A few years back, I was based in the Island of Gods, Bali, Indonesia. Apart from the amazing lifestyle, Bali at that time, was experiencing a massive food transformation. Restaurants were mainly focused on locally foraged, harvested ingredients. Out of these ingredients, one specific spice that caught my interest was Nutmeg.
I believe that everyone is familiar with nutmeg, which presents as a hard brown seed or in powder form. What amazed me was that the brown seed had a waxy red covering which surrounded the nutmeg seed and this covering is called Mace.
A rare, costly spice once prized by Byzantine Traders, nutmeg has an ancient history for its curative and culinary uses. In the 12th century, Venetian spice traders made sure, European cuisine was well supplied with nutmeg from the Banda Islands of Indonesia. It has been said that in England, several hundred years ago, a few nutmeg nuts could be sold for enough money to enable financial independence for life.
At one time, nutmeg was one of the most valuable spices. The spice wars between Indonesia, Portugal, and Dutch almost rendered the nutmeg tree extinct, however early transportation and cultivation saved it for posterity. It was the English, who transplanted the nutmeg into other parts of the world (Singapore, Grenada, Zanzibar to name a few), thus breaking the monopoly, leading to the present day where the spice is taken for granted.
The first harvest of nutmeg trees takes place 7-9 years after planting, and the trees reach their full potential after 20 years. It’s almost like investing money into whiskey, where you have to wait for the liquid to maturate and interact with wooden barrels.
Nutmeg & mace have similar sensory qualities. Nutmeg is slightly sweeter with warm spicy notes while mace has a more delicate flavor. Mace is preferred for its bright orange, saffron – like the taste. As mace dries, it turns more orange in colour, although some varieties are also creamy or brown. Whole dried mace is known as a blade. Nutmeg flesh is often juiced, pickled or made into chutney, while grated nutmeg is used in savoury and sweet dishes. In Indonesia, nutmeg flesh is used to make a jam or finely sliced, cooked with sugar and crystallised to make fragrant candy.
Nutmeg is traditionally used in mulled cider, mulled wine and eggnog. In the Caribbean, nutmeg is used in beverages such as the Bushwacker, Painkiller and Barbados rum punch.
Living in a tropical climate and observing the rum category grow in popularity, I have decided to showcase a Pina Colada variation recipe of a cocktail called “Painkiller.”
50 ml Navy Rum (54.5% abv) – Pusser’s will do a great job
100 ml Freshly Squeezed Pineapple Juice
20 ml Freshly Squeezed Orange juice
20 ml Coconut Cream
- Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice and hard shake.
- Strain into glass over ice.
- Garnish with pineapple triangle, orange slice, coconut shavings and dust with freshly grated nutmeg.
Bartender’s note: “A little bit of freshly grated nutmeg over your cocktail can bring your cocktails plenty of complexity.”