Allspice: (spice) Dried, dark brown berries of an evergreen tree. Clove-like flavor, but smoother, mellower; undertones of cinnamon, nutmeg, hence name; also called "pimento." Often used in backing and in meats such as Swedish meatballs.
Alum: A double sulfate of ammonium. It is used as an astringent, as an emetic and in the manufacture of baking powders, dyes and paper; the commonest form is potash alum (potassium aluminum sulfate). In the kitchen, it is used in pickle making.
Arrowroot: (extract) Arrowroot is a white powder extracted from the root of a West Indian plant, Marantha arundinacea. It looks and feels like cornstarch. It is used as a thickening agent for sauces, fruit pie fillings and glazes, and puddings. Arrowroot has no flavor. Arrowroot is indigenous to the West Indies, where native people, the Arawaks, used the powder. The Arawaks used the substance to draw out toxins from people wounded by poison arrows. Its name is thought to be derived from that practice. Arrowroot mixtures thicken at a lower temperature than mixtures made with flour or cornstarch. Mix Arrowroot with cool liquids before adding hot liquids, then cook until mixture thickens. Remove immediately to prevent mixture from thinning. Two teaspoons of Arrowroot can be substituted for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. One teaspoon of Arrowroot can be substituted for 1 tablespoon of flour. Arrowroot makes clear, shimmering fruit gels and prevents ice crystals from forming in homemade ice cream.
Anise: (herb seed) Sold in seed form. Anise smells like black licorice, though it is actually a member of the parsley family. Anise seeds are used as a flavoring in some cookies. Anise extract is used to flavor the Greek liquor ouzo. And apparently it also has its uses as a medicine for expelling internal gas.
Basil: (herb) Bright green leaves of an herb of the mint family. Special affinity for tomato flavored dishes. Basil is available in both fresh and dried forms. Fresh basil and dried basil are completely separate entities, and may not always be freely substituted for each other. Fresh basil is the key ingredient in making pesto.
Caraway Seed: (herb seed) Hard, brown, scimiter-shaped seeds of an herb of the parsley family. The seed of "seeded rye bread" and German sauerkraut favorite. Most popular in Austrian and German cooking to flavor breads and pastries.
Cardamom: (spice) Most often sold in powdered form. Papery pod and dark brown seeds of a plant of the ginger family. Used in Scandinavian bakery goods, German and Russian pasties and in the Middle East and India. People have been known to chew on the seeds as a digestive aid.
Chinese Five Spice: (classic blend) This powder is a traditional blend of Szechuan pepper, star anise, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and cloves, which represent the five basic tastes: bitter, sweet, sour, salt, and pungent. Chinese Five Spice powder is used in China and Vietnam. Chinese Five Spice Powder is used as a meat rub or in marinades. Baste roasted chicken with Chinese Five Spice Seasoning and butter.
Chives: (herb) Tubular green leaves of a member of the onion family. Normally freeze-dried to protect fragile quality and vibrant green color. Rich in vitamins A and C, flavor is reminiscent of but more delicate than onion.
Cilantro: (herb) Also known as Chinese Parsley and Mexican Parsley. Cilantro has a distinctive flavor, and is an excellent addition to fresh salsa. Cilantro works well in marinades, and a large variety of other dishes. It comes either dried or fresh.
Cinnamon: (spice) Bark of various evergreen trees of the cinnamomum family. Two main types: Zeylanicum (Ceylon) is tan colored, thin bark, mild, sweet flavor. Cassia is reddish brown, thicker bark, strong cinnamon flavor, most popular in U.S.
Cream of Tartar: Cream of Tartar is a natural, pure ingredient left behind after grape juice has fermented to wine. Cream of Tartar is used to stabilize egg white foams. It is also a major ingredient in baking powder. It has no aroma and has an acidic flavor. Use 1/8 teaspoon per egg white to make soufflés, meringues, angel food, chiffon cakes, and candy.
Curry: (classic blend) Ground cumin, coriander and fenugreek seeds, turmeric, black and red peppers and such others as cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, garlic, dill and celery seeds, etc. May contain salt. Imported products often contain such other ingredients as flour, garlic, peanuts, asafetida and kari leaves. For years, Americans have thought of curry as a specific mixture of spices, like, for example, Italian Seasonings. Fortunately, a variety of curry powders and pastes have begun to crop up in the ethnic-foods section of supermarkets. Different curries have different colors, flavors, and levels of spiciness.
Dill: (herb) Green, feathery leaves of the dill plant. Dill weed is much used in sauces for fish, cheese dips, salads, dressings. Adds an interesting flavor to potatoes, sour cream, fish, and the like. Because dill's flavor isn't terribly strong, fresh dill can be chopped and sprinkled as a garnish, or used whole as part of the presentation of a side of salmon.
Fennel: (herb seed) Small, yellowish-brown, watermelon-shaped seeds from a bulbous plant, related to the celery and parsley families. Anise-like flavor. The distinctive note in Italian sausages (both sweet and hot).
Garam Masala (gah-RAHM mah-SAH-lah) An Indian spice blend with a warm, earthy flavor. Ingredients vary but may include black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel, ginger and nutmeg. Recipes for it are in every Indian cookbook.
Garlic: (dehydrated) Bulbs of a perennial plant, cousin to the onion and a member of the lily family. Dehydrated garlic is milled to particle sizes ranging from powdered, granulated and ground to minced, chopped and sliced.
Ginger: (spice) Dried roots (rhizomes) of a member of the zingiber family. Root pieces are called "hands." Smooth, straw-colored ones have been peeled, bleached. Ginger is available in several different forms, the most common of which are fresh and powdered. Fresh ginger has a very sharp flavor. Powdered ginger works well in baked goods, and is also useful in making spice rubs.
Italian Seasoning: (classic blend) A blend of typical Italian herbs, such as thyme, oregano, basil, savory, marjoram, rosemary and sage. The herbs are normally in leaf form and salt is not usually added.
Juniper Berries: Juniper is an important spice in many European cuisines, such as Sauerkraut in the Southern German, Alpine regions, where juniper grows abundantly. It is the only example of a spice in the botanic group of the coniferae, and also one of the few examples of spices from cold climatic regions, though the best quality stems from Southern European countries.
Lemon Grass: (herb) Available in fresh, dried and powdered forms, lemon grass comes from a strange long coarse grass like plant and is used extensively in Thai and Indonesian cooking. It adds a lemon like yet distinctive flavor. In a pinch, lemon zest can be substituted for lemon grass.
Lemon Pepper: (classic blend) Lemon pepper is a mixture of black pepper with fresh citrus flavor and other seasonings to create a lively all-purpose marinade and table seasoning. Sprinkle on fish, vegetables, pasta, pork and chicken.
Mace: (spice) Lacy, scarlet-colored aril (orange when dried) which surrounds the seed of the nutmeg fruit. Flavor is a combination of cinnamon and pepper, similar to nutmeg but much more subtle. Ground mace is often chosen for light-colored products, such as pound cake.
Mint: (herb) Dark green leaves of either the peppermint or spearmint plant. Spearmint is the mint usually packed as mint flakes for retail and foodservice; peppermint is also available to industrial customers.
Mixed Vegetable Flakes: (classic blend) A blend which usually consists of dehydrated flakes of onion, celery, red and green sweet peppers and carrots. For seasoning soups, stews, sauces and stuffings. Usually softened before use by adding equal amount of water and letting stand 10 minutes.
Mustard Seeds: (herb seed) Tiny yellow or brownish seeds of a member of the cabbage family. Yellow (or white) seeds have sharp bite, but no aromatic pungency. Brown (and oriental) seeds are aromatically pungent as well as biting (i.e., Chinese restaurant mustard).
Nutmeg: (spice) The brown seed of the fruit of an evergreen tree. Of the two sources, Indonesia and West Indian compare favorably in aroma, but higher fixed oil in the West Indian restricts its use in some applications.
Onion: (dehydrated) Bulbs of a biennial of the lily fancily. Dehydrated onion is available as powdered or granulated (for flavor alone) and in such large particle sizes as minced, chopped, diced and sliced.
Paprika: (spice) Powder milled from the flesh of pods of certain sweet pepper plants. Extractable color is principal evaluation of paprika. Flavor can range from sweet- mild to fiercely hot. Paprika has a pleasant red color, is used frequently as a garnish.
Parsley: (herb) Bright green leaves of the parsley plant. There are several different varieties of parsley: American, Italian, and Chinese or Mexican (see Cilantro ). Italian parsley has broader leaves, and a stronger flavor than its American counterpart. Fresh parsley, when chopped fine and sprinkled onto a dish before serving, adds a pleasant taste and freshness.
Pickling Spice: (classic blend) Whole; typical formula consists of mustard seed, allspice, cinnamon, ginger, dill seed, celery seed, bay leaves, cloves, fennel seed, crushed red pepper, turmeric, black pepper, mace and cardamom seed. Most items are in the completely whole form, but cinnamon, ginger, bay leaves and turmeric are cracked into smaller pieces.
Poultry Seasoning: (classic blend) A blend of such herbs as sage, marjoram, thyme, rosemary and oregano, plus spices such as pepper and ginger. Always a ground product and usually without salt. Probably the first convenience blend.
Red Pepper: (spice) Dried fruit (pods) of various, small, hot peppers. Whole pods are called "chillies." "Red pepper" is today's industry designation for any ground hot pepper product. "Cayenne" is being phased out.
Rosemary: (herb) Green, needle-like leaves of a shrub of the mint family. Rosemary and lamb are closely associated, but it's also important in Italian herb blends, sauces and salad dressings. Has natural antioxidant properties.
Sage: (herb) Long, slender leaves (silver-gray when dried) of a member of the mint family. Three types: "cut" is used for end products where sage should show. "Rubbed" is minimally ground and coarsely sieved to a fluffy consistency. "Ground" is sieved to a fine degree.
brownish-green (when dried) leaves of summer savory - a member of the mint
family. So good with green beans, its German name translates to
"bean herb." Also used in poultry seasoning and other herb blends.
Seafood Seasoning: (classic blend) Whole peppercorns, bay leaves, red peppers, celery seed, mustard seed, ginger and other spices in whole or cracked form. This is a ground product which normally contains salt as well.
Sweet Pepper: (dehydrated) Green and red sweet bell peppers. For industrial use, dehydrated, sweet bell pepper is available as powder, granulated, minced, diced and sliced, including strips. And in green or red alone or mixed. For foodservice, "sweet pepper flakes" is the standard pack.
Vanilla Bean: Vanilla Beans are the long, greenish-yellow seed pods of the tropical orchid plant, Vanilla planifolia. To obtain Pure Vanilla Extract, cured Vanilla Beans are steeped in alcohol. According to law, Pure Vanilla Extract must be 35 percent alcohol by volume. One inch of Vanilla Bean is equal to one teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract.
White Pepper: (spice) Light tan-colored seed of the pepper berry from which the dark outer husk has been removed. White pepper has the heat but not the total bouquet of black. Often chosen for light colored soups, sauces.