Monday, July 21

Good Eating Monday: Cloves!

The Underestimated Power of Cloves

Chewing a whole clove is an old-fashioned cure for dental pain, like a toothache. The oil inside cloves is called eugenol and is a mild anesthetic. Clove oil also effective against gingivitis, periodontitis and stomatitis, which is a painful inflamation of the mucous lining of the mouth. Bet your dentist didn't tell you that!
Before toothbrushes and Listerine, cloves were used to brush teeth and as breath mints.

Clove oil also has healthful benefits as a bacteria & virus fighter. And as a mosquito repellent. (A common ingredient in some natural mosquito repellents you can buy nowadays.)
We once tried a natural flea remedy high in eugenol that made the cat smell like cloves, but wasn't actually helpful for the fleas--and she hated it. Cats do not like smelling like a bakery, let me tell you. 

Cloves didn't move from dental hygiene use to cooking use until the Middle Ages.  It's a key ingredient in Chinese 5 Spice, Indian Garam Masala, in French Quartre Epices.
In the U.S. cloves are a key ingredient in Pumpkin Pie Spice and commonly used studded on ham and are a staple in mulling spices, pickling, sausages, fruitcakes, pumpkin pie, any ginger or molasses cakes or cookies and lots of other baking!
Plus they can be used as a flavor accent in soups or stews! 
Hey, a tiny bit added to the grounds before you turn the pot of coffee will give a clove-flavor to your brew!

Buying Cloves: This one is strictly imported & not something you can grow. Whole cloves should have nice nail-like heads and not be just stick. The larger the heads, the better. They will last a year or more in an airtight bottle or container away from light & heat.
You can buy whole and grind your own fresh, which will be more aromatic then store-bought already ground, but Ground Cloves from the store will be plenty pungent and effective, though for best flavor you might like to replace them every year.

Using Cloves:
The rule with cloves is "a little dab will do ya." 
That's why it's common in recipes to see no more then1/2 teaspoon or less usde. Cloves can over-power if used too generously.

If you use whole cloves in savory dishes or on ham, you do want to remove them before eating! 
A couple good ways to make whole cloves easily removable:

    *Stick 3 or 4 whole cloves in a small onion & toss in soup or stew, then, once done, fish it out and discard.

   *Or do what the French do and make a "bouquet garni," by wrapping your selection of fresh whole herbs and spices, like cloves or allspice, in a bit of cheesecloth tied with string to drop in your soup or stew.

Using cloves for decoration or fragance:
You can make a pomander by taking an orange or other citrus fruit, poking small holes in the peel in a pattern or face, then insert the stick-end of your cloves in those holes just to the depth of the head, so your orange is now dotted with clove heads.  Then, place in a bowl on the table. This is an old-fashioned craft for scenting your home. It will last till the citrus dries out.
Eat up, me hearties, yo-ho!

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