Bulk spotlight: Cardamom

Taste October 2014

The all-star ingredient in chai, cardamom is a sweet, punchy and deliciously complex spice that can brighten up your pantry. It’s used extensively in Indian cuisine, from savory meat and vegetable dishes to dessert. It’s popular in the Middle East, where it’s added to coffee, and in Scandinavia, where it features prominently in baked goods. While it’s considered one of the world’s most expensive spices, just behind saffron and vanilla, a little goes a very long way.

Related to ginger, cardamom starts out as a seedpod — the seeds can then be extracted and ground into a powder. Ground cardamom is best in cakes, cookies and other pastries. Whole pods are best used like a bay leaf, in recipes where the cardamom can subtly infuse the liquid — think pots of rice and braised meats. While the pods themselves contain little flavor, crushing them slightly can help release the aromatics.

You’ll find both organic ground cardamom and whole green cardamom pods in the bulk spice section at your neighborhood PCC. Keep cardamom in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place. Whole pods will last about a year; ground cardamom has a shelf life of only a few months. To freshly grind cardamom yourself, first remove the seeds by crushing the pods with the side of a knife and shaking out the seeds. Then use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to crush the seeds. As a guideline, there are about a dozen seeds per pod, and 10 pods will produce about 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cardamom.

 

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