Info

News about the business of herbs and spices

Archive for

Field Greens Salad with Oranges, Strawberries and Chai Vinaigrette
Field Greens Salad with Oranges, Strawberries and Chai Vinaigrette

DESTINATION: INDONESIA
Clove Field Report

McCormick’s chief spice buyer, Al Goetze, travels to exotic ports-of-call, trekking across varied terrain in search of the finest herbs and spices. In this journal entry, Al invites us inside his recent trip to Indonesia, where he inspected the clove crop.

One of the things I find so fascinating about spices is the fact that they come from all parts of the plant or tree – roots, bark, leaves, fruit, flowers, and seeds. Cloves (Syzgium aromaticum) are the immature flower buds of a tropical tree in the evergreen family that is grown in Indonesia, Madagascar, Zanzibar, India, Brazil, and other countries. My focus this trip is Indonesia, the largest grower and consumer of cloves.

In ancient history, the trading world sought access to a cluster of islands in the Molucca Sea, which were renowned for their spices – in particular, cloves and nutmeg. Though war and political unrest controlled this region for hundreds of years, today the islands are part of Indonesia. My port-of-call was a town called Larompong, located on the southern half of Sulawesi Island, in the heart of a major clove growing area.

Buyung, my local business associate, met me at the port and escorted me to observe the clove harvest. We drove for several hours through the lush, green countryside. Magnificent volcanic
mountains provided a picturesque backdrop for our trek.

During the drive, Buyung briefed me on last year’s prosperous crop and this surprising tidbit: the Indonesian clove cigarette industry is the single largest user of cloves in the world, accounting for about 90 percent of all production.

Arriving in the first farming village, we noticed clove trees interspersed throughout the hillsides and property borders. Similar to allspice trees, most parts of the clove tree exude some degree of aroma and flavor, though the flower buds are most potent. Clove trees can live 100 years and reach heights of 75 – 90 feet. Many of the larger trees have permanent bamboo scaffolding built around them to facilitate access to the flower buds.

Cloves are an annual crop, and similar to cinnamon, its farmers view it as a long-term investment. The farmer cultivates, and carefully monitors, the crop from the sapling stage. It takes years for farmers to realize the fruits of their labor. Typically, saplings don’t even generate flowers for the first five years of their life cycle. Once a tree has reached maturity, following the monsoon season, flower buds rapidly develop in size and color. They change from green to pale yellow to pink, and from there, quickly turn red, indicating full maturity. It is critical to harvest the buds just prior to this bright red stage, when they are at peak flavor and aroma. The harvest usually lasts two to three months.

When the buds are ready to be picked, farmers manually break them off, along with the stems and leaves. They then separate the buds, by hand, from the stems and spread them in yards to sun dry for about a week. This is how the cloves achieve the characteristic dark brown color we’ve all come to recognize. Dried cloves are handled very gently to help prevent the round bud head from breaking off from the base. At McCormick, all dried cloves are manually inspected, one at a time, to insure the highest quality.

The flavor of cloves is strong, pungent and sweet – almost hot. Because of their perceived medicinal properties, they have been used throughout history as a breath freshener and also to provide relief from toothaches.

During the spring months, one of the best ways to enjoy the flavor of cloves is in a traditional glazed ham. Clove is also seeing a resurgence in popularity as a key ingredient in one of the trendiest flavors of the moment – chai. I’ve recently discovered a simple chai vinagrette that is a delicious accompaniment to salads and a unique way to enjoy this fragrant spice.

The distinctive flavor of cloves combines with cardamom, cinnamon and white pepper in a chai vinaigrette — the perfect way to dress up this sensational salad, creating a palette as bright as
the season itself.

Recipes using Cloves

Field Greens with Oranges, Strawberries and Chai Vinaigrette

The distinctive flavor of cloves combines with cardamom, cinnamon and white pepper in a chai vinaigrette — the perfect way to dress up this sensational salad, creating a palette as bright as the season itself.

Ingredients

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Chai Spice Blend* (below)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Salad:

  • 1 package (about 6 ounces) field greens or baby spinach
  • 2 seedless oranges, peeled and sectioned
  • 2 cups strawberry halves
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces, lightly toasted

Directions

  1. Mix Vinaigrette ingredients in small bowl until well blended.
  2. Mix all Salad ingredients in large bowl. Toss salad with vinaigrette just before serving.

Makes 6 (1-cup) servings.

Sweet and Spicy Glazed Ham

Cloves are the star of this traditional ham topped with a delicious golden glaze, made with honey and brown sugar.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 teaspoon McCormick Ground Cloves
  • 1 ready-to-eat ham (about 8 pounds)
  • McCormick Whole Cloves

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix sugar, honey, water and ground cloves in small bowl. Place ham in large foil-lined roasting pan. Score top of ham in diamond pattern. Place whole cloves in centers and points of diamonds.
  2. Bake 1 1/2 hours, basting during last 1/2 hour with spice mixture. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing. Makes 18 servings.

No-Bake Chai Cheesecake

The combination of chai and chocolate takes this easy cheesecake to new heights.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup hot fudge dessert topping
  • 1 prepared chocolate crumb crust (6 ounces)
  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) reduced fat (or Neufchâtel) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Chai Spice Blend* (below)
  • 1 tablespoon McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cups thawed frozen whipped topping

Directions

  1. Spoon fudge into crust, spreading evenly to cover bottom and sides of crust. Set aside.
  2. Beat cream cheese, sugar, Chai Spice Blend and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer until well blended and smooth. Gently stir in whipped topping. Spoon into crust.
  3. Refrigerate 3 hours or until set. Heat additional dessert topping and drizzle over cheesecake before serving, if desired. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

Makes 8 servings.

* Chai Spice Blend:
Mix 2 teaspoons each:

  • McCormick Ground Cardamom
  • McCormick Saigon Cinnamon
  • McCormick Ground Cloves

with 1 teaspoon McCormick Ground White Pepper until well blended.

McCormick® is a registered trademark of McCormick and Company, Hunt Valley, MD

Anise Seasoned Shrimp and Scallops

DESTINATION: TURKEY
ANISE Field Report

McCormick’s chief spice buyer, Al Goetze, travels to exotic ports-of-call, trekking across varied terrain in search of the finest herbs and spices. In this journal entry, Al invites us inside his recent trip to Turkey, where he inspected the anise crop.

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy anise seed. Its refreshing flavor is an ideal partner to the bold tastes of summer grilling. Though most associated with holiday baking, anise seed’s versatility has made it a popular ingredient year-round. I have just returned from Turkey where I took an early look at the forthcoming crop. Anise seed is indigenous to Eastern Mediterranean countries, including Greece, Turkey, Syria, and Egypt, and Turkey has one of the larger crops in the region.

My trip began at the Izmir Airport, where my business partner, Aysen, greeted me to embark on the 300-kilometer (200 mile) drive to the interior portion of Turkey. Most anise seed is cultivated in the southwestern towns of Denizli, Burdur, and Isparta. Like much of Turkey, this is beautiful country – a combination of farmland, lakes and mountainous terrain, with as many colors as an artist’s palette. Along the way, Aysen and I discussed this year’s crop projections. She told me that the harvest is expected to be healthy, which is great news because anise is definitely a flavor in demand.

After several hours of negotiating the narrow, winding roads, we finally entered the growing region. Cresting a hill, we came upon the farms, which are relatively small, and spread over flat parcels of land in and around the mountains. Like cumin, anise seed is a rotation crop, grown with barley, corn and wheat. The fields are sown in February and March, just prior to the arrival of the heavy rainy season. Nearing the time of the harvest, which is when I arrived, the weather turns sunny, very warm and dry.

The anise plant, Pimpinella anisum, or anason, as it’s known in Turkey, grows rapidly to a height of two to three feet and has beautiful, circular, feathery leaves and a canopy of small white flowers. If you close your eyes and picture the Queen Anne’s Lace that grows along the roadside in North America, you’ll have an idea of what a flowering anise plant looks like. The flowers are eventually replaced by seeds, which are crescent-shaped, strongly aromatic and full of licorice flavor and piney undertones, similar to fennel. The anise plant belongs to the same family of seed-producing plants as dill, caraway, coriander, cumin, and fennel.

Typically, the anise seed harvest begins in early June and continues into August. As we drove deeper into the growing areas, we came upon a field where harvest had begun earlier than expected. It was quite interesting to see the cut plants, hand-piled in the shape of teepees, sun drying in the fields. Once the drying is complete, farmers separate the seeds from the stalks using a basic threshing machine.

One of the most fascinating things, I find, about anise is the fact that farmers have been cultivating and harvesting the seed this way for centuries. Anise has been traced back to 1500 B.C. It was believed to aid digestion and was also a breath freshener, perhaps one reason for its prevalence in desserts and after-dinner drinks, such as Raki, the national beverage of Turkey.

After we finished inspecting the fields, Aysen and I stopped in a nearby village for dinner. There, we were treated to some wonderful lamb and fish dishes, and, of course, cookies – all made with local anise seeds. And, as is the custom, we toasted this year’s bountiful crop with Raki on the rocks.

Here are two of my favorite ways to enjoy anise in the summer – as a refreshing addition to grilled shrimp and scallops, and with fresh berries in a ricotta cream, a step up from the summer standby – strawberries and whipped cream.

I look forward to sharing my next journey with you this fall – a glimpse into my trip to Saigon to inspect the cinnamon crop. In the meantime, I wish you a flavorful summer!

McCormick® is a registered trademark of McCormick and Company, Hunt Valley, MD

Cool Summer Beverages
Cool Summer Beverages

HUNT VALLEY, Md. (McCormick) – Grab your sunglasses, break out the blender and get ready to stir up a whole new kind of cool this summer. Ice cold beverages – fizzy, blended, shaken, or stirred – are a great way to escape the heat and enjoy healthy helpings of fresh fruit, creamy yogurt and ice cream and sparkling juices. Food colors and extracts, which are commonly used to brighten birthday treats and baked goods, can also add a bold splash of color and flavor to the season’s fruity and frosty thirst quenchers. Just add ice and fresh fruit, and let the sipping begin.

Kids’ Coolers

  • Tie-dyes and lava lamps were the inspiration for Groovy Banana Blitz, a smoothie that is sure to become the kid-chic pool accessory this season. Kids will go bananas for this concoction, and moms will love that it’s also good for them. Just blend the kid-friendly fruit with vanilla yogurt, orange extract, and ice cubes. Divide the mixture and add a different neon food color to each part, then pour, alternately, into glasses and serve.
  • Arctic Ade is perfect for “chillaxing” after a day at the skate park. Lemonade becomes electrified, when blended with ice cubes, club soda and a few drops of neon blue food color.
  • There’s something for the glamour girls, too. Young ladies who love Shirley Temples will flip for the L’il Pink Lady, a frozen concoction of limeade, raspberry extract, ginger ale and a kiss of pink food color.

…And to Whet a More Grown-Up Whistle…

  • Put an invigorating twist on sangria with Fresh Fruit Sparkler, a non-alcoholic cooler that showcases some of the season’s favorite fruits – grapes, oranges and berries, in a blend of sparkling grape and apple juices. Lemon extract adds a hint of citrus flavor.
  • Who says ice cream sodas are for kids? Capture all the excitement of childhood with Chocolate Almond Soda, which combines chocolate syrup, almond extract and vanilla ice cream. It’s perfect for an afternoon drink or dessert.
  • Tap into the tastes of the islands with Mango Madness, a slushy delight that blends the flavor of fresh mangoes with raspberry and rum extracts.
  • Pineapple Coconut Cooler is a fun new take on the quintessential blender beverage – the piña colada. Pineapple sherbet, pineapple juice, coconut, rum, and vanilla extracts combine for this tropical refreshment.


Make a Splash with McCormick® Extracts

Helpful Hints For Adding Flavor to Beverages, Desserts, and More

  • Extracts are a great way to accent summer fruits, like blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and melon, as well as jazz up shortcakes and cobblers.
  • Add a tropical touch to drinks and more with rum and coconut extracts. Use them with bananas, pineapple and mangoes to transform any backyard into an island retreat.
  • Lemon and orange extracts taste just like fresh lemon and orange peel, only they save hands from the grating process and leave more time for sipping! A good rule of thumb – substitute one teaspoon lemon or orange extract for one teaspoon fresh grated peel.
  • Groovy Banana Blitz

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Ingredients in Groovy Banana Blitz
    2 ripe bananas
    2 cups ice cubes
    1 container (6 ounces) vanilla yogurt
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1/4 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Orange Extract
    McCormick® Assorted NEON! Food Colors

    Directions

    1. Mix all ingredients, except food colors, in blender; cover and blend on high speed until smooth.
    2. Divide mixture evenly into 4 portions. Stir 6 drops of a different food color into each portion. Pour the different colors alternately into each of 3 tall glasses to serve.

    Makes 3 servings.

    Arctic Ade

    Prep Time: 5 minutes

    Ingredients in Arctic Ade
    1 can (12 ounces) lemonade concentrate
    2 cups ice cubes
    1 cup water
    1/4 cup sugar
    4 drops Blue McCormick® Assorted NEON! Food Colors
    2 cups club soda or seltzer, chilled

    Directions

    1. Place all ingredients, except club soda, in blender; cover, and blend on high speed until smooth.
    2. Pour into large pitcher. Slowly stir in club soda.

    Makes 5 servings.

    L’il Pink Lady

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Ingredients in L’il Pink Lady
    1 can (6 ounces) frozen limeade concentrate, plus one can water
    2 cups ice cubes
    1/4 cup sugar
    2 teaspoons McCormick® Raspberry Extract
    6 drops Pink McCormick® Assorted NEON! Food Colors
    1 can (12 ounces) ginger ale, chilled

    Directions

    1. Place all ingredients, except ginger ale, in blender; cover, and blend on high speed until smooth.
    2. Pour into large pitcher. Slowly stir in ginger ale.

    Makes 5 servings.

    Fresh Fruit Sparkler

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Ingredients in Fresh Fruit Sparkler
    1 bottle (25.4 ounces) white sparkling grape juice, chilled
    1/2 cup thawed frozen apple juice concentrate
    1 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Lemon Extract
    1 can (12 ounces) club soda or seltzer chilled
    2 cups cut-up fresh fruit such as berries, grapes and oranges

    Directions

    1. Mix juice, concentrate and extract in large pitcher.
    2. Slowly stir in club soda and fruit. Serve immediately in tall ice-filled glasses.

    Makes 6 servings.

    Chocolate Almond Soda

    Prep Time: 5 minutes

    Ingredients in Chocolate Almond Soda
    1/2 cup chocolate syrup
    1 teaspoon McCormick® Imitation Almond Extract
    3 cups vanilla ice cream
    1 bottle (1 liter) club soda or seltzer, chilled

    Directions

    1. Mix chocolate syrup and extract. Place 2 large scoops of ice cream in each of 4 tall glasses. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the syrup mixture into each glass.
    2. Slowly pour 1 cup of the club soda into each glass. Serve immediately with straws and long spoons.

    Makes 4 servings.

    Mango Madness

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Ingredients Mango Madness
    2 large mangos, peeled and cubed (3 cups)
    2 cups ice cubes
    1/2 cup orange juice
    1 1/2 teaspoons McCormick® Raspberry Extract
    1 teaspoon McCormick® Imitation Rum Extract

    Directions

    1. Place all ingredients in blender; cover. Blend on high speed until smooth and serve.

    Makes 3 servings.

    Pineapple Coconut Cooler

    Prep Time: 5 minutes

    Ingredients
    2 cups pineapple juice, chilled
    2 cups ice cubes
    2 1/2 teaspoons McCormick® Imitation Coconut Extract
    1 teaspoon McCormick® Imitation Rum Extract
    1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract
    4 drops Yellow McCormick® Assorted Food Colors & Egg Dye
    2 cups pineapple sherbet

    Directions

    1. Place all ingredients, except sherbet, in blender; cover. Blend on high speed until ice is crushed.
    2. Add sherbet; cover and blend until smooth. Garnish with pineapple slices and cherries, if desired.

    Makes 5 servings.