Grinding spices is an immediately rewarding activity. The intense and singular aroma of whatever you grind pours out of the mill, washes across the room and breaks over you like a wave. It’s always invigorating to me no matter what I’m grinding, be it anise or dill or anything else – my most favorite spice to grind, above all else, is cardamom. I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with me.
People tend to pull out different notes from cardamom. The taste can be described as simultaneously minty, citrusy, peppery, and herbal. For me it’s all about that heady camphorous buzz I get when I take a deep breath over the spice mill. The kind which, when you find yourself in the depths of a cold grey Wisconsin winter, will wake up your sinuses you thought were in hibernation. Being the third most expensive spice by weight, cooks in the past have tried in vein to use alternatives to match its flavor, blending different combinations of ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and even sassafras. Nothing comes close to the real thing.
Cardamom is also one of the earliest recorded spices, appearing in Sanskrit texts dating to 4000 BC. Flavoring both sweet and savory dishes, it was used throughout history as a medicine, a tooth cleaner by the Egyptians, and perfume by Greeks and Romans. Today you will commonly find it in curries, Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, holiday cookies like the Danish kleiner, chocolates, ice cream, even in fancy, refreshing cocktails.
Where I love it the most however, is coffee, and I’m not alone. People in Israel, Turkey, and much of the Middle East consider the two nearly inseparable. There are different ways to enjoy it with coffee. Some might float a green pod or two right in their mug, some will add ground seeds to finished brew, and others (like me) like to add it to the grounds before brewing. If you like this last idea experiment with using our fine ground, whole seeds, or coarsely crush/grind your own at home and decide which you like best.
On my first brew, I added 1 tsp. to the grounds for half a pot. It was subtle and sweet, just right to ease into the flavor. The best part is that like cinnamon and other spices, it’s a great way to add sweetness and flavor without sugar, preservatives, or other additives – and it’s fantastic!
The flavor and versatility of this ancient spice continues to keep cardamom in high demand around the world. Next time you stop into one of our stores, I urge you to ask one of our employees if you can have a smell from the cardamom jar, it is truly an eye-opening experience. View our entire collection of cardamom recipes here!
Dave Laack is a blender at the Spice House. He has worked for the company since 2011. Dave is no longer a full time employee, but loves coming back to help out and to see his spice family. In his summer free time you may see him biking around Milwaukee somewhere between beer gardens. Winter is for books and goulash, of course.