Contrary to its all-encompassing name, allspice is only made of one spice. It takes its name from its aroma and was named by the English, according to the “Epicentre Encyclopedia of Spices” website. Allspice smells like a combination of spices including nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon with a hint of pepper. Allspice, or pimenta dioica, is grown mainly in Jamaica, where the climate and soil best suit the production of this berry, which is dried and ground or preserved whole. It’s most often sold ground which furthers the incorrect belief that allspice is made up of a mixture of many spices.
Christopher Columbus sailed past allspice trees in Jamaica he thought to be nutmeg in 1492, says “The Milwaukee Sentinel," in an article tracing the origins of the spice. Spanish explorers mistook the trees for peppercorn years later, and named the spice “pimento," a combination of the Spanish word for Jamaican pepper and peppercorn. Allspice is also called Jamaica pepper, myrtle pepper, pimento and newspice, because it comes from the New World.
From the myrtle family, the evergreen pimento tree can grow up to 40 feet. It’s an attractive tree with large, glossy leaves and white flowers, which are replaced with bunches of green berries. The green berries are harvested, sun-dried and the dried berries looks like large peppercorns. Buy allspice as whole dried berries or more commonly as ground powder.
Allspice is used in baking cakes, fruit pies, puddings and most especially pumpkin pie, where it gives a warm flavor with peppery overtones. Popular in Europe, it’s used there for mulling spices, pickling, marinades and sausage-making. In India, allspice is often added to curry and it’s used for meat and rice dishes in the Middle East. Jamaicans use allspice in jerk seasoning and in soups, curries and stews. It’s also used in pickles, sausages and ketchup.
Substitute for Allspice
Combine equal parts of cloves, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper. For example, use ¼ teaspoon each of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper to make up the equivalent of a teaspoon of allspice. Five whole berries are equivalent to about one teaspoon ground.