Cardamom is used mainly in the Near and Far East. Its most common Western manifestation is in Dutch ‘windmill’ biscuits and Scandinavian-style cakes and pastries, and in akvavit. It features in curries, is essential in pilaus (rice dishes) and gives character to pulse dishes. Cardamom is often included in Indian sweet dishes and drinks.
At least partially because of its high price, it is seen as a ‘festive’ or ‘special event’ spice. Other uses are; in pickles, especially pickled herring; in punches and mulled wines; occasionally with meat, poultry and shellfish. It flavours custards, and some Russian liqueurs. Cardamom is also chewed habitually (like nuts) where freely available, as in the East Indies, and in the Indian masticory, betel pan. It is a flavouring for Arab and Turkish coffee which is served with an elaborate ritual.
What is it exactly?
Cardamom is a spice made from the seed pods of various plants in the ginger family. Cardamom pods are spindle-shaped and have a triangular cross-section. The pods contain a number of seeds, but the entire cardamom pod can be used whole or ground. The seeds are small and black, while the pods differ in color and size by species.
This variety is green cardamom (Elettaria cardamomom) and it is known as true cardamom. This is the most common type sold as “cardamon.” It is the most popular choice for sweet dishes but it also does work well in savory dishes. It is grown in tropical areas including India, Malaysia, and Costa Rica.
How does it taste?
Cardamom has a strong, sweet, pungent flavor and aroma, with hints of lemon and mint.
Cardamon fun facts:
- It is the third most expensive spice in the world
- It has diuretic and antioxidant properties
- It can be used to soothe nausea
- It’s a main ingredient in your favorite chai tea drink
While this may seem unusual considering many think of cardamon as an Indian spice, one of the countries that consumes the most cardamom is Sweden. In Sweden, cardamom is embraced in everything from baked goods to meat dishes and meatloaf.
Cardamom blends well in aromatic fashion with cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. Think of your favorite fall lattes or chais and you’ve probably had something witha cardomom blend! There are so many recipes with Indian spice mixtures, such as garam masala that include cardamon and adding the spice to hot cider, mulled wine and eggnog will for sure make your drink more special and festive!
Here’s a “sweet” treat recipe:
Cardamom Spice Yeast Dough
(This recipe be used as the basis for cardamom spiced Scandanavian breads/rolls/buns).
- 2 1/2 cups milk
- 1 1/2 cups butter (melted)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. Niblack cardamom
- 2 pkg. dry active yeast (4 1/2 tsp.)
- 8 to 9 cups Niblack all-purpose or bread flour
- Heat milk to a light boil and turn off heat when it starts to bubble on top.
- Stir in melted butter, sugar, salt, and ground cardamom. Let mixture cool until enough to be able to touch.
- Stir in yeast and let sit for 10 minutes.
- Add flour into mixture 1/2 cup at a time until dough is firm and pulls away from the side of the bowl.
- Cover the dough in the mixing bowl and let rise until doubled (about an hour).
- Punch down the dough and remove from bowl.
- On a floured surface knead dough lightly until smooth and shiny.
- Divide dough into two halves and use to make braided loaves(vetebröd), buns, and/or cinnamon rolls (kanelbullar).