What Is Allspice if It’s Not All of the Spices?

My spice rack is a mess. There are dozens of expired spices, tipped over with their lids off, partially spilling their contents all over a dingy rack that looks suspiciously like the one Homer built for Marge. The spices that actually get called up to regularly season my meals aren’t even on it. Those are just on the counter. I have my salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, Tony Chachere, and allspice all ready to go. What’s that you say? What is allspice? Let’s get into it.

What is allspice? 

Allspice is a berry. Yep, that’s right: It’s not all the spices mixed together like when I combine every soda from the soda fountain in one cup to make the absolute worst-but-best drink of all time. Allspice is the unripe fruit of a tree native to the West Indies, Southern Mexico, and Central America known as the Pimenta dioica. The little berry is also known as a Jamaica pepper, myrtle pepper, or pimento. It is fermented and dried before it’s sold in spice jars. 

What does allspice taste like? 

Allspice is a warm spice that tastes like a blend of pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Even though it tastes like all those seasonings and the name makes it seem like they’re all in there, it’s just those processed berries. 

So, why is it called allspice?

When those Europeans came into the Caribbean and “discovered” land, people, and food that had been around forever, they renamed stuff that already had names and those names stuck for some reason. They thought allspice tasted like a combination of all of their warm spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg so that’s what they called the berries. 

What is allspice used for?

Allspice can be used for a ton of stuff, from sweet to savory in many cuisines. It’s used in Jamaican jerk chicken, Swedish pickled herring, Mexican mole, Middle Eastern baharat, and even corned beef. When it comes to sweets, think of allspice as pumpkin spice’s more sophisticated cousin. It’s in jams, fruitcakes, and gingerbread recipes. When allspice is ground up, its flavor is more intense. Ground allspice is used as a rub or in baking. Whole allspice is a classic ingredient for brines when making things like pickles and sauerkraut. 

I love allspice so much I’ve written a song about it! Well, it’s actually a parody song called “All of the Spice” that’s sung to the tune of “All of the Lights,” and I just know Weird Al is going to sing it when that dang restraining order expires!

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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