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Allspice: The spice that is never too hot!

It's almost Halloween and I imagine were all getting ready for trick-or-treaters and the inevitable candy monsters. I was wondering if baking sweet treats would be a good idea instead of handing out a bunch of M&Ms or Reeses Peanut Butter Cups -- just a thought?

But for those of you who don't mind doing a little baking, make sure you have a good supply of those wonderful, fall and winter spices on hand in your pantry - namely Allspice.

Last week we wrote about the many spices that are used in making cider and mulled wine, and one of them was allspice, which has wonderful, warm floral notes with flavors of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and a slight peppery bite.

Allspice is the dried berry of an evergreen tree belonging to the myrtle family. The trees can grow from 30 to 50 feet tall but they wont begin to bear fruit for at least 5 or 6 years. Once the berries are harvested by hand, they are then processed for the drying period which can take from 6 to 10 days. After that, the berries are only used in dried form for culinary purposes.

Even though allspice is often associated with holiday baking, specifically pies and breads like pumpkin or banana bread, this marvelous spice is also used in many other cultures for making sauces, curry blends, chutneys and for pickling. The sweet warm flavors of allspice work beautifully with many savory dishes such as Jamaican jerk seasoning or the popular shawarma spice.

Culinary applications are limitless for allspice. It can be featured in a variety of dishes like spiced cranberry sauce, spiced caramel sauce, or hot malted cocoa. I think being creative by adding a dash of allspice in a rice pilaf or in soups can elevate the flavor to new heights. Perhaps baking some pumpkin bread using allspice is a great alternative to handing out candy for this Halloween celebration? Just saying!

Whatever the case, allspice is one of those stand-alone kind of spices that should never be limited to just a once-a-year baking thing. Be bold and courageous -- explore the many possibilities for using this amazing spice.

I'd like to share this recipe for baking a tasty pumpkin bread - perfect for holidays and special treats!

Pumpkin Bread - click link