Mace is a wonderful spice derived from the waxy red covering of nutmeg seeds. Its flavour resembles that of nutmeg, with a hint of cinnamon and pepper. Mace is web like seed membrane which encloses the spice nutmeg. It is found between the exterior fruit and the internal seeds and is present in the form of bright waxy red bands which encase the seed. Fresh Mace has a bright red colour which turns dark-orange when dried. High quality dried Mace retains its orange colour for a long time. Although some varieties are also found in creamy or brown colour.
These dried flakes are known as Mace blades and they are often sold in this form. In fact, Mace blades are more preferred than ground Mace because cooks can grind the mace whenever needed. However, ground mace is more frequently available than mace blades. Several species of Mace is found all over the world such as Myristica malabarica Myristica argentea, and Myristica fatua. All these species resemble Myristica franrans in appearance, however they have less intense aroma and flavor.
Mace comes from the same tree which produces nutmeg, Myristica franrans, and is a member of the mayriticaceae family. The nutmeg tree is native to a region known as the Spice Islands near tropical Indonesia and parts of Southeast Asia. Nutmeg trees are also found in Kerala, the southernmost state of India. The Dutch introduced Mace to Europeans, who at one time held an alarming spice monopoly in most of Southeast Asia.
This tropical evergreen nutmeg tree can grow up to a height of 30 feet. Nutmeg trees take seven to nine years after plantation to bear nutmeg seeds and Mace. The leaves of the nutmeg tree are dark green in colour and oblong in shape. The tree bear small white flowers that grow in clusters at the end of the branches. Nutmeg tree bear nutmeg seeds and Mace up to three times a year.
The flavor of Mace is very subtle and hence it should be used quickly to ensure optimum flavour and aroma. Whole dried and ground Mace is readily available in cooking supply stores. Both should be stored in a cool dry place strictly avoiding the moisture. If your Mace has gone stale from extended storage, lightly toast it to refresh it before use. Both ground Mace and blades should be stored in airtight containers in a cool dry place. Any contact with moisture will ruin the flavour of the spice.
Most cooks prefer whole dried Mace known as blade. It allows them to grind their Mace as required and preserve or bring out the best possible flavour. Many recipes require Mace to be added at the end of the cooking process as cooking tends to changes the flavour profile of a spice and can make it a bit bitter. However in baked foods and roast meats Mace should be added at the beginning along with the other ingredients.