The spice comes from the seed of the nutmeg tree, from an apricot-looking fruit. Nutmeg is a unique spice which is capable of retaining its pleasant flavor for many years.
Nutmeg is available ground or whole, but is used in its ground form to flavor foods. This spice produces the most flavor when freshly grated, so it is useful to buy the whole nut and to have a nutmeg grater on hand.
Nutmeg can be used to flavor milk, mulled cider and wine, eggnog, cookies, cakes and sweet breads. Nutmeg is the characteristic flavoring of white sauce, stews and ragouts. It is also used in sausages and pastries, ice cream, jam, and in Indian desserts. It is most commonly found in India as a part of the Mughlai cuisine. Nutmeg is found in garam masala. Nutmeg can be found smoked in India too.
The spice, mace, also comes from the nutmeg tree and is the outer case of the nutmeg seed. The spice, nutmeg, being from the seed.
Selecting and Buying
Ground nutmeg may smell and taste great the first time, but once the container is opened, the quality will start to deteriorate as the spice's volatile oils are exposed to oxygen. Whole nutmeg won't last forever, but properly stored you can squeeze a good year out of it with no noticeable loss of flavor.
Conserving and Storing
Whole nuts are preferable to ground nutmeg, as flavour deteriorates quickly. Whole nuts will keep indefinitely and can be grated as required with a nutmeg grater. Nutmeg is poisonous and should be used in moderation, a pinch or two is safe. Store both ground and whole nutmeg away from sunlight in airtight containers.
Store whole nutmeg in a dark, tightly sealing container and store in a cool place. The freezer is ideal.