There are some smells that are so evocative of home and comfort that they elicit an emotional response from even the most jaded of observers. Fresh-baked bread is one of those, and so is the smell of a warm pumpkin pie. The pie incorporates a wide variety of warm spices, either purchased as a mixture or made up by the baker.
About Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin pie is one of the quintessential American dishes. It's all but mandatory to have one on the table at Thanksgiving, even in those few households where nobody especially likes it. The bland, sweet earthiness of pumpkin in its native state is transformed by the process of roasting and pureeing it, and making it into a rich custard with brown sugar, eggs and cream or condensed milk. The final touch is a mixture of warm spices, which enhance and complement the flavors of the filling.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Most major brands of spices have their own pumpkin pie spice mixture. Individual cooks and bakers will find their own favorites, usually settling on a preferred brand after trying a few. Others use pie recipes that specify individual spices in precise quantities to create a carefully-crafted flavor profile. Those who wish to make up their own pumpkin pie spice mix can create a customized combination of spices to please their own palate. The most common spices in pumpkin pies are cinnamon, cloves, ginger, allspice and nutmeg or mace.
Allspice is the dried fruit of a small tree in the myrtle family, native to Jamaica and cultivated throughout the Caribbean and Central America. Christopher Columbus discovered this New World spice on his second voyage of discovery, bringing it back to Spain and describing it as a form of black pepper. Jamaica eventually became a British possession, and the English took up the "Jamaican pepper" with enthusiasm. They dubbed it allspice because, although it was a single berry, it tasted like a blend of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
Allspice and Pumpkin Pie Spice
The name allspice, widely used in the English-speaking world, has led to a degree of confusion. Many believe erroneously that allspice is a blend of other spices, like Chinese five-spice powder or pumpkin pie spice. While this is not the case, the flavor profile of allspice closely resembles pumpkin pie spice. It can be used as a substitute for most of spices in the pumpkin pie spice mixture, or simply used on its own. While the flavor will not be exactly the same, it will be very close.