I am about to write three words with much potential to immediately evoke either disgust or glee: Pumpkin. Pie. Spice. I know, I know; you’re probably tired of PUMPKIN everywhere, but since it’s almost Thanksgiving, let’s give it one final hurrah and learn to make our own pumpkin pie spice blend with ingredients that are probably already hiding out in your cabinets.
The typical pumpkin pie spice blend contains cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice, but may also include cloves, mace and mystery “sulfiting agents.” Since I don’t use a lot of pumpkin pie spice throughout the year, I prefer to blend my own, using whatever spices are currently in stock. Doing this not only ensures a fresh blend, but also means I can customize my mixture and adjust certain flavors. This year my blend contains Indonesian cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and a pinch of mace.
The stars of this blend are cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Feel free to use as much or as little of each as you would like, but since I really like cinnamon, I used it as my base. I chose Indonesian cinnamon (specifically Korintje, grade A) because it is softer and more balanced than the spicy and bold Vietnamese Saigon cinnamon, the variety most often found in grocery stores. The delicately flavored Ceylon cinnamon would be a nice choice as well.
Next I mixed in ground ginger and grated some whole nutmeg using my trusty Microplane grater (although ground nutmeg will also do the trick). Both of these traditional elements add warmth and spice.
On to the supporting cast: allspice, cardamom and mace. Although Columbus and his crew mistakenly identified allspice as giant peppercorns, the spice is actually the berry of a tree native to the Caribbean. Never ones to mince words, the English described its flavor as a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and aptly called it “allspice.” I added it here to give the tiniest bite and to bring out the flavor of the cinnamon and nutmeg.
Another spice I’ve recently become smitten with is cardamom, but I only added a smidgen. Cardamom can easily overpower, but even a little bit lends a Middle Eastern flair. I finished the blend with a touch of freshly grated mace, which is a close relative of nutmeg, but provides a little extra kick.
Now on to the best part: using your homemade spice blend! Of course, this blend belongs in your pumpkin pie, but it can also be used to bring a touch of autumn to any of your favorite desserts: apple cakes, chocolate chip cookies, rugelach or even homemade ice cream. Not into sweets? Brew a spoonful of the blend with your morning coffee. Or better yet, sprinkle this mixture over cubed sweet potatoes or slices of delicata squash, add salt and pepper to taste and then roast at 400 degrees until tender and caramelized.
Even though pumpkin pie spice is a bit over-trendy these days (Thanks, Starbucks), it’s still a classic that deserves at least a seasonal spot in your pantry.