The name of this spice may lead some to think that it’s a mix of the “fall” spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, but it’s actually a unique plant. The pimento or allspice tree grows mostly in Jamaica. I didn’t know that allspice grew in Florida before I saw it on the list of summer produce available through Redland Organics. The organic allspice in my batch hails from Bee Heaven Farms.
Both the leaves and the berries of the tree have culinary uses. Like bay leaves, allspice leaves can be used to infuse flavors into soups and sauces. However, they have to be used right away because they don’t dry and preserve their flavor like bay leaves. The berries seem to keep for a while; I’m going to see how long they last in my refrigerator. The black berries can be ground and are wonderfully fragrant. According to GourmetSleuth and some other sources I found, approximately five berries equals one teaspoon of ground allspice.
The versatile allspice lends a “je ne sais quois” of flavor to a variety of dishes. It is used in pumpkin and other pies. I’ve even seen allspice in some recipes for homemade steak sauce and homemade ketchup. It is an essential ingredient of jerk seasoning.
This week I used the allspice to make a jerk pork tenderloin from a recipe by our very own Beard-ed lady, Michelle Bernstein. I marinated the pork for 24 hours and it turned out moist and tangy. The aroma of the sauce is reminiscent of another addictive South Florida condiment—mojo criollo.
You can get your own allspice by signing up for Redland Organics summer produce updates.