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Title: Condiments, Spices and Flavors

Author: Mary Elizabeth Green

Release date: September 13, 2021 [eBook #66284]

Language: English

Credits: Charlene Taylor, Les Galloway and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)


Transcriber’s Notes

Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected.

The cover was prepared by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.


Condiments Spices and ...
... Flavors

Condiments, if properly used, assure digestion and hasten the absorption of food by the system.—THEODORE CHILD.

Copyright, 1894, by


In this pamphlet no attempt has been made to give specific directions as to the uses of spices and condiments. It must be borne in mind that their usage results neither from the demands of fashion nor of a vitiated sense of taste, but from their own germicidal and preservative qualities. From the spiced and perfumed mummies of the Pharaohs to the spiced apple and pickled pear of our own store-rooms, the same reason for the use of spices exists—their antiseptic qualities. A short account of the divers kinds and qualities of these excellent substances may lead, it is hoped, to a more intelligent use of them in cookery. Nothing has been said about adulteration, for, while most of the adulterants of spices are harmless, still, fraud lies in the fact that the buyer pays a high price for an article part of which is worthless. As every housewife cannot be her own chemist, her safeguard lies in buying only of reliable spice houses.

[Pg 1]



Maxim as ancient as the time of Democritus of Abdera reads: “Whatever pleases the palate nourishes.” Modern science has proven the truth of this maxim and has given us acceptable reason why condiments are no more necessary in palace of connoisseur than in hut of barbarian, why they are as eagerly used by the native of Labrador as by the swarthy son of the tropics; why they are the property of Mohammedan, Confucian, Buddhist, Gentile and Jew, of all castes, races and civilizations. Acting principally upon the nervous system through the sense of smell, condiments stimulate the flow of both the saliva and gastric juices. They materially aid digestion, and the familiar phrase, “to make the mouth water,” states a physiological fact. From this standpoint the fragrant aroma of steaming[Pg 2] coffee and the savory odor of a stew are as truly condiments as pepper and salt; for condiments are the magic wand which transforms most commonplace of foods into essences, subtle and delicious. They are equally appropriate to the steaming potage of the French peasant and the sacrificial altars of Palestine and Greece. Nothing more closely tests the skill of the cook than his use of these appetizing flavors. Like genii of the fairy tale, they are willing, versatile and obedient as slaves; when master their pathway is strewn with sorrowful though most aromatic wrecks of soups and hors d’œuvres. They should permeate food as incense does the atmosphere, delicate, impalpable and as indescribable as they are requisite. The too abundant use of a certain condiment or spice, the lack of another or the injudicious mingling of certain others will ruin the finest pudding, sauce or soup ever compounded.

Condiments and spices are as ancient as civilization. The oldest books of the scriptures, notably Exodus, Leviticus, Job and the Canticles, make frequent reference to salt and spices, substances which were then costly, chiefly dedicated to royalty and the uses of temple and altar. The Greeks followed the Semitic customs to some extent in their disposition of spices, not using them as largely in their food as have later races. They were fond of aromatic flavorings and it is said that the laurels of Greece, of which the cinnamon is a species, possessed that quality to a greater extent[Pg 3] than those of any other country, although all laurels have aromatic leaves.

Homer in the Iliad refers with naïve surprise to those people unaccustomed to the use of salt, and in the ninth book pictures Patroclus as

“He strews a bed of glowing embers wide,
Above the coals the smoking fragments turns,
And sprinkles sacred salt upon the urns.”

By the mediæval Romans condiments were well liked. They made, according to one author, a pickle from the tunny fish, just as their languorous descendants are doing to-day, and also prepared a condiment from the intestines of the mackerel. “Liver of the capon, steeped in milk and beccaficoes, and dressed with pepper” was another of their highly seasoned dishes.

In the thirteenth century Dante, in the description of the alchemists and forgers of the tenth gulf of the Inferno, referred to one Niccolo of Sienna, “who first the spice’s luxury discovered.” Contemporary with him in England, William Langland, in his “Vision of Piers the Plowman,” inquired if thou “hast in thy purse any hot spices?”

Frequent reference by the writers of that day indicates that these substances were expensive and used mainly by the luxurious. Venice had for many years controlled the trade in spices, which[Pg 4] were brought overland from the Orient in immense caravans, and not until Diaz and Vasco de Gama, in the fifteenth century, rounded the cape of Good Hope did their costliness diminish. After that event spices and condiments ceased to be regarded merely as luxuries and became as necessary to the plainest of soups as to the Puree de volaille a la Bearnise of the French chef.

All classes of people use condiments in some form, from the wealthy epicure who flavors his terrapin with mace, salt, pepper, and sherry to the negro who sifts okra through his fingers into his gumbo soup or the Indian, stirring the contents of a steaming kettle with twigs of sassafras.

Condiments have been defined as those substances eaten with meat and combined with salt while spices are chiefly added to articles containing sugar. They may be classified as follows:

Vegetable AROMATICS Clove, cinnamon, cassia-bud, pimento or allspice, nutmeg, mace, cardamon, pepper, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, grains of Paradise, anise, dill, caraway, basil, chervil, celery, fennel, bay-leaves, summer savory, parsley, thyme, sage, sweet marjoram, mint, tarragon, onion, leek, garlic, saffron, capers, turmeric and curry powder.
chillies (cayenne pepper). [Pg 5]
Mineral Salt.
Animal Pastes and essences of shrimp, lobster, bloater, anchovy, etc.
Sauces Chutney, tabasco, lime juice, Worcestershire, ketchup, carachi, cassareep and soy.
Pickles Various vegetables and fruits, such as cucumber, olive, samphire, etc.
Flavors Vanilla, tonka bean, almond, chocolate, orange and various fruits.
Acids Vinegar, lime juice, verjuice.
Cordials Curaçoa, Noyau, Ratafia, anisette, kümmel, absinthe, Chartreuse, Maraschino, etc.

Salt is even more valuable as a condiment than as a preservative. It is used in every staple article of cookery and, as has been said, “Plutarch was right when he styled salt the condiment of condiments.” Cereals and vegetables are tasteless without the addition of that mysterious quantity, “a pinch of salt,” bread is insipid without a dash of it, as also are meats and puddings. Meats, when so cooked that their own salts are not extracted, as when roasted, are more palatable without additional salt than any other food so prepared.

Though salt is unused because unattainable by certain barbaric peoples, such as the Bedouins, it is considered to be a necessity by all others. Aristotle relates that in Greece a salt spring was believed to be a direct gift of the gods, salt always comprising part of[Pg 6] the religious offerings. Salt is referred to in the scriptures more than a score of times. In Leviticus we find the command that “every oblation of thy meat offering shall be seasoned with salt.” In Job occurs the question “can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt?” The Biblical comparison to salt which has lost its savor refers to the custom still retained in Oriental countries of adulterating with earth the salt which finds its way to the extremely poor, who cannot pay the original high price. So costly was salt in the ancient world that the old caravan routes were first formed for traffic in this article. The “Salarian Way” of Rome was so named because of its immense commerce in salt and to this day the trade route across the Sahara is by this means mainly supported. Recently, the salt beds of Europe and the salt mines and wells of the western hemisphere have made this article so abundant that its cheapness effectually protects it from adulteration.


Cloves are the unexpanded flowers of an evergreen tree found in the East Indies and indigenous to the Molucca Islands. They are called by the Chinese “fragrant nails” owing to the peculiar[Pg 7] shape of the dried clove buds, and the English word is derived from the Latin clavus, and French clou, also meaning nail. It is doubtful if cloves were known to the Greeks or Romans, the Venetians having first obtained them from the Arabians, while the clove trade was later monopolized by the Portuguese. Then it was owned by the Dutch who expelled the Portuguese from the Spice Islands in 1605. The Dutch made great effort to control the entire spice trade of these islands, which was a source of abundant wealth, and were even known to furnish the market with the adulterated article, the oil of clove being extracted by pressure and the buds being given a fresh appearance by a glaze of olive oil. They also preserve the mother clove, or fully developed fruit. This resembles the olive in appearance and, being less pungent in flavor than the bud, makes a dainty sweetmeat. The clove tree is not hardy and grows best when planted in loamy soil, sheltered from the winds by the hills. It has been introduced into the West Indies and Guiana. Cloves from the Moluccas and Ceylon are more valuable, being richer in oil, darker in color and far more aromatic.

Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tree allied to the laurels. It is indigenous to Ceylon and the Penang Islands although believed by some authorities to have originally come from China, where it has flourished since the remotest times. As it is mentioned in the Old Testament it is conjectured that the Hebrews obtained it from the[Pg 8] Arabians who in turn procured it from India. Later it was mentioned by Herodotus. It is known that Hippocrates used cinnamon medicinally and the modern medical world has but recently made the discovery that oil of cinnamon is a valuable antiseptic and germicide. Not until 1506 was cinnamon discovered wild in Ceylon and not until 1770 was it improved by cultivation. The tree grows to a height of twenty and occasionally thirty feet, although, as the bark from the young shoots is of finer flavor, that only is used. Cinnamon shrubs are cultivated in fields, the finest being located in the region of Colombo, Ceylon. The shoots, which grow in clusters of from four to ten, are cut to the roots twice a year, after the rains. The epidermis is peeled off, the bark is put up in bundles about forty inches long and thus dried and marketed. Three grades are exported, the finest, thin, of a brownish yellow color, fragrant and sweet of odor and correspondingly high of price. It is also adulterated with cassia bark, a cheaper production.

Cassia is the inner bark of a species of cinnamon called Chinese cinnamon or cassia lignea. The greater part of it is exported from China. The bark is put up in bundles about half the length of cinnamon bark and is more pungent and less sweet of flavor. Cassia buds are the unripened fruits of the tree which produces Chinese cassia. In shape and size they resemble cloves, in aroma, cinnamon, and are usually preserved whole for sweetmeats or spices. Cassia[Pg 9] is mentioned by Moses as an ingredient of the holy oil, in Psalms as a perfume and in Ezekiel as a spice.

Allspice, sometimes called Jamaica pepper and properly, pimento, is native to the Island of Jamaica and has not been successfully cultivated outside of the West Indies. The pimento tree is an evergreen of the myrtlebloom family, all of which are exotic trees, and reaches a height of thirty feet. The allspice of commerce consists of the berries of this tree, exported whole after being dried, and so called because their aroma resembles that of cloves, cinnamon, juniper and nutmeg. The berries are gathered when green, being left on the twigs until dried by the sun, by which means all the essential oil is retained.

Cassia Buds.

[Pg 10]


Nutmeg is the kernel of the fruit of an exotic evergreen tree native to the Banda and other of the East Indian islands. In appearance it resembles the orange, yielding fruit when eight or nine years of age and bearing for fifty or sixty years. It requires a light soil, moisture and shade, and cannot be propagated in regions in which these conditions are not present. The tree bears fruit during most of the year, in the Molucca and other islands three crops a year being gathered. The fruit, which requires nine months in which to mature, is carefully dried before the pericarp is removed and the kernel taken out. There are three varieties, the male or barren, the royal and the queen, the last, a small, round nutmeg, considered most valuable. The inferior nutmegs are used for the extraction of nutmeg butter or oil, known as “oil of mace.” About six per cent of volatile oil is contained. It is stated that more nutmegs are exported to the United States than to all Europe. The Dutch formerly preserved the entire fruit, kernel and pericarp, in a syrup of sweet vinegar for a sweetmeat. This nation when in control of the spice trade of certain of the East Indian islands made strenuous efforts to confine the nutmeg tree to the Bandas. But the “nutmeg bird,” a species of blue pigeon, frustrated their designs[Pg 11] by scattering the nuts all over the islands after feeding upon their pulpy covering. So determined at one time were the Dutch to keep the price of nutmegs high that, if an unusually large harvest occurred, part of it was burned by them.

Mace is the reticulated aril covering the kernel. When fresh, it is of a crimson color, reaching the golden tint only when dried and after some months. In its properties it is similar to the nutmeg. The leaves of the nutmeg tree as well as the fruit are highly aromatic.

The cardamon is a member of the ginger family and is native to Malabar, Madagascar and Ceylon. That from the latter country is of quite large size. It consists of a rhizome or root stock from which rise tall, flag-like leaves. The flower stem springs directly from the root and is much shorter, bearing racemiform clusters of small white flowers. The fruit consists of greenish pods half an inch in length, each pod being three capsuled and containing numerous seeds. These seeds are pungent in flavor and constitute the valuable part of the plant. The pods are dried slowly as rapid drying causes them to split, thereby losing the seeds. Cardamon seeds were used by the ancient Greeks both as a spice and as medicine.

Pepper, with cinnamon, salt and incense, was one of the staple commodities which anciently passed over the caravan routes between Venice and India. At that time its price was extremely high and, according to E. M. Holmes, rents were frequently paid[Pg 12] in this article as late as the middle ages. After the sack of Rome by the barbarians one of the articles of tribute demanded by Alaric was a thousand pounds of pepper. As late as the eighteenth century the pepper trade was confined to the Portuguese. In recent years it has become one of the cheapest of our spices.

Round Pepper.

The pepper plant is a vine, of the order piperaceæ, which grows wild in China, is also indigenous to Malabar and other islands of the East Indies, and has been introduced into the West Indies. The plants require a rich moist soil, bearing after the fourth year and continuing fruitful for from eight to fourteen years. The most famous of the pepper islands are the Penang, which furnish more than half the amount produced by the entire East Indies. Only the berries of the pepper plant are valuable and these, being gathered before fully developed, have a wrinkled appearance when dried. The berries used for white pepper are decorticated either in the islands or in London and reach the United States ready for grinding. The finest grade passes through more than twenty different operations before it is considered marketable.

Black pepper differs from the white in the leaving on of the hull, which is black and contains the acrid principles of the flavor.[Pg 13] Hence, white pepper is less pungent and fully as fine in flavor as the black. Shot pepper consists of the finest berries, those richest in oil. It is selected by throwing a quantity of the berries in water. Those which sink are collected, labeled, and sold as shot pepper.

Long pepper, referred to by the Greeks as piperi macron, is the unripe fruit of a species of pepper, an inch or more in length and and shaped like a spike. The flavor is similar to that of ordinary black pepper. African pepper is another variety. Those best known to the western markets are Penang, Tellicherry and Malabar.

Cumin or cummin is a small herbaceous plant, native to Egypt and very early cultivated in the Mediterranean countries. It is now grown in India, Sicily and Malta, the seeds only being valuable. These contain a large proportion of essential oil which gives them an aromatic but acrid flavor. They are not now used in cookery though receipts are still extant which prove them to have once been considered a valuable culinary spice. The Latin poets relate that the ancients used cumin seeds medicinally, their effect being to produce languor. They are referred to in Isaiah as being “beaten out with a rod” and also in the Mosaic law regarding tithes.

Coriander is a small umbelliferous plant native to the eastern of the Mediterranean countries but now cultivated quite generally in both Europe and America. The fruits, erroneously called the seeds, are nearly always mentioned in the earlier recipes for meats[Pg 14] and puddings and to this day many a country housewife considers them indispensable to the flavoring of dried apple pies. The plant grows wild in all parts of Palestine, especially in the Jordan valley.


Fenugreek is an herbaceous plant allied to the clover. It is native to the Asiatic countries and is still cultivated in France and Germany. The seeds were formerly used as a spice, but now only as an ingredient of curry powder, owing to their strong, bitter and unpleasant flavor.

Grains of Paradise are the dried seeds of a reed-like plant allied to the ginger family and indigenous to western Africa. The fruit which contains the seeds is four or five inches in length and of a bright red color. The seed are now never used, excepting occasionally by brewers. Formerly they were esteemed as a spice for cookery and were one of the ingredients of the famous Norwich herring pies of old England. In flavor they are extremely hot and pungent.

Anise is a little annual of the order umbelliferæ and scarcely more than a foot in height. It is indigenous to Europe, although cultivated in many of the northern Mediterranean countries. The seeds are powerful aromatics, used both medicinally and in the[Pg 15] preparation of a liqueur called “anisette,” which is to the Italians what kümmel is to the Germans. The star anise is a tree allied to the magnolias, the seeds of which are stronger and less pleasant of flavor than those of the common anise. They are called star aniseed from the star-like shape of the fruit. The anise mentioned in the New Testament as part of the tithes is a different plant, believed to be dill.

Dill is a small herb, native to Spain, which produces umbelliferous stalks of yellow flowers. It is still cultivated in portions of temperate Europe. An aromatic oil is extracted from the tiny seeds which are also used, whole, for flavoring pickles.


Caraway is also an umbelliferous plant growing wild in the meadows and pastures of both Europe and Asia. It is cultivated for its mildly aromatic seeds, although in the northern countries of Europe the root, which resembles the[Pg 16] parsnip, is also eaten. No aromatic of temperate climates is more common than the dainty, white-blooming plant growing in the kitchen gardens of both hemispheres. Its seeds are used for the spicing of cheese, cakes and candies, and in Germany in the rye bread called “kümmel-brod,” which is universally eaten. The seeds are also used in the making of an aromatic cordial called “kümmel.”

Basil is not now used as extensively in cooking as formerly. Its native haunts are India and Persia, although since it yields gracefully to culture, it is to be found in many old-fashioned kitchen gardens. Its aromatic properties are similar to those of other garden herbs.


Chervil is an umbelliferous annual possessing aromatic leaves and somewhat resembling parsley in flavor. It is used in Europe as a pot-herb for soups and stews, but is chiefly known in America as one of the obsolete delicacies which deserve to be still popular. The root, which is fleshy and fusiform in shape, is cooked and eaten by the people of southern Europe.

Celery is a veritable plebeian, originally growing wild in the ditches and fens of Europe, a[Pg 17] coarse, offensive and poisonous vegetable. Few plants are so susceptible to the influences of cultivation and it is difficult to recognize its unaristocratic prototype in the tender, white and aromatic stalks of the garden product. It belongs to the parsley family and every portion is useful to the cook, from the daintily curled tops which may be used for both flavor and garnish, the stalks which may be eaten plain, dressed raw in salad or cooked, to the seeds, the flavor of which makes even the poorest of soups relishable. The seeds are now commonly ground for the making of “celery salt” or “celery pepper,” as the same product is variously called. A variety of celery, called celeriac, is cultivated in certain European countries, notably Germany, the root only, which is large and fleshy, being eaten. The famous “wild celery” of Chesapeake Bay is simply “eelgrass,” an aquatic plant which bears no relationship whatever to the umbelliferæ, of which order celery is a species.

Fennel is an umbelliferous plant, native to portions of temperate Europe and Asia, especially Portugal. The fruits possess an aromatic flavor while the tender shoots are used for salad. The plant and its culinary value was well known to the Romans, and it is to-day cultivated in both Europe and America. The fruits of the European fennel are used in the making of an aromatic drink, while in America the plant is chiefly cultivated for its leaves. It has been said that fennel is to fish what mint is to lamb, and in cer[Pg 18]tain of the southern states mackerel is considered of too strong a flavor to be eaten unless cooked with fennel. The fennel thus used grows wild, the green leaves being tied in bunches and boiled with the fish.

Bay Leaves.

Bay leaves are the leaves of a shrub belonging to the laurel tribe, which grows wild in the Mediterranean countries. Among the Greeks the bay leaf was consecrated to the uses of poetry, heroism and religion. Not until later times was it used as a flavoring for foods and for the decoration of various dishes. It grows wild in certain of the southern states but the leaves are usually exported from Europe, dried. The leaves are used in soups, stews and pickles and, although the average housewife finds it next to impossible to procure them, scarcely a recipe for these articles of food but includes bay leaves among its flavorings.

Summer savory is a hardy little annual which has long grown wild in southern Europe and is now largely cultivated for culinary[Pg 19] use. Both the summer and winter savories are fragrant and are valuable in the seasoning of sausages and gravies.

Parsley is a native of the island of Sardinia and, having been improved in both fragrance and appearance by culture, is more valuable than any other herb for the garnishing of dishes. Its curled, crisp, green leaves give the poorest salad or meat a tempting appearance, well sustained by the fineness of flavor it imparts. Its flavor somewhat resembles that of celery. The little herb may be seen in nearly every garden during the summer months and often in a pot, or kitchen window-box during the winter, from which it may be plucked fresh daily. The experienced cook would part with any other half dozen condiments more willingly than with parsley. The plant belongs to the umbelliferæ, which order includes the carrot, parsnip and celery. It is said to have come originally from Egypt and mythology represents Hercules as adorning his head with its curled leaves.

Thyme, a little under shrub native to the Mediterranean countries, is allied botanically to sage, summer savory and sweet basil. It possesses very small leaves and whorls of tiny, lilac-colored flowers, from which thymol or oil of thyme, a valuable germicide, is distilled. In flavor it is fragrant and aromatic and it may be readily cultivated in gardens. The wild thyme of our banks “where ox-lips and the nodding violet grows,” is a different variety of the[Pg 20] same order. Its name is derived from the Greek word thumos, meaning incense or perfume.


Sage is a small plant of the order labiatæ, and is native to southern Europe. It has been so greatly changed by cultivation that little semblance of the original plant now remains in the sage of our gardens excepting the flavor. It was known to the ancients and to-day its fragrant, grayish green leaves constitute one of our commonest flavorings.

It was an Englishman who once said that “mint made lamb out of an old sheep”! Perhaps he loved it also because of the legend that it once existed in the form of a beautiful maiden, transformed[Pg 21] by Persephone into the modest aromatic of our gardens. The mint designated is that member of the labiate family known as spear mint, native to Europe but grown in all portions of the United States and largely marketed. It is a small, green herb, the leaves being highly aromatic and, when bruised, yielding a valuable essential oil. It is equally liked in the mint sauce so indispensable to mutton and the mint-julep—

“This cordial julep here,
That flames and dances in his crystal bounds.”

Sweet marjoram grows wild in Spain and Portugal and, in a[Pg 22] cultivated state, throughout Europe and the United States. It is a member of the mint family and, like spear mint, possesses aromatic leaves.

Tarragon is a small, aromatic herb, native to Liberia. It is cultivated in Europe and is the estragon of the French, who use the young plants largely for salads. It is hardy, and is grown extensively in America, being used for flavoring vinegar, mustard and pickles. Tarragon vinegar, from the excellence of its flavor, should have a place in every household.


The onion is believed to have originated in Egypt although it was known in very early times in India. In the former country it was worshiped as a deity. “Cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick” formed the daily food of the Israelites in Egypt. Italy and Spain are now noted for the immense size of the onions grown there, as also are the Bermuda Islands. Those of the latter place possess a far milder flavor, a condition due to soil and climate. The flavor of onion, when strong, is unpleasant to some people to a nauseating degree and it is hard to see in it any resemblance to its dainty cousins, the lily and the hyacinth. But when skillfully used it is a valuable and wholesome[Pg 23] culinary condiment and is more largely employed by the average cook than the uninitiated ever suspect. Says one author: “The onion is the sheet anchor of the skillful cook. It is impossible to prepare the delicate Bordelaise sauce without resorting to the use of onions and a shade of garlic, ... and it is the judicious use of these two seasonings that stamps the expert cook.”

The leek is a member of the onion family, similar in flavor, although milder, and the leaves of which are flat instead of tubular. It has been stated that in England the leek was once considered to be the typical plant, both onion and garlic being but species. The diet of the soldiers of ancient Greece was at one time leeks and cheese, a custom which Bulwer has satirized in a Neo-Greek outburst of rhyme:

“Away, away, with the helm and greaves,
Away with the leeks and cheese!
I have conquered my passion for wounds and blows,
And the worst that I wish to the worst of my foes
Is the glory and gain
Of a year’s campaign
On a diet of leeks and cheese!”

Garlic possesses an onion-like bulb around which smaller bulbs cluster, the whole covered by a membranous outer layer. Each bulb is described as a “clove” of garlic and in flavor is far more[Pg 24] demonstrative than onion. Shallot, on the contrary, is the daintiest of the onion tribe, growing from a cluster of roots and never forming a compact bulb.


Saffron, a plant of the crocus family, was largely used in mediæval Europe as a condiment, although to-day its value as a coloring substance is considered of most account. The coloring matter is obtained from the stigmas of the flower, which are of a deep orange hue. The plant grows wild in Asia Minor, is possibly native to Arabia, and has long been extensively cultivated throughout the Mediterranean countries. That exported from Spain is considered the finest. At one time in Germany the adulteration of saffron was held criminal and punishable by death. History records the burning, in 1444, of a man with his adulterated saffron and, a dozen years later, the burning of two men and a woman for a similar offense. The salutary effect of this penalty was not permanent, however, as it is to-day extensively adulterated with a cheaper article known as safflower. In the Orient, a few nations still add saffron to their rice both for flavor and color while in Europe it is now most largely used for coloring macaroni, vermicelli and other pastes. Saffron is mentioned in the Old Testament in connection with spikenard, cinnamon and other spices, and appears to have been used by the early Greeks medicinally, and as both dye and perfume.

[Pg 25]

Capers are the unopened flowers of a low, trailing shrub which grows wild in Africa and southern Europe. It is native to Italy and is said to have grown wild upon the walls of ancient Rome. It is cultivated in France, only the small, grayish green, flower buds being of commercial value. They possess an aromatic and slightly pungent flavor and, when preserved as is usual in either salt or vinegar, are used for flavoring gravies, being well-nigh indispensable in the serving of roast mutton. Four or five grades of capers are exported, the finest grade consisting of the tiniest and most perfect buds which gradually diminish in value as they increase in size.


Turmeric, while classed with condiments owing to its pungent and aromatic properties, is most extensively used as a coloring agent. It is obtained from the root of the curcuma longa, a plant allied to the ginger family and native to India and Annam. It is used as a condiment only by the Orientals who flavor their rice with it, its greatest value to the cooking world being due to the fact that it is one of the chief ingredients of curry powder.

[Pg 26]

Curry powder is a manufactured condiment, one of the most aromatic and highly seasoned used. It originated in the East Indies, through the skill of whom it is not known. The story goes that the famed and delicious cookery of the Orient came about in this fashion. The early English, French and Dutch, when setting out for the East Indies, each determined to seize and appropriate the islands, spices and all; for fear of being compelled to eat poor and unappetizing food took with them their most accomplished cooks. From the friendly concourse of these chefs arose certain of the celebrated eastern dishes, and from its ingredients it is easy to believe that curry was one of them; for in it are united, with the herbs of the temperate zones, the spices and fruits of the tropics. The ingredients used vary in character and in proportion according to the different houses or localities manufacturing it. One recipe calls for the following: turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, cardamon seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, caraway seeds and fenugreek. In India the following ingredients are sometimes used, besides those above named: anise, almonds, asafœtida, butter (ghee), cocoanut and cocoa oil, cream and curds, various nuts, garlic, lime juice, mangoes, saffron, salt, and tamarinds. In India alone there exist nearly forty different methods of preparing curry, to which list might be added the recipes of the numerous spice houses of Europe and America.[Pg 27] The ingredients of curry are always finely ground and well mixed. When lime-juice and butter or oil are added to the curry, a paste is prepared. This is preserved by being packed in earthen jars. The curries and curry pastes of Ceylon and Java (these being often combined with garlic) are quite as celebrated as those of India, while the English and American preparations rank enviably high.


The mustard of commerce consists of the pulverized seed of the mustard plant, which grows wild in England and which may be cultivated in nearly every part of the globe, even in India. The use of mustard as a condiment dates from the Elizabethan age, although[Pg 28] it was used medicinally by the most celebrated physicians of antiquity. It was first compounded in its present form for table use by an old lady of Durham, from which circumstance it came to be widely celebrated as “Durham mustard.” One of the merchants, to whom this industrious old lady sold her mustard, is credited with saying that he owed his wealth, not to the mustard which people ate but to that which they left on their plates. Two varieties of mustard are cultivated, one producing white seeds, the other, seeds which are tiny and black. Both varieties of seeds are used, whole, in the spicing of pickles. It is requisite that mustard possess good keeping qualities, that it be of a bright yellow color, and have an aromatic as well as pungent flavor.


Horse-radish is a plant allied to the nasturtium and, like the seeds and stems of the latter, possesses a sharply pungent flavor. It is native to England and western Europe although cultivated in nearly all portions of the temperate zone. The root, which is large and fleshy, is grated, mixed with salt and vinegar, and used as a condiment. It may be prepared in season[Pg 29] and bottled, either with vinegar or dessicated, keeping for use during the remainder of the year.

Ginger is a flag-like plant, probably native to the East and West Indies, the rhizomatous root of which is the only portion commercially valuable. According to some authorities ginger was known to the earliest of the Greeks and Romans and has been a common spice among the nations of Europe, including England, since the eleventh century. Under the Plantagenets and Tudors ginger was used as a flavoring for meats, unlike the modern custom of using it only in curries, cakes and beverages. To-day ginger is exported from both the Indies, that from Jamaica being particularly fine, from Africa, from China, from India and from Borneo. The African ginger is of excellent flavor but of dark color. It is chiefly sold to bakers. That from Borneo is good for household use, having a sweet and aromatic flavor and containing very little fibre. From Calcutta the “race” or “hand” ginger is exported, so called because of the palmate shape of the root. It is exported before being decorticated and is not a high grade ginger. The root is often preserved in sugar, being taken when young and succulent. It may be preserved whole or cut into cubes or slices. Both preserved and dried it is largely exported from China and Japan.

Chili is the Spanish name for the pod of the cayenne,[Pg 30] the Guinea pepper, and other species of capsicum. Capsicum is a member of the night shade family, in no way related to the true pepper. It is native to tropical America, although now found in nearly all of the warmer countries. Cayenne is the pod of the capsicum pulverized to extreme fineness. It should be of a dull, red color and, if very red, is quite likely to be adulterated, often with red lead or vermilion. Cayenne pepper is, perhaps, the most acrid and pungent aromatic used and is also valuable medicinally. There are many varieties of capsicum, the most noted being the capsicum annuum, cultivated in the East Indies, in Mexico and southern parts of the United States, and from which cayenne pepper is made; and the capsicum frutescens, the Guinea or bird pepper, a much smaller pod and which, dried whole, is most often used in cookery. Chilis are used in enormous quantities by natives of hot countries, a paradoxical custom it appears to be, and the hottest, most “peppery” dishes known have originated where the sunbeam is nearest vertical. Those best known to Americans are the chili con carne and the chicken tomale of Mexico. In the southern states cayenne is customarily added to all meats, soups and stews. Capsicum is an agreeable and valuable stimulant, having the medicinal effect of alcohol without disastrous results from its use.

Chili Pepper.

[Pg 31]

Mixed seasonings are now to be found in nearly all markets and in point of convenience deserve to be popular. They consist of the aromatic herbs and spices, mixed and prepared by experts and intended for the seasoning of poultry and meats of all kinds.

Penang or mixed spices, are also a modern preparation and are useful in cooking, pickling and preserving. They consist of aromatic and pungent spices mixed in varying proportions.

Among condiments prepared from animal foods, those of the anchovy, lobster, shrimp, and Yarmouth bloater are the most common. The anchovy is a tiny, silvery fish, caught in the Mediterranean sea in vast quantities. The most famous come from Gorgona, a small island near Leghorn, where they are caught in nets as they come in from the deeper waters for the purpose of depositing spawn. Anchovies were used as a condiment by the most luxurious of the Romans, one preparation, called “garum,” consisting of the partly decomposed intestines of this fish mixed with spices. They are now exported for use as a condiment to all parts of the world, being preserved whole as well as in the form of pastes and essences. The pastes are prepared by pressing the fish through a sieve, simple flavorings and some oil being added. The essences consist of the fish steeped in a highly spiced brine or pickle, then strained and bottled. Essences of lobster, shrimp, and various fish are similarly prepared.

[Pg 32]

Various appetizing mixtures intended to give relish to meats, fish and soups, and composed of vegetables, fruits and divers spices, are known as sauces. “Roots, herbs, vine fruits and salad-flowers, they dish up various ways and find them a very delicious sauce to their meats, both roasted and boiled, fresh and salt.” No other sauce made compares with genuine East Indian chutney. It is a thick sauce, made from the mango apple, chilies, spices, lemon juice, raisins, figs, salt and sugar. Those most celebrated are the Bengal Club, Terhoot, Sweet Lucknow and a number of club chutneys. Trinidad chutney is particularly fine. Ceylon chutney is often slightly flavored with garlic. Another kind is “mango chutney, a characteristic Singalese condiment, among the ingredients of which are fresh, grated cocoanut and chilies carefully brayed together in a mortar. This chutney is of a rich roseate hue; and after eating it with his prawn curry the epicure feels like the Grand Turk.”

Carachi is a sauce little known in America, although, as it is much liked abroad, I give a recipe for its making, which sufficiently defines its character: one head of garlic, one dessert spoonful of cayenne pepper, three table spoonsful each, of soy, mushroom ketchup, walnut pickle, and mango pickle, five anchovies and a pint of vinegar.

Cassareep consists of the inspissated juice of the root of the bitter cassava, flavored with various spices. From the cassava, or[Pg 33] manioc, is prepared tapioca and also cassava flour of which bread is made. The root is poisonous because of the prussic acid contained, this, however, being dissipated by heat. After the juice is extracted, it is boiled down to the color and consistency of molasses, after which spices are added. It is the basis of Worcestershire and many other sauces and is valuable in the flavoring of soups and ragouts. It is largely exported from British Guiana and is used throughout the tropics.

Worcestershire sauce is one of the commonest of table condiments. It is prepared from cassareep and varying proportions of spices, garlic, peppers, and lime-juice, according to the tastes of the various houses manufacturing it.

Both lime-juice and Devonshire sauces are similar in preparation and flavor to Worcestershire, the former being quite acid, owing to the greater proportion of lime-juice used.

Ketchup is a sauce made variously from tomatoes, mushrooms, walnuts, oysters, etc. It should be semi-fluid, about the consistency of a good purée and, although spices may be added, the original flavor of the basic ingredients must always be preserved. Color is one desideratum. In tomato ketchup the sauce is always made of the ripe tomato fruit, although, as the color is sometimes produced artificially, the only safeguard lies in purchasing of reliable manufacturers. The tomato ketchup is a typical American sauce, corre[Pg 34]sponding in our dietary with the mushroom ketchup of the English.

Soy or shoyu is in general use throughout the East, particularly in China and Japan, that from the latter country being acknowledged the finest made. One authority states that our word ketchup is derived from the Chinese name for soy, kitjap. The basis of soy, the soy bean, has been cultivated in Japan since the earliest dynasties, and is to-day one of their important crops. The different varieties of the soy bean produce three kinds of soy known as the black, the green and the white. The process of making soy consists in first boiling the beans and mixing them with parched barley and wheat, coarsely ground. This barm is fermented and when the whole mixture is covered with fungi it is mixed with brine of a certain strength, which has already been boiled and allowed to cool. This mixture is then kept for fermentation about twenty-five months. It is stirred with a wooden paddle twice a day during winter, three times a day in summer and, when sufficiently fermented, is put through a soy press. It is then heated to 130 degrees Fahrenheit and, after becoming cold again, is put up in bottles and casks. It may be preserved for any length of time. In appearance it resembles Worcestershire sauce and from a nutritive point of view is superior to any other sauce in our markets.

Soy is manufactured in every part of Japan, no fewer than 10,682 firms being engaged in making it in 1891. It is eaten by the[Pg 35] entire Japanese population with every meal and, besides being a sauce, is sufficient as a salt. Used upon fish, beef-steaks and meats, generally, it gives a relish that is impossible to the choicest of cookery otherwise. In Japan it is used by all classes excepting the extremely destitute, who cannot afford to buy it.

Tabasco is a popular sauce, the chief ingredient of which is the pulp of the red pepper. This, a species of chili, came originally from Central America and through cultivation, largely carried on in the South, its strength and flavor have been greatly improved. The sauce is extremely hot with chilis and, as it keeps well in any climate, it is liked by connoisseurs.

There are on the market numerous preparations known as salad dressings. They are useful in cases of inexperience or emergency, but are by no means equal to the freshly made mayonnaise of the home kitchen. There is real art in preparing a good mayonnaise and a Spanish proverb reads: “Four persons are necessary to the making of a salad dressing: a spendthrift for oil, a miser for vinegar, a counsellor for salt and a madman to stir it all up.”

Pickles are those articles of food, fruit or vegetables, which are preserved by immersion in vinegar, with or without the addition of salt or spices. Cucumber and green tomato pickles are the commonest varieties. When vegetables are mixed, as with chow-chow, piccalilli and “mixed pickles,” cucumbers, small onions, green beans,[Pg 36] cabbage, pepper-pods, cauliflower and various spices are used. Fruits, such as apple, melon, peach, crab-apple and pear are also pickled.

Pickled sanphire, although at one time popularly used as a condiment, is now little known outside of England. It is a variety of sea-weed and grows upon dangerous and rocky cliffs. Shakespeare refers to “the sanphire gatherer’s dangerous trade,” and another poet has apostrophized the

“Green girdles and crowns of the sea gods,
Cool blossoms of water and foam,”

quite omitting to mention the fact that the “girdles and crowns” make, when chopped and packed in vinegar, a most delicious pickle. Unlike most condiments, this is, as are all seaweeds, nutritious. The people of the Sandwich Islands, as well as the English, consider sanphire, both the true and false varieties, a choice condiment. It is specially liked when served with mutton.

One of the choicest of condiments is the olive. It is the fruit of an evergreen tree, native to Syria and lower Asia but now cultivated extensively in southern Europe and California. Unlike most pickles it may be classed as a food, owing to the oil contained. The fruit is picked by hand and carefully sorted about six weeks before it would ripen. It is first placed in strong lye for about twenty-four hours, then removed to fresh water where it may remain several[Pg 37] days. After several washings in fresh water the olives are removed and packed in brine. They are ready for use in from one to three months. The residents of the olive districts both in Greece, Spain, and in California often prefer the olive preserved after it has ripened, the oil having then matured and the flavor being finer. Among the export trade there is much prejudice against it owing to its dull, black color. Olives should be of good color, crisp and firm, but never tough. The Spanish and Italian olives are widely popular but are really no finer than the best California products.


The candle-nut, used as a relish and somewhat resembling a green walnut, is the fruit of a tropical tree. It is chopped fine, packed in jars, or bottled, with salt added. As a relish it is highly prized, specially by the natives of the Sandwich Islands.

Flavors are used almost entirely in the making of sweetmeats, candies and pastry. Vanilla is perhaps the most choice, being invariably used in the preparation of chocolate and cocoa for the market. The vanilla vine is an orchid, native to Central America, and cultivated in South America, the West Indies, Mexico, and upon the islands of the Indian and southern Pacific oceans. The[Pg 38] vanilla of commerce is made from the delicate, volatile oil extracted from the seed-pods. These are several inches in length and great care is exerted in curing that the flavor be not destroyed. The curing process occupies about six months. The vanilla plant bears fruit when about three years old, remaining productive for thirty or forty years. The best vanilla is exported from Mexico, while that from Brazil is of an inferior quality.

Vanilla Vine and Bean.

The Tonka bean, called also Tongua and Tonquin bean, is frequently sold as a substitute for or adulterant of vanilla. It belongs to the leguminosæ, producing thick, short pods from which an oil, resembling vanilla, is extracted. The tree is common in British Guiana and the tropics and grows to an immense size. It is much cheaper commercially than vanilla.

The extract of bitter almond consists of a tincture made from the kernel of the nut. The tree of the bitter almond originated, it is believed, in Prussia, although now growing wild[Pg 39] in southern Europe. The flavor obtained from the kernel is due to the prussic acid developed in the process of making the tincture. A similar flavor exists in the kernel and leaves of the peach, a tree allied botanically to the almond. Flavoring extracts are also made from the orange, lemon, strawberry, and other fruits. They are also produced chemically, as many alleged fruit-flavors found upon the market prove, from the coal-tar products.

The pistachio or pistache nut is particularly liked by confectioners because of its delicate flavor, resembling that of the almond. It is the kernel of a pine-tree, is small and of a light green color. It is native to Europe and the far East.

Cordials or liqueurs are used both for flavoring pastries and ices and, in the way of beverages, as aids to the digestion. In the latter case they are taken in very small quantities just at the close of a meal.

Curaçoa is one of the most celebrated of cordials. It was originally made in the island of Curaçoa, whence its name, and is prepared from limes, orange peel and spices. It is still an important source of revenue to its native island.

Noyau is a liqueur made from brandy, flavored with bitter almond.

Ratafia is a liqueur similar to Curaçoa and noyau, which is flavored with peach and almond extracts and spiced.

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Anisette and kümmel have been already mentioned, the former a cordial made by the French and Italians and flavored with aniseed; the latter, a German and Russian liqueur, flavored with kümmel or caraway seed.

Absinthe is a bitter and aromatic cordial, the bitterness being due to the use of wormwood in its preparation. It is particularly pernicious and treacherous to use if taken before meals, as is often the custom, instead of afterward. It is largely used by the French.

Maraschino is an aromatic cordial, the flavor of which is produced by the use of the bitter almond and the Italian cherry.

Chartreuse was originally prepared by the monks of a monastery of that name in France. For obvious reasons the Pope prohibited its manufacture by them in 1864 and the original receipt was lost. There are four kinds now made, of which the green is perhaps the most popular. Chartreuse possesses the fragrance of garden herbs, the aroma of various spices, flowers and nuts, and even the balsamy fragrance of the young, green tassel from the pine tree. These cordials are more largely used in France and Italy than anywhere else. Owing to a growing sentiment against their use, they are tolerated to only a limited extent in America although, because of their common use as flavorings, they are here mentioned.

Vegetable acids are also largely used for the flavoring of foods.[Pg 41] One of the oldest known is verjuice, used by the ancients as a beverage. Its use in cookery is believed to have originated in mediæval France. It is made from the juice of crab-apples and of unripe grapes.

Vinegar is a developed acid. The word comes from the French vin-aigre, meaning sour wine. If simple cane sugar be mixed with water and some ferment, it will turn to grape sugar, then to alcohol, then to vinegar. However, the best vinegar now used is a fruit acid, either from apple or grape. It is also made from the red and white wines and from sour beer, the latter being known as malt vinegar. In England the law allows a percentage of sulphuric acid to be added to malt vinegar while in America both sulphuric and muriatic acids are considered adulterants. Vinegar is the one indispensable ingredient of pickles and various sauces as well as a valuable condiment.

Limes and lemons, similar fruits, contain large quantities of acid which is thoroughly wholesome and agreeable. To some extent these acids are displacing vinegar as condiments, being considered both more health giving and more palatable.

The most complete and instructive exhibition of condiments and spices ever given was held in the Agricultural Building during the World’s Columbian Exposition. The nations of all the earth contributed. There were capers and olives from Italy, spices from[Pg 42] Java, chutney from Trinidad, Calcutta, and the far away island of Ceylon; ketchup from both England and America, cassareep and pickled limes from British Guiana, soy from China and Japan, and pickles from lands galore. The long, daintily curved, vanilla bean was exhibited side by side with its short, fat, plebeian looking adulterant, the tonka bean. Cordials were sent from every country exhibiting. There was in one portion of the building a small conservatory filled with growing spice plants, among them pimento, ginger, clove, nutmeg, pepper, cassia and cinnamon.

Bowl and flowers

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