In a continuing series on the spices of mince pies, cloves (Syzygium aromaticum) pick up where we left off last week with the genus Myrtaceae, from which we get our nutmeg and mace. Cloves are also native to Indonesia (the Maluku islands to be specific.
Clove oil can come from the leaves, the stem, or buds. This results in tremendous variability across the type of oil, variation in the spice (time of harvest etc), and extraction methods. But, like nutmeg and mace, eguenol ranks high on the volatile list. Since the buds are most commonly used in cooking and baking (and what we use in mince pies), we’ll focus on them. In addition to eugenol, other significant volatiles include eugenyl acetate and beta caryophyllene. Methylamlketone, methylsalicylate, alpha and beta humulene, benzaldehyde, beta ylangene, and chavicol are found in smaller amounts but impart the pleasant aroma of cloves to the nose.
Cloves are actually quite nutritious and provide manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and magnesium. Cloves have health benefits from the eugenol as anti-toxin,anti-inflammatory, and mild anti-baterial agent (I love my clove and fennel toothpaste and foot deodorizer!). As with the other spices, cloves are best when ground fresh as the powdered form lose flavour fast. When pressure is applied to the clove bud, a small amount of oil is released if the clove is fresh. Another freshness test is floating the clove in water–the oil provides buoyancy. However you use them, keep them dark and dry and airtight and enjoy!