Cloves are an intensely aromatic spice frequently found in Indian cuisine and European and American autumn and winter recipes. They are also popular in Asian, African, Near Eastern, and Middle Eastern cuisines. They look like small hard dark brown wands with a bulb on one end. Cloves are actually the dried, unopened flower bud of a tropical evergreen tree.
Their shape makes them useful in many of their recipes because the short pointed end can be used to “stud” a dish to infuse it with the clove spice flavors. For a sweet spiced baked ham stud before baking. For a spiced mulled wine, simmer an orange studded with cloves in red wine with spices. While decorative as a display, if using whole coves to stud, remove them before plating because they have a potent and bitter flavor if eaten.
Alternatively whole cloves, dried, can be freshly ground with a mortar and pestle before cooking. Cloves have a pungent flavor and a very small amount can go a long way towards richly flavoring a dish, so use sparingly. Ground clove is used frequently in baking.
Cloves can also be used to flavor curries, masalas, meats, sausages, and savory marinades. The earthy clove spice, similar to cinnamon or allspice, pairs well with hot pepper spices and can create a lot of heat in a dish. Many French soup stocks being with a clove studded onion. Cloves also appear in chai tea, Turkish coffee, and spiced cider drinks. For sweet dishes use clove along with cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, and sugar to make autumn pies like apple, pumpkin, and rhubarb.
In recipes, approximately 1 teaspoon of whole cloves is equal to 3/4 teaspoons of ground cloves. Grind cloves just before using for the strongest flavor. Stored properly, cloves can be kept in a cool dark pantry for up to one year.
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