While I am still enjoying my holiday downtime, I thought I would take a few moments share one of the most popular items I stashed in my gift baskets. This year I tried something different by printing up some little recipe cards and mixing up batches of the spices that I use and attaching little packets to the recipe and they seemed to be a hit.
I haven’t mentioned how to make mixed spice, although my báirín breac does call for mixed spice. For those of you who live on the North American side of the pond but like to dabble in traditional British and Irish cookery, you probably have come across recipes that call for “mixed spice.” In the UK, you can just buy mixed spice at the store. Here in the US, cooks often substitute pumpkin pie spice, but it’s not the same.
Using spice blends like this in baking is simply a continuation of the practice of cooking with the powders you find in medieval cookbooks. These powders add spices to dishes that improve digestive function, which is especially important in particularly heavy dishes like Christmas puddings and mincemeat.
I’ve written about how to make powder forte for savory cooking, but mixed spices remind me more of a powder fine than a powder forte. Powder fine would be mixed with sugar to make what they called duke’s powder. Janet Hinson offers the following instructions on how to make Powder Douce in her translation of Le Ménagier de Paris:
To make powdered hippocras, take a quarter-ounce of very fine cinnamon, hand-picked by tasting it, an ounce of very fine meche ginger and an ounce of grains of paradise, a sixth of an ounce of nutmeg and galingale together, and pound it all together.
And when you want to make hippocras, take a good half-ounce or more of this powder and two quarter-ounces of sugar, and mix them together, and a quart of wine as measured in Paris. And note that the powder and the sugar mixed together make “duke’s powder”.
The ingredients most used in “mixed spice” are cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, clove, allspice, coriander, caraway, and sometimes mace. You see all sorts of recipes for mixed spices online, but I am suspicious of those that omit coriander or caraway.
I will share a couple versions. The first is my family receipt. I tweak my personal recipe a bit and use galangal in the mix instead of ginger, but the modern cook should have most of the following ingredients on hand.
1 Tbs ground allspice
1 Tbs ground cinnamon
1 Tbs ground nutmeg
2 tsp ground mace
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground ginger or galangal
1 tsp ground caraway seed
This is a more modern version and to my way of thinking is not as tasty, nor would it support digestion the way my version does, but some people absolutely will not try the one with caraway.
2 teaspoons allspice
2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons cloves
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom