Allspice is the fruit of a tree, which is native to West Indies and tropical Central America. The best crops in the world come from this region, particularly the Caribbean Islands. Despite its homeland is so far away from Turkey, it is a well-adapted spice to the Turkish cuisine. It is an indispensable ingredient for Turkish meatball and stuffed vegetables in olive oil.
Allspice as whole berries looks like black peppercorns. Its main aroma is hidden in the outer layer of the berries. The leaves of its tree resemble bay leaves. Just like bay leaves, they can be dried and used in meals.
When allspice berries on trees reach full size but still green, they are handpicked. They are left for sweating for a few days and then allowed to dry on a particular platform for about a week. When dried, their color turn red-brown and they are graded according to size.
Its peppery taste is a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. It has a pleasantly warm and delicate aroma. The essential oil in the berries determines the intensity of the taste.
In the Turkish cuisine, it plays an essential role in the taste of stuffed vegetables in olive oil, iç pilav (rice with onion, spices, nuts and black currants) and meatballs. It blends very well with chicken dishes, soups, hot pots and pilaf.
It is surprisingly harmonious with desserts, accentuates the flavor of fruits. You can add ground allspice to jams, cakes or fruit tarts. It can also be used in homemade ketchup and other sauces as well as pickles.
When freshly ground, it is highly aromatic. When you buy it in ground form, buy it in small amounts and consume as soon as possible. To preserve its aroma, keep it in an airtight, preferably glass container, away from light and heat.
Place an onion, 2 fresh chili peppers and a clove of garlic in the food processor. Run it until you get a puree. Mix the puree with a teaspoon of ground allspice, ground black pepper, thyme, sugar, half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, pinch of grated nutmeg, 2 teaspoons of salt, a tablespoon of apple vinegar and water. Mix it until you get a consistent paste. Spread this paste over chicken, meat or fish before grilling. You will catch an incredible flavor.
You can prepare your own spice blend at home by mixing desired amounts of ground allspice, cinnamon, coriander, clove and nutmeg. You can season meat or vegetable dishes, soups and pilaf with this special mix to add a special taste.