A spice, native to the Spice Islands, that is used to add a sweet and savory flavor to a variety of foods. It is made from the seed inside the hard pit of the peach-like fruit grown on the nutmeg tree. The yellow colored fruit is edible and when split open, exposes a net-like casing that covers the nutmeg pit.
The casing around the pit, referred to as mace, is also harvested, dried and used as a spice. When first removed from the nutmeg seed, this mesh casing or membrane (aril) is oval shaped and somewhat brittle. It is flattened, dried and sold as mace blades or ground mace. Like nutmeg, mace has a sweet and flavorful spice, which can be substituted for nutmeg or cinnamon to complement a variety of foods. Food manufacturers use mace to flavor hot dogs and donuts. It is used for infusions when preparing sauces or flavored milk and as a complement to fish, meat, and other dishes.
Ground nutmeg is available prepackaged, but fresh whole nutmeg, that is grated, provides more flavor than the prepackaged variety. When grating a whole nutmeg, the best tool to use is a special nutmeg grater or grinder.
Nutmeg is most often used with sweet or spicy dishes such as pies, custards, puddings, cookies, cakes, and beverages such as milk or egg-based beverages, mulled wine, and punch. And, it adds a nice flavor to soufflés, vegetables, egg dishes, sausages, lamb, and fish.