Allspice is also called Jamaica pepper. Allspice is native to Jamaica. Christopher Columbus brought allspice back to Europe on his second voyage resulting in the spice being recognized in European cooking during the 16th century.
Many mistakenly believe that allspice is a blend of different spices and wonder what spices are in allspice. Actually the berries that grow on the pimento tree have the odd name “allspice”.
The allspice berries got its name because of the special flavor and aroma. It seemed to taste like a combination of cloves, pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. It was the English botanist named John Ray (1627-1705) who named the dried berries of the Pimento tree for “allspice”.
Pimento is an evergreen tree that can grow to be 15 m (50 ft.). The flowers of the pimento trees are either male or female.
When the pimento tree is eight years old it is ready for its first harvest. The berries are harvested four months after flowering.
The berries (allspice) are picked before they are ripe. The berries are at that time fully grown but still green. The berries are then dried.
Allspice changes its color from green to dark brown when dried.
Allspice is used in some medicines to disguise the original flavor. Allspice is also used in some aftershave lotions.
Allspice has been used to help fight diarrhea.
Allspice is said to improve the digestion.
It has a slight tonic effect on the nervous system.
Allspice is often used in barbeque sauces, chutneys, pickles, ketchup, and sausages. Allspice is also a popular spice to use in cakes and desserts. In Jamaica the liqueur call “Pimento Dram” contains allspice.
Whole allspice will keep indefinitely when kept in airtight containers and in a dark place. Whole allspice will not lose its flavor when stored correctly. It is quite handy to have some stored in your home.
When allspice is called for in a recipe you can grind the whole allspice using an electric coffee grinder, a microplane or whatever.
If you buy ground allspice you need to know it loses flavor fast. Buy ground allspice in small amounts and keep it out of sunlight.