The sweet scent of clove stirs memories of mulled wine, baked ham and orange Christingles – but cloves aren’t just for Christmas. This sophisticated spice is a game-changer year round. It’s easily ground and even a pinch will really lift a meat rub and curry.
Clove has a bitter, almost numbing property, which is ideal for cutting through rich meats, or standing up to bold flavours – like braised red cabbage or game. The bitter notes are offset by a complex sweetness, meaning that cloves are often grouped with allspice and nutmeg, and used in sweet bakes like gingerbread, fruitcakes and apple tarts.
As well as grinding with sugar, salt and other spices, whole cloves are often kept intact. The pretty pin-shape means that they may be used to stud a ham, as well as being steeped in a pickling liquor, mulled cider or Glögg.
Cloves are native to the Maluku Islands of Indonesia – and are one of the reasons they are nicknamed the Spice Islands. It's where we import our cloves from, just as discerning Portuguese travellers first did in the fifteenth century. The climate allows for the aromatic flower to be harvested over the summer months (June-August), when the red clove flowers are pulled off in clusters and dried into the rich brown tacks used in the kitchen.
Cloves should be stored in a dark, airtight container, to retain their potency.
Cloves have long been used for their antioxidant properties. In Ayurvedic medicine, cloves are used as natural painkillers, and are thought to settle stomach disorders. Cloves might be ground and drunk as a tea, and simply chewing on a clove will help numb toothache. To read more, click HERE.
ALSO KNOWN AS: Syzygium aromaticum