As the unopened buds of a flowering evergreen, cloves are used as decorative studs for a ham. They are often tucked under the skin – sparingly – for extra flavor. A favorite holiday tradition is to embed them in oranges for an explosive scent or enjoy a warming glass of mulled wine.
For cooking, whole and ground cloves are used most often. Clove oils are sometimes added to commercial products including Worcestershire and barbecue sauces. The oil has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and is also used as a numbing agent in throat sprays.
Whole cloves are best and will keep for at least twelve months. Spikes should contain some oiliness when pressed and have plump heads (the best flavor is in the bud). Ground cloves are more readily available, but have a shorter shelf life – about six months.
• Add cloves sparingly and remember that they may be already included in other spice blends.
• Clove intensifies the longer it stands in warming foods.
• One cup = three ounces clove spikes.
• One teaspoon whole will reduce to almost three-quarters ground.
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