Good Question: Should Fresh Nutmeg Be Used the Same Way as Ground Nutmeg?

It seems like nutmeg week around here! First we talked about the nutmeg grinder we love, then Emma gave us the full scoop on this common spice. Now reader amt230 has a good question about fresh ground nutmeg.

Should recipes calling for ground nutmeg (presumably not fresh) be adjusted when using fresh ground nutmeg? I recently made a vegan pumpkin icecream and used freshly ground nutmeg (ground in a coffee grinder). While my partner thought it was just a touch strong, I thought it tasted like poison. It seems as though fresh nutmeg is definitely stronger because it still has the oils in it - so how do you adjust recipes to use?This is a good question, amt230. We tend to use slightly less fresh-ground nutmeg in recipes that call for ground nutmeg - but this is probably because we get tired of grating it!

A little searching and reading did reveal that, yes, fresh nutmeg is stronger and more potent than the ground stuff that's been sitting in a jar for who-knows-how-long. Ground nutmeg quickly loses the oils that make the fresh stuff so appealing and versatile, but these oils also make it more pungent. Professional baker Joy suggests using about 1/4 teaspoon less fresh-ground for every teaspoon called for:

A Lesson in Nutmeg

Incidentally, nutmeg is indeed an actual poison. Ingesting more than a teaspoon or two of ground nutmeg can induce hallucinations and other very unpleasant side effects. Not recommended! A typo in a Swedish food magazine sent four readers to the hospital with nutmeg poisoning:

OOPS: Even Chefs Can Mix-Up Poisonous Foods at ABC News

Take this as a reminder, too, to taste as you go; cake and muffin batters, cookie dough, and pie fillings can all be tasted as you add spices. (As long as you're not squeamish about raw eggs.) Taste as you go and see how the freshness of your spices affects the flavor.

Any more suggestions or advice on using fresh nutmeg?

Related: Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

(Image: Faith Durand)

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