Early European food for the rich was spiced predominantly with pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger, sweetened with honey, or later with sugar, and moistened with vinegar. By the 16th century the sweet ingredient had diminished, and when, in the 17th and 18th centuries, spices became more widely available they were used much less ostentatiously. Cookbooks of the 19th century started to record curry powders (from recipes sent home by colonial administrators) and mixtures that were usually referred to as kitchen pepper. Today few European spice blends are still in use, although Europeans eat quantities of spiced foods from different parts of the world.
The classic French mix is used primarily for charcuterie and other meat products. Quatre épices blend is useful to flavor a glaze for baked ham and to season fresh pork before cooking.
- 2 tbsp black or white peppercorns
- 1 tsp whole cloves
- 2 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground ginger
Directions: grind the peppercorns and cloves finely, then mix with the nutmeg and ginger. Store in an airtight container or in a plastic bag in the freezer for 1–2 months. Cinnamon sometimes replaces ginger, also allspice instead of cloves, and mace instead of nutmeg.