What is Mace?

Mace is the aril (the bright red, lacy covering) of the nutmeg seed shell. The mace is removed from the shell and its broken parts are known as blades.
The history of mace is closely tied to the history of nutmeg for obvious reasons, though the two items have been treated separately . Because the yield of mace is much less than nutmeg’s it has had greater value. A pile of fruit large enough to make one hundred pounds of nutmeg produces a single pound of mace.

When the Dutch controlled the Moluccas (the Spice Islands), one colonial administrator sent orders that the colonists should plant fewer nutmeg trees and more mace trees.

Spice Description

In its natural state, mace is a bright crimson lace up to 35 mm (1-1/2 in) long, encasing the brown nutmeg in irregular, fleshy lobes. As it is dried, it develops its charcteristic aroma but loses its bright red colour. Mace from the West Indies is a yellowish brown colour and with fewer holes than mace from East Indian nutmegs which are more orange when dried. The mace from either locale can become brittle and horny, though the best quality mace will retain some pliability and release a little oil when squeezed. It is flattened and sometimes roughly broken into ‘blades’. It is also sold ground and sometimes still enclosing the nutmeg.

Bouquet: sweet and fragrant, similar to nutmeg, but stronger.
Flavour: warm. sharp and aromatic, more intense and slightly sweeter than nutmeg
Hotness Scale: 1

Preparation and Storage

Dried mace pieces are not easy to crush. Ready-ground mace is easier to use, but will deteriorate much more quickly. Whole mace pieces can be steeped in liquid and then the liquid can be used, or the mace pieces can be removed after cooking. One ‘blade’ is strong enough to flavour a meal of four to six portions.

Cooking with Mace

Mace and nutmeg are very similar, though mace is somewhat more powerful. Mace is a lighter colour and can be used in light-coloured dishes where the darker flecks of nutmeg would be undesirable. A small amount will enchance many recipes, adding fragrance without imposing too much flavour.

Mace works especially well with milk dishes like custards and cream sauces. It contributes to flavouring light-coloured cakes and pastries, especially donuts. It can enhance clear and creamed soups and casseroles, chicken pies and sauces. Adding some to mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes creates a more interesting side dish.

Some beverages improve with a little mace, especially chocolate drinks and tropical punches. Mashed potato and other root vegetables can be given an exotic kick by adding nutmeg or mace and spinach in particular is often seasoned with nutmeg, especially in Italian cooking. With regards to savoury meat dishes meat, nutmeg is often used as a substitute for black pepper, when a stronger and richer flavour is desired. You can add ground mace to meat marinades, sausage mixtures, curries and stews and nutmeg goes particularly well with lamb, chicken and veal.

Mace Substitution

Mace is from the same fruit as nutmeg and has similar flavor and aroma.

Heath Benefits of Mace

Nutmeg and mace are very similar in culinary and medicinal properties. Both spices are efficient in treating digestive and stomach problems. Below are some of the benefits obtained from small quantities of nutmeg spice or nutmeg oil.

  • Mace aids digestion and also stimulates the appetite.
  • It can help relieve tiredness and fatigue and is a good tonic.
  • It can help clear up digestive tract infections.
  • When applied externally, nutmeg oil can ease rheumatic pains and clear up eczema.
  • It can relive intestinal gas and flatulence.
  • It can reduce vomiting, nausea and general stomach uneasiness.

Other Names

French: macis German: Muskatlute
Italian: mace, macis Spanish: macía Indian: jaffatry, javatri, jawatrie

Scientific Name

Myristica fragrans Fam: Myristicaceae

Photo by Ramesh NG / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)