In a nutshell: A stunning collection of all the best spices you'll need for a wonderfully spiced, aromatic Christmas.
Our Christmas Spice Kit contains one of each of the following exceptional spices:
Cinnamon 00000 - The very best cinnamon we've come across! The highest grade of Sri Lankan cinnamon is 00000 and our friends Sanath and Deepa then make a further selection from their warehouse especially for us. Their plantation is situated in sandy soil in the village of Cinnamon, Sri Lanka, a few hundred metres from the Indian Ocean. The quills of 00000 Cinnamon are so thin that they crumble to dust when rolled between the fingers. Like pepper, a pinch of this true cinnamon is enough to improve all sorts of dishes. Try it sprinkled over Middle Eastern rice and milk puddings, add it to stews and hot toddies.
Cloves - These cloves should become one of the cornerstones of your spice cupboard. Used for the classic Christmas ham studded with cloves, but don't stop there... you only need 2 or 3 of our cloves to add depth of flavour and their delicate aroma perfumes all kinds of dishes. Try adding to basmati rice dishes, a classic Greek rabbit or beef stifado, venison stew or rubbing over a goose or duck before roasting. My mother always stuck a handful of cloves into a whole peeled onion when making chicken stock or boiling cheap cuts of meat and often gave me some to chew for toothaches. They also have well known antibacterial qualities so try popping a few into a cup of herb tea next time you make one.
Juniper Berries - Famed as a vital ingredient in gin, Aquavit and some Alpine grappa and amaro, our hand-harvested Canadian Juniper berries have a fruity, oily and resinous flavour all signs of their good provenance and quality. In the West, juniper is used mostly for game and cabbage dishes - like Sauerkraut. They are also great added to other hearty meat and poultry stews, terrines and patés. An essential store cupboard spice if you want to make that Nordic classic, gravlax or pickle some herrings with juniper berries, onions and vinegar. We also add juniper to our game dishes, refreshing apple and cabbage salads and fruit compotes.
Nutmeg - The best nutmeg should be bought whole so you can grate it with a fine microplane grater as you cook recipes. The nutmeg kernels should also have an unbroken, shiny exterior, a mark of good quality. The finest nutmeg comes from Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Grenada in the Caribbean. Our nutmeg comes from one of our favourite spice islands, Sr Lanka, also home to the best cinnamon. Both nutmeg and mace come from the Myristica fragrans tree and are picked when its fruits split to reveal the red mace blades around the nutmeg kernels. The mace is then flattened before drying and the nutmeg is separately sun-dried for a couple of months until the kernels rattle inside its shiny outer skin. We sell the kernels inside this skin which helps to preserve their flavour - you simply break the skin off before using the nut. A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg improves most dishes, especially béchamel sauce for good-old cauliflower cheese and French-style fennel gratins, Italian lasagna and Greek pasticcio. We also add it to our shepherds and fish pies, rum punches and hot chocolate drinks. Try nutmeg also in root vegetable purees and with roasted parsnips, carrots or pumpkin.
Mace - Mace has a flavour that is immediately familiar to anyone, yet often difficult to identify in spice mixes. Mace is, actually, the delicate husk that grows around the nutmeg. It contains the same aromatic oils as nutmeg but in different proportions making its taste a little more delicate. Its greatest quality is its ability to unite disparate flavours. More expensive than nutmeg, it can be used in shellfish stocks, pickles, sausage mixes, meat pies and chutney. Used to season Indian pulaos (rice dishes) and garam masala. Mace is a perfect poultry spice (very good for the Christmas turkey or goose) and is wonderful in desserts such as carrot cake. It’s a great dessert spice in general, and can be found in old-fashioned doughnut recipes. We prefer delicate mace over nutmeg when making many homemade spice blends.
About Épices de Cru
Épices de Cru began in 1982 as a catering partnership between Philippe and Ethné de Vienne. Their mission was a kind of “cooking pot anthropology:” learning the secrets of family cooking around the world and applying these techniques to the needs of hungry Montrealers. The secret, they learned, was spices. Over the last two decades, Philippe and Ethné have searched for the world’s best spices, accompanied by their children, Marika and Arik. The de Viennes believe in direct sourcing spices: visiting growing regions, spending time with growers, and developing personal relationships that last decades. In 2004, they officially opened their first spice shop in Montreal’s fantastic Jean Talon market– it’s since become a mecca for foodies from all over the world. I first visited in 2008 and have been buying and using their spices on a regular basis ever since that first exciting visit. They steadfastly maintain that they do nothing original, only facilitating the exchange of culinary common sense from one place to another. But, what they do is simply quite brilliant - by providing us with the finest quality ingredients, and their superb spice mixes, we can all experiment with unusual spices and recreate delicious recipes from around the world.
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Our new neighbourhood food store is now open for all Vinegar Shed products plus everyday staples, fruit & veg, cheese & charcuterie, provisions, kitchenalia & food to go.
18 St. Mary’s Road, Ealing, London, W5 5ES. Tel: 0208 566 0632
Open: Monday-Saturday 8AM to 6PM, Sunday 9AM to 2PM