I love this picture! I actually took this while visiting a completely amazing spice farm in Goa. We were walking through the lush forest of trees, examining spice by spice, and here we picked nutmeg and mace. The brownish-black pit is the nutmeg, and the red web or aril is mace.
I was inspired to post about mace by a culturally fantastic article about nutmeg from this month’s Saveur magazine. In it, you can see how nutmeg is used across many cuisines in so many different foods, from savoury West Indian dishes, to American desserts, to Italian greens. And, inextricably intertwined, so it is with mace.
Mace’s flavor is quite similar to nutmeg though I would say a bit more delicate in some ways and stronger in others. The warm, pumpkin pie-ness of nutmeg is a bit tempered here, whereas a peppery quality emerges and kind of hits you in the middle of your tongue. It’s completely versatile like nutmeg, cinnamon or cardamom in that it’s additive to both sweet and savoury dishes. I love to throw it in to soups like a bay leaf and let the flavor permeate the liquid. It’s also delicious in baked goods – biscotti, shortbread. I like it in meat dishes as well – the peppery part picks up so well with beef, pork, or even game.
The crimson red of the mace lace turns to a more burnt orange through drying, but it’s one of those spices, like nutmeg, that retain its flavor well when stored ground. So if you can only find it ground, it will still have great flavor.