Techniques

Grating Nutmeg

nutmeg
Nutmeg grows on a tall evergreen tree native to the Indonesian Banda Islands. The Portuguese first found it in the 1500’s, but the Dutch soon monopolized the nutmeg trade, displacing the natives and working the plantations with indentured slaves and convicts.

Today nutmeg grows throughout Indonesia, Madagascar, Grenada, and the Caribbean. The tree has long, thin leaves and tiny yellow flowers, similar to a peach tree. The fruit itself looks like a fig as it buds and a funny round pear when it’s ripe. The juicy pulp hides a pit surrounded by a red fleshy net, or mace. Beneath the mace is a pit with a hard exterior shell. Inside the shell is the nutmeg. It is soft when first removed, but becomes rock hard when dried in the sun. Mace is also dried in the sun, and the two are packaged and sold separately.

Historically nutmeg was used as a mild sedative, and it’s a common belief that taking large quantities will produce a hallucinogenic effect. I had a chef once who always carried a nutmeg in his pocket. He was suspicious.

Nutmeg and mace share a similar flavor when ground. Mace is a bit stronger than the sweet, spicy nutmeg. Both are available whole and ground, but the flavor of the ground versions tends to dissipate rapidly. Special nutmeg graters are available for gadget-lovers, and they greatly extend the life of nuts. You can also use a fine-holed parmesan cheese grater in a pinch.

A grated nut will seal itself up after use, and very little of the flavorful oil will dissipate through the wound. Mace is equally long-lasting, although a bit more difficult to grind. I find that a mortar and some muscle work best for small amounts. Grind larger amounts of mace and crushed hole nutmeg nuts in a coffee grinder.

Nutmeg is commonly thought of as a sweet spice, but it’s used in all sorts of savory recipes, too. French cuisine especially uses nutmeg in starch, grain, egg, and cheese dishes for just the right balance.

Whole and ground nutmeg is widely available in markets across the globe.
nutmeg grater

Print this technique

click on a technique below

Frozen Fruit

Frozen Puff Pastry

Cleaning Chicken Livers

A Quick Primer on Buying and Using Fancy Salt

Sriracha Salt

Ash Infused Salt

Beef Cuts: Brisket

Stock: The Foundation of Cuisine

Whole Spices

Yeast Bread Techniques

Using Cardamom

Turmeric

Top 5 Thanksgiving Tips

The Crimped Edge

The Black-Eyed Pea

Super Sprouts

Sundried Tomatoes

Simple Syrup

Sesame Seeds

Semolina

Scoville Units

Saffron

Pomegranates

Piping

Pie Dough

Peeling and Chopping Apples

Pearl Onions

Parts of the Knife and Knife Care

Parsley

Pans

Pan Preparation

Nut Flowers

Muffin Tins

Mise en Place

Melting Chocolate

Making Cheese

Lamination

Instant-Read Thermometers

Homemade Jam

Ground Spices and Spice Blends

Pâte à Choux

Food Mills and Ricers

Filling Cream Puffs

Epazote

Easy Oven Bacon

Denaturation

Deep Frying

Day Old Bread

Crème Fraiche

Crème Anglaise

Cooling and Drying

Cooking Sugar

Coffee

Citrus Supremes

Cinnamon Sugar

Chile Paste and Powder

Chicken Fabrication (a/k/a Butchering)

Carving Whole Roasted Birds

Cardamom

Caramelization

Capers

Buying Chicken

Buerre Noisette

Blind Baking

Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit

Bay

Basting

Bain-Marie

Anchovies

Amchoor

Adding Alternatively

Ice Cream Machines

Espresso Granita

Knife Skills

Puree

Temper

Ice Bath

Sauté

Egg Wash

The Creaming Method

Zesting

Chopping Chocolate

The Tonka Bean

Simmering vs. Boiling

Whole Grains

Pounding and Tenderizing Meat

Chile Guide

Cooking Pasta

Roquefort

The Cut-in Technique

Concassé

Peeling and Seeding Cucumbers

Frying Fish

Maceration and Infusion

Temper

Vanilla Beans

Ice Cream Freezers

Buerre Noisette

Meringue

Reduction

Seasoning Cast Iron

Toasting Nuts

Grating Nutmeg

Roux

Internal Temperatures for Beef

Whipping Cream

Egg Wash

Agave

Adding Alternately

A Berry Primer

Top