The spice this month is Allspice. Dark reddish brown berries similar to peppercorns in size - part of the myrtle family
It is also known as Jamaican pepper - but is not a pepper. Jamaica is the most prolific producer of allspice.
From West Indies, central and South America
This spice is called allspice because it tastes like a combination of cloves cinnamon and nutmeg - but it isn't. It has a sweet but peppery flavour.
Allspice used to be used by pirates in leaf form to treat toothache. It was also used by seafarers to preserve fish and meat.
Allspice was used by the Aztecs to flavour their daily chocolate drink
Allspice is at its best when freshly ground. It keeps well in whole dried berry form as long as you keep it away from light and air.
Try adding allspice to soups and stews in berry form or add a pinch of ground allspice to pureed root vegetables. But be warned it is very potent and needs to be used sparingly.
Allspice is an ingredient in Benedictine and Chartreuse and is a popular ingredient in mulled wine.
In English cooking its main use is in marinades and pickling mixtures for herrings, salt beef, pickled pork etc
Try popping a few allspice into your peppermill.
BIBLIOGRAPHY - with thanks to Auckland Libraries
Cook's Encyclopaedia of Spices by Sallie Morris & Lesley Mackley
Discovering Vegetables, Herbs & Spices by Susanna Lyle
Spice Market by Jane Lawson
Spicery by Ian & Elizabeth Hemphill
Spices & Natural Flavourings by Jennifer Mulherin
Spices by Sophie Grigson
Spices Condiments and Seasonings by Kenneth T Farrell
Spices, Salt and Aromatics in the English Kitchen by Elizabeth David
The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander