Chefs compare India’s garam masala, a decadent blend of spices that are both sweet and savory, to France’s herbs de Provence because there are almost as many varieties as there are cooks in Indian kitchens.
Each version brings with it subtle differences, depending on the region from where it originated, but all of them offer a tantalizing mix of sweet, smokiness and heat as well as an intoxicating aroma that will bring the entire family into the kitchen to discover what’s cooking.
Garam masala has long been part of Ayurvedic medicine because it uses warming spices (garam means “to heat the body”) to elevate body temperature, which boosts metabolism and helps erase toxins.
Common in both North Indian and South Asian cuisine, garam masala is best when spices are toasted to release their fragrance and oils, enhancing the flavor of your dish. Preparing it at the time you plan to use it will yield the most satisfying and flavorful results.
- 1-inch piece of cinnamon stick, broken
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ cup cumin seeds
- 1/3 cup coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon green cardamom pods
- 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons whole cloves
- ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
In a cast-iron skillet, toast the cinnamon, bay leaves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, whole peppercorns and the whole cloves until the mixture releases its oils and becomes fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Place mixture in a spice grinder, add the nutmeg and grind until the mixture is the consistency of powder.
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Apple Butter with Garam Masala
Garam masala is a versatile spice blend, and its mix of sweet and savory spices makes it a distinctive addition to almost anything, from popcorn to veggies. But the spice blend is particularly nice paired with fall fruit, because the aromatics in the blend complement the sweetness of apples or stone fruits. This apple butter is a perfect way to highlight the pairing. Peaches, pears or pumpkin can take the place of the apples.
- 10 pounds apples, peeled and chopped
- Juice of two lemons
- 4 cups apple cider or unsweetened apple juice
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground garam masala
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon mace
Squeeze and reserve lemon juice.
Core and chop peeled apples, tossing the pieces into the lemon juice to prevent them from browning.
In a large stock pot, mix the apples and apple cider. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the apples are soft.
Press the apples through a food mill to create a smooth texture, then return the mixture to the pot, adding the sugar and spices. Simmer until the sauce thickens into a dark, caramelized butter.