To check the quality of a whole nutmeg, poke it with a needle: if you can pierce it slightly, the nutmeg is of good quality. A drop of oil will come out, forming a thin skin.
Whole nutmegs are sold dried and limed. It is preferable to buy whole nutmeg, because to get the full flavor of nutmeg it should be grated as needed, instead of being purchased already ground. Just a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg will flavor a whole dish.
Mace is available in small pieces or in ground form. It is impossible to grate the pieces but they can be ground in a coffee grinder or a mortar.
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Mace is more fragrant and has a more refined flavor than nutmeg. Too often they are used interchangeably, but to give each one its proper place in the kitchen, use nutmeg with sweet dishes such as custards, pastries, apples and other fruits; and mace with savory dishes such as some curries, sausages, vegetable purées, eggs, spinach, and of course, traditional béchamel sauce.
the kernel at the centre of the fruit
the dried hull, which is called the aril. Mace was much more widely used than nutmeg until the 17th century, when the use of strong spices diminished with the rise in sugar consumption.
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