Nutmeg novice needs nutritional (k)nowledge
June 25, 2021 6:51 AM   Subscribe

I bought a package of whole nutmegs because I needed two for a project. Project is now complete and I have more than two dozen whole nutmegs left over. What can I use them for, and how?

I have never used whole nutmegs before, and I don't think I've actually used powdered nutmeg by itself either, though I've occasionally used spice blends that contain nutmeg as an ingredient.

- What sorts of foods can I make, or make yummier, with nutmeg? (No meat dishes please.)

- How do I do this with whole nutmegs, as opposed to ground? Do I need to grind/slice/grate/pound the nutmeg, or are there things I can do with it whole? Why do normal people buy whole nutmegs in the first place?

- How much nutmeg is a reasonable/safe amount to consume in a meal? (I am not interested in experimenting with nutmeg's purported hallucinogenic or abortifacient properties.)
posted by heatherlogan to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: Just grind them on a grater. I have a dedicated small nutmeg grater, but a microplane or fine cheese grater would probably be fine too. Normal people buy whole nutmegs because fresh-ground nutmeg tastes way better than the pre-ground stuff, as is true with most spices.

I most commonly use it in desserts (especially pies), but sometimes I will also grate some over fresh green beans (blanch; finish cooking with butter in a skillet; salt, pepper, nutmeg).

Two dozen is a lot, though. Even as someone who likes nutmeg, it takes me months to go through a whole one unless I'm doing a ton of baking.
posted by primethyme at 6:58 AM on June 25, 2021 [10 favorites]


Best answer: Nugmeg is a delicious flavoring for most dairy dishes, both sweet and savory. Like your bechamel sauces as well as your rice puddings and chai. It is good for mulled wine too, if you drink that, and the whole nuts you have can keep just fine until winter in airtight storage.
You just need a little at a time and you grate a bit into whatever you are cooking, then put the rest of the nut back into an airtight container. Grating from a whole nut gives a richer taste than just using the powder, and you need to use more when using powder. So even though I use it often, I still have them for a long time.
Be careful and taste as you go, too much can be nauseating. I don't get how anyone can consume enough to get high from it.
posted by mumimor at 6:59 AM on June 25, 2021 [5 favorites]


Nutmeg is a secret ingredient in some Italian-inspired recipes I've loved and lost - in ricotta gnudi, French-style omelet with nutmeg and parmesan, stuffed mushrooms with spinach and port-soaked figs.

With twenty-four on hand, you can share the wealth! Alert your pie-baking and nog-making friends; also anyone who is a homemade pasta aficionado. I'm sure you'd have takers.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 7:06 AM on June 25, 2021 [5 favorites]


Best answer: A sprinkle of nutmeg is delicious on fried cabbage, and by extension, colcannon.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:06 AM on June 25, 2021


Two dozen is a truly HUGE amount of nutmeg. I'd save....five? and give the rest away. They do last a long time whole compared to the ground spice. Grate a little into any baking recipe that calls for cinnamon (along with the cinnamon) to make the dish taste deliciously Christmassy.

This would be the right time of year to get a head start on infused boozy Christmas gifts too; this recipe sounds fantastic and would use up one nutmeg per gift...
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 7:17 AM on June 25, 2021 [9 favorites]


Best answer: Nutmeg is an essential ingredient in many recipes, such as creamed spinach. It should be barely perceptible, or not perceptible at all, but it adds a depth of flavor that makes a real difference, in the same way cinnamon is often added in small amounts to savory spice mixes in North African or Middle Eastern cuisine.

I suspect nutmeg and cinnamon were introduced as a result of the Spice trade which flourished from Venice. I seem to recall a recipe for a lasagna with a bechemel sauce and these spices which was popular in Renaissance Italy, pre-New World discovery of tomatoes, which was featured on the PBS show Splendid Table. I've never made it, but it sounded intriguing.
posted by citygirl at 7:28 AM on June 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


Great in french toast, bechamel, omelets, any kind of rich eggy-creamy things too! I grate a little onto my homemade eggnog and I think some other cocktails too.

But yes 24 nutmegs is enough for most neighborhoods. A little bit goes a long way.
posted by mskyle at 7:29 AM on June 25, 2021


Salted butter, fresh grated nutmeg (moderate amount maybe 1/4 tsp or less, or three grates,) fine pasta of choice, egg noodles or gnocci. I have had three whole nutmegs for a decade, still working through a Costco jar of it that is at least old enough to enter college.
posted by Oyéah at 7:40 AM on June 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


Helvetic Kitchen features a ton of Swiss recipes that call for nutmeg (many of them non-meat dishes). It's a pretty common feature in this cuisine.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:40 AM on June 25, 2021


Best answer: A light scraping of nutmeg is the secret ingredient in amazing mashed potatoes.
posted by slkinsey at 7:48 AM on June 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


Nutmeg is the great smell of old fashioned plain doughnuts. I have never made them but I deeply, deeply want you to now.
posted by wellred at 7:50 AM on June 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


Why do normal people buy whole nutmegs in the first place?

You buy whole spices, nutmeg included, because they keep better and stay fresher than pre-ground stuff. Pre-ground spices in a plastic jar from the supermarket are akin to sawdust. Nutmeg especially will expire (by which I mean go flavorless, not be harmful) quickly, and using whole nutmeg is pretty easy compared to other spices.

The best way to deal with whole nutmeg is to gently shave it with a microplane. If you don't have one, then use the small holes on a box grater.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:51 AM on June 25, 2021 [4 favorites]


I put a little nutmeg into quiche. It's also good in all kinds of sweet breads and desserts where you might use cinnamon or cardamom.
posted by belladonna at 7:52 AM on June 25, 2021


A light scraping of nutmeg is the secret ingredient in amazing mashed potatoes.

Stumbled into this revelation when I made this Kartoffelpfluten this past winter. It's just kind of a modified, baked mashed potato dish. It calls for nutmeg, and it was delicious.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:54 AM on June 25, 2021 [4 favorites]


I'm fascinated - what did you do with the first two?

British custard tarts are delicious and are topped with ground nutmeg, and while I've never made my own, if this recipe is to be trusted then they require a *lot* of nutmeg. (Half a nutmeg for six little custard tarts!!)

Me, I use nutmeg mostly in spiced cakes and biscuits (cookies). For instance, these Welsh cakes, these nutmeg slices, these speculaas biscuits or this spice loaf.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 8:02 AM on June 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


Add it to everything. You'll learn what you like it on and what you don't.
posted by aniola at 8:24 AM on June 25, 2021


If you have fresh nutmeg, you can pickle the outer part.
posted by aniola at 8:24 AM on June 25, 2021


Nutmeg is a crucial ingredient in Dutch Baby, a family favorite since my mom picked it up from Sunset Magazine in 1977 (page 1 | page 2). We had it just about every Sunday morning when I was a kid, and the tradition continues with our kids.
posted by sportbucket at 8:29 AM on June 25, 2021 [3 favorites]


Nutmeg is an ingredient in Martha Stewart's Mac and Cheese. I use panko bread crumbs instead of fussing with bread slices, and I like whole wheat penne instead of elbow.

I also just used some nutmeg the other day making french toast.
posted by foxfirefey at 8:31 AM on June 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


This is simple, but I really like a little nutmeg sprinkled in my coffee.
posted by zoetrope at 8:52 AM on June 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


Fresh nutmeg is so much better than pre-ground. Agreeing with others above. Keep about 5 or 6 and give the rest away. I keep my nutmegs in the freezer and run them over a microplane rasp when I need any.

Just keep grating it and putting it back into the freezer until you can't really grasp it anymore. They really won't go bad in the freezer, and they'll still be better than pre-ground nutmeg.

Spinach loves nutmeg, so anything like a spinach filling for pasta or quiche always gets some nutmeg. Also creamy dishes, even an alfredo sauce benefits from a little nutmeg.

Anything that calls for cinnamon would benefit from a little nutmeg as well.

It's not an overpowering flavor, but you'll notice it once you start using it.
posted by hydra77 at 8:56 AM on June 25, 2021 [4 favorites]


the good news is you have plenty of time to use up whole nutmeg which will stay fresh for a lot longer than pre ground would. a little goes a long way and that is certainly a lot of nutmeg - as others have said it does a lot when paired with a dairy element, like in a traditional bechamel or as an add in for a ricotta/mascarpone based filling for pasta.

if you dont mind acquiring some allspice you could make a jerk sauce (to put on non meat things on reread).
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 9:01 AM on June 25, 2021


Best answer: Can't remember which prison novel it was, but I remember reading about when somebody ate a whole nutmeg, and had a bad trip. Healthline: Can You Get High on Nutmeg? Why This Isn’t a Good Idea.
posted by Rash at 9:04 AM on June 25, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: A micro plane is the easiest way to grate them, but they’re very frangible - I have fine dusty results from just skritching a nutmeg gently with a paring knife. You don’t have to commit to new equipment if you don’t have a fine shredder already.
posted by clew at 9:19 AM on June 25, 2021


Best answer: Answering your questions in a different order than asked:

- How do I do this with whole nutmegs, as opposed to ground? Do I need to grind/slice/grate/pound the nutmeg, or are there things I can do with it whole?

Usually you'd grate it. The whole "Nut" grates down, so there is no inside to worry about - you just grate away at the lump until it's done. There's even a tool made expressly for that purpose - it's cheap, and there's often a little storage bin in the top for the single nutmeg "nut" you're working on. Nutmeg is also surprisingly easy to grate; you won't have to force it, just rub against the grater. It's quite soft and grates away surprisingly fast. ....There are fancier graters that store 5-6 nutmegs inside at a time and use a crank handle, but all the ones I've seen come pre-loaded with nutmegs, and it seems like that would be compounding your problem.

As for recipes using crushed nutmeg - it may be worth a try adding a crushed nutmeg to the mix if you're mulling wine or cider in the winter. That's just a matter of dumping a bottle of wine or apple cider on the stove, throwing in a handful of slightly-crushed whole spices, and then letting it simmer a while before drinking. Or, a handful of slightly-crushed whole spices simmered in a pot of water on the stove could be a cheap air freshener. It may not be a bad idea to save the last little ends of the nutmeg that are hard to grate for that purpose.

- Why do normal people buy whole nutmegs in the first place?

The same reason people buy any whole spice - the taste is so much fresher and vivid than if you get it pre-ground or pre-powdered or whatever.

- How much nutmeg is a reasonable/safe amount to consume in a meal?

I did just check, and found that there are some cases where you can get ill from "too much nutmeg" - but both the cases discussed in that article concern people who intentionally tried to get high on nutmeg, and they used about a tablespoon. Most recipes call for about a half a teaspoon, by comparison, and I think you'd start thinking "bleah, this tastes like it has way too much nutmeg in it" well before you got the point at which you'd be accidentally eating enough to cause side effects.

- What sorts of foods can I make, or make yummier, with nutmeg? (No meat dishes please.)

Others have mentioned that it gets used a lot in Italian cuisine, in things with spinach or bechamel. Anything involving melted Swiss cheese could do with a dusting of nutmeg, easy. It's also good as part of the flavoring blend for baked goods that are "spice" flavored - pumpkin pie, molasses cookies, stuff like that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on June 25, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: - What sorts of foods can I make, or make yummier, with nutmeg? (No meat dishes please.)
From a slapdash European/German/whatever perspective, it's standard together with Brussels sprouts, spinach, and in mashed potatoes, and it also appears for instance in some styles of scrambled eggs (in a combo with white asparagus, like I ate in Ghent once, but see below...). Cheese soufflé: much better with a bit of ground nutmeg! I'm also often using a little when I'm making mixed braised vegetables with butter, especially when there are sliced leeks in the mix.
As others wrote, some spice cakes and Christmas cookie recipes include nutmeg. Quite a number of Indian and Indonesian spicy sauces use either mace or nutmeg. Matter of keeping your eyes peeled when scanning recipes. It's probably great in meat-replacement-type of nut-mix-balls etc. Generally a better match with butter than with olive oil, to my taste.

- How do I do this with whole nutmegs, as opposed to ground? Do I need to grind/slice/grate/pound the nutmeg, or are there things I can do with it whole? Why do normal people buy whole nutmegs in the first place?
As others said, adding that there is a special microplane nutmeg grater that has the advantage of not taking the skin off your knuckles if the nut happens to slip out of your fingers, which tends to happen a lot.

- How much nutmeg is a reasonable/safe amount to consume in a meal? (I am not interested in experimenting with nutmeg's purported hallucinogenic or abortifacient properties.)
The largest portion i have found in a recipe was a whole teaspoon (for a dish using 500g of beef in a spicy sauce; a recipe from Soerabaja). Even disregarding possible safety concerns, I found this on the edge, culinary-benefits-wise. I often use just a few gratings, perhaps up to a quarter teaspoon ground for an ordinary-size dinner dish. The egg-asparagus combo I mentioned above was served with way too much nutmeg, overpowering all the other flavors; it would have been great with just a little.
posted by Namlit at 9:41 AM on June 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


Frequent ingredient in a number of cocktails, especially of the tropical variety. Can't go wrong with rum punch.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:45 AM on June 25, 2021 [1 favorite]


A bit of nutmeg in mac n cheese is quite good.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:43 AM on June 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Thanks everyone for all the excellent answers! I've marked a bunch of "best answers" based solely on the kind of stuff I'm likely to actually cook, not on the intrinsic quality of the answers. :) And now that I know how much nutmeg is a reasonable amount, I can start experimenting without worrying about overdosing on the stuff.

I'm fascinated - what did you do with the first two?

Not telling! ;)
posted by heatherlogan at 12:14 PM on June 25, 2021


I'd give it as stocking stuffer-type Christmas gifts with eggnog if you celebrate the holiday or winter solstice.
posted by theora55 at 12:29 PM on June 25, 2021


Best answer: A few grates of fresh nutmeg is what makes literally anything with eggs taste "finished" (assuming eggs do not count as meat)

Nthing spinach and other leafy bitters, particularly if cooked to full wilt, extra particularly if they include cream. Nutmeg loves fat, and helps round out the "fatty" mouthfeel of the best foods.
posted by Grim Fridge at 1:41 PM on June 25, 2021 [2 favorites]


You can give a single nutmeg in a pretty little jar to 23 people and they will have one... well, for a while. I genuinely do not think they lose enough potency over years -- decades! -- for it to be noticeable. You just grate a little more.

(A dusted grating on top of baked rice pudding.)
posted by holgate at 4:01 PM on June 25, 2021 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I don’t cook spinach without nutmeg. I just don’t. For eggs, for lasagna, to mix in with Kraft dinner, still always nutmeg.
posted by OrangeVelour at 4:28 PM on June 25, 2021


It's Sunday night and I am watching YouTube videos, and lo and behold, this one is relevant to your question
posted by mumimor at 2:35 PM on June 27, 2021


« Older Let's turn this weird design bug into a feature   |   Convergence insufficiency - tell me about your... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments