking as a finishing spice. Whole mace blades should also be removed before serving.

• Find mace at Penzeys Spices: $3.09 for a 1-ounce bag.
• Try mace in these recipes:

Stuffed Grape Leaves from the Kitchn
Butternut Squash Apple Cranberry Bake from Simply Recipes
Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Beer and Horseradish Mustard from Epicurious
Spicy Beef Curry from Epicurious

How have you used mace in your cooking?

Related: Weekend Project: Make Homemade Sausage

(Image: Flickr member ciamabue licensed under Creative Commons)