The name clove is derived from the Latin clavus, meaning nail, referring to the shaft and head of the unopened flower buds produced by this tropical evergreen tree in the myrtle family. The clove tree grows up to 25 feet and may live 100 years. They have large oval leaves and crimson flowers in clusters. The unopened four-pointed flower buds are pink and gradually become green after which they turn bright red. Clove trees begin producing between 5 and 7 years and come into full maturity around 25 years. They are harvested when about an inch long and each plant produces an average of 7-8 pounds midway through the year. Cloves become their typical rust-brown color when dried.
Cloves have been used for centuries for their medicinal, culinary and aromatic properties. Native to the Molucca Islands of Indonesia where they “must always see the sea” in order to thrive, cloves played an important part in world history. The Chinese referred to them as “chicken-tongue spice” and people were required to hold them in their mouths when they talked to the Emperor in 200BC to eliminate bad breath. The Romans imported cloves from the Moluccas or Spice Islands where the natives planted a tree for each child born and believed that the fate of the tree was linked to the fate of the child. Popular in Europe from the 8th century along with nutmeg, the Portuguese and the Dutch were attracted to the Spice Islands. Although Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world (1519-1522) ended in only one ship and 18 men returning to Spain, the 50 tons of cloves and nutmeg made the expedition a financial success since they were worth more than their weight in gold. Although today Indonesia is still the largest producer of cloves, Zanzibar and Madagascar are major exporters and cloves from Madagascar have historically been considered superior.
Cloves are the only spice that is smoked more than eaten! In Indonesia more than half of the world’s clove production is ground with tobacco to make kreteks, aromatic cigarettes. Intense in aroma and flavor, this spice is pungent and slightly sweet. Use sparingly as it can overpower other flavors. Like cinnamon, cloves are used both whole and ground and in both sweet and savory dishes and a number of spice mixtures. Whole cloves are used in mulled wine, studded hams and pickles. A single clove is pushed into an onion to prepare chicken stock, added to bean or split pea soups plus makes an interesting addition to bouquet garni, however, remember to remove before serving. Ground cloves add depth to gingerbread, cookies, applesauce and other sweets plus are a secret ingredient in barbeque and cocktail sauces, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce. One of a number of spices in Chinese five-spice, curry powders, mulling and pickling spices, cloves are essential to the French quatre-epices which also includes peppercorns, nutmeg and dried ginger. Clove oil has both anesthetic and antiseptic properties and has long been used effectively in dentistry.
Ground cloves are made without the heads
and are milder than the whole spice
If you grind your own cloves,
do not use a grinder with plastic parts.
Clove oil can cloud some plastics.
15oz white wine vinegar
5 dried red chilies
1tsp whole cloves
1tsp allspice berries
3" cinnamon stick
1 1/2lb coarse sugar
Scald, stone and slice the peaches. Combine the vinegar with the remaining ingredients and stir over low heat to dissolve the sugar then bring to a boil, cover and simmer 15 mins. Add peaches and simmer uncovered 2 mins. Remove peaches to 3 warm 1 lb canning jars. Boil the vinegar again for 5-10 mins to thicken, remove cinnamon stick, then pour over peach slices and cover immediately. Let sit three weeks before opening.
MULLING SPICE MIX
2 - 3” cinnamon sticks
1Tbs orange peel
1Tbs whole allspice berries
2tsp whole cloves
1 section of broken star anise
Combine in a muslin bag or wrap in cheesecloth. Add to apple cider or cran-apple juice and simmer 1/2 hour. Serve warm with a cinnamon stick stirrer.
“And God said, "See, I have given you every herb
that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth,
and every tree whose fruit yields seed;
to you it shall be for food.”