In the culinary arts, cardamom is a spice made from the seed pods of various plants in the ginger family. Cardamom has a strong, pungent flavor and aroma, with hints of lemon, mint, and smoke.
Cardamom pods contain a number of seeds, but the entire cardamom pod can be used whole or ground. There are two main types of cardamom: black cardamom and green cardamom.
Cardamom is used mainly in Indian cooking as well as Middle Eastern cuisine. In Indian recipes, whole cardamom pods are used in preparing basmati rice and various curries. In Middle Eastern recipes, ground cardamom is used in preparing certain desserts.
Interestingly enough, one of the countries that consumes the most cardamom is Sweden, where cardamom is employed to season everything from baked goods to hamburgers and meat loaves.
Baking With Cardamom
Like the Swedes (and other Scandinavians, such as the Finns and Norweigians), you can use cardamom in your apple pie recipes. Consider the fact that cardamom is frequently combined with spices such as cinnamon and cloves (again, think curries and basmati rice).
Furthermore, consider that cinnamon and cloves are quite standard ingredients in apple pies, pumpkin pies and banana breads (frequently in conjunction with nutmeg).
Thus, it represents merely a short culinary leap to say that cardamom can be used in any of your usual autumn and winter recipes—whether it's spice cakes, puddings, casseroles and pear or apple tarts. Consider adding a dash of it to your streusel topping before applying it to your muffins and coffeecakes.
Cardamom in Drinks
And don't forget drinks: everything from mulled wine to hot cider to eggnog will benefit from an unexpected hint of cardamom.
You can also add cardamom to coffee and tea for a fragrant and festive twist.
For coffee: Simply grind up 3 to 4 whole cardamom seeds along with your coffee beans and pour your hot water over as usual. Some traditions grind the whole pod, but it's fine to use the seeds only.
If you're using cardamom in a recipe, ideally you'd start with whole cardamom pods. If you buy ground cardamom (i.e. cardamom powder) from the spice section, it won't be as flavorful since the essential oils of the cardamom seed will lose their flavor relatively quickly after the seeds are ground.
Your best bet is to start with whole cardamom pods and toast them in a dry skillet for a few minutes. Let them cool for a minute and then remove the seeds from the pods. Grind the seeds in a mortar and pestle for best results, or you can use a motorized spice grinder (like a coffee grinder).
Just be sure to clean your coffee grinder thoroughly after using it to grind cardamom. Then again, you might find a faint hint of cardamom in your coffee to be thoroughly enchanting!