It's that wonderful time of year to enjoy the snow, hot chocolate, and all the tasty Christmas spices that come along with the season. I can hear the faint sounds of Christmas music already! Needless to say, this is my FAVORITE time of year. I much prefer shoveling snow to cleaning up the billion of leaves that fall each year. If you saw my yard you would agree!
You'll be tasting all sorts of delicious food this holiday season, I can guarantee that! But what are those spices that pop up during the Holiday or Christmas season?
Some of the most common can be found in pumpkin pie, apple pie, Christmas cookies, and even hot cider.
- Star Anise
You can find most if not all of these spices at your local store in their ground form. If you were interested in grinding your own spices, you can typically find whole spices on Amazon in bulk.
Cinnamon Sticks - Ground Cinnamon
- 3 inches of cinnamon sticks will yield approximately 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
An easy way to grind small amounts of cinnamon is using a Microplane. Now if your recipe calls for a tablespoon or more of ground cinnamon, using a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or a very high-powered blender like a Vitamix would work best. A lot of these items will grind your cinnamon at different rates. During the processes, I recommend sifting out the fine particles and continue blending the larger ones.
Whole Cloves - Ground Clove
- 3 whole cloves will yield approximately ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves
Grinding whole gloves in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle will both achieve finely ground cloves.
Green Cardamom Pods - Ground Cardamom
- 6 pods will yield approximately 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom
A spice or coffee grinder will successfully grind cardamom pods to powder, as will a mortar and pestle.
Vanilla Pods - Vanilla Extract
- 1 Vanilla pod will yield approximately 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract
Probably one of the easiest to grind. Break down dried vanilla pods in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. While most recipes won't call for the vanilla powder specifically you can always just use a pairing knife to gently slice the vanilla pod open and extract the vanilla paste from inside of the pod. Keep these pods tho! Dry them out, or soak them to infuse their wonderful flavors into other recipes. Really there are so many options for vanilla pods.
Star Anise Pods - Ground Star Anise
- 2 whole pods will yield approximately 1 teaspoon of ground star anise
Using a mortar and pestle works best when grinding star anise pods down to powder. First, you'll want to use the pestle to crush the pods into a more manageable size before grinding them down.
Whole Nutmeg - Ground Nutmeg
- 1 whole nutmeg yields approximately 2 teaspoons of grated nutmeg
As with grinding cinnamon using a Microplane is a popular way to grind nutmeg. Typically nutmeg can be ground fresh in very small quantities to add just a touch of nutmeg flavor. When making baked goods with nutmeg, you'll need a bit more. Another useful tool for grinding nutmeg is a boxed cheese grater. These most times will have a Microplane built in.
Whole Ginger - Ground Ginger
- 1 inch of whole ginger will yield approximately 1 ¼ teaspoons of ground ginger
Firstly, to make ground ginger you'll need pieces of thin, dried ginger. Personally, I would grind dried ginger in a coffee or spice grinder or even a food processor. After, use a sifter to filter out the larger pieces and grind those again until you've made a fine powder.
Allspice Berries - Ground Allspice
- 6 whole allspice berries will yield approximately ¼-1/2 teaspoons of ground allspice
Allspice berries are similar to peppercorns. You could grind them with a pepper grinder, spice grinder, or a mortar and pestle.
What can I make with Christmas Spices?
You don't just have to grind one spice at a time either. Check out these combinations that create those iconic holiday spices that will surely remind you of the festive season we're in. Measurements included are for approximately 2 tablespoons of the spice mixes.
Cinnamon - 1 tbsp
Ginger - 1 tsp
Nutmeg - 1 tsp
Allspice - ¼ tsp
Cloves - ⅛ tsp
Probably the most popular spice of the season, maybe that's just my opinion though! Doubt it. I love to put this in and on everything, even outside of the holiday season. Use pumpkin pie spice in my Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with Brown Butter, The Best Pumpkin Bread with Streusel Topping, or moist Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts.
Ginger - 1 tbsp
Cinnamon - 2 tsp
Nutmeg - 1 ¼ tsp
Allspice - ½ tsp
Cloves - ½ tsp
Gingerbread spice is just the flavor you want in these Soft & Chewy Gingerbread Cookies.
Cinnamon - 1 tbsp
Nutmeg - 2 tsp
Cardamom - ½ tsp
Ginger - ½ tsp
Allspice - ½ tsp
Of course, you can use apple pie spice in a delicious apple pie, but I also like to add it to my Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. So good!
Cinnamon - 2 tsp
Cardamom - 2 tsp
Ginger - 2 tsp
Allspice - 1 tsp
Cloves - 1 tsp
Nutmeg - ¼ tsp
Add a chai spice mixture to any baked good to bring that warmth and flavor of chai to the dish. Or make a tasty Chai Latte. The options are endless.
How to grind spices using a Mortar and Pestle
Grinding you're favorite spices yourself is very satisfying and typically results in a stronger flavor than ground spices.
When using your mortar and pestle, fill it only about ⅓ of the way full. This will keep things tidy and your spice grinding consistent.
Hold the mortar (bowl) with one hand and use the pestle to crush the spices first.
Then grind them to your desired consistency.
What if I don't have a Mortar and Pestle?
Of course, this isn't a tool that we all have just lying around, especially when ground spices are so readily available to us at our local grocery store. There isn't a need to run out and buy a mortar and pestle. You can get a lovely grind on your spices with only a few household items you likely do have.
Popular options include:
Microplane - Popular for whole nutmeg and cinnamon sticks. Set the Microplane over a small dish and grind your nutmeg or cinnamon stick along it until you've reached the desired amount.
Coffee grinder - Probably the most ideal replacement for a mortar and pestle.
Rolling pin - Using a rolling pin with whole spices in a Ziploc bag is most likely to resemble the mortar and pestle grind. The benefit to taking this route is that you can grind more spices at a time, and they're all contained in your bag. Using a heavy rolling pin like this marble one will make it easier than a lighter one.
Cast Iron pan - While you can defiantly break up the spices into smaller bits, grinding them with a cast iron pan into a powder will likely take a very long time, and be rather messy. A cast iron pan would be good for cracking peppercorns, or just gently breaking apart your whole spices for a flavor infusion, not necessarily for whole consumption.
Meat tenderizer - Similar to the rolling pin method, place your whole spices in a Ziploc bag and break them up with the meat tenderizer.