The Ultimate Guide to Grinding Cloves: Mastering the Art of Clove Preparation

How to grind cloves: The Ultimate Guide

Cloves are an essential spice that adds a distinctive flavor and aroma to many dishes. Whether you’re making a pumpkin spice blend or preparing a flavorful curry, grinding cloves at home can enhance the freshness and power of this spice. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore several methods for grinding cloves, including using a spice or coffee grinder, a mortar and pestle, and a blender. Let’s dive in!

Understanding cloves

Cloves are the dried flower buds of the clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum). They have a strong and pungent flavor profile characterized by a combination of sweetness, bitterness and mild astringency. The primary compound responsible for their unique flavor is eugenol, a volatile oil.
Originally native to the Spice Islands (now part of Indonesia), cloves are now grown in several regions, including India, Madagascar, Mexico, Kenya, and Sri Lanka. These aromatic buds have a long history and have been used as a culinary spice for centuries.

Can you eat whole cloves?

While whole cloves are often used in certain dishes, it is not recommended to eat them whole. The texture of cloves remains woody even after cooking, which can be unpleasant to bite into. In addition, the concentrated flavor of cloves can be overwhelming and overpowering to the palate.
The best way to incorporate the full flavor of cloves into your dishes is to grind them into a fine powder. This allows for a more even distribution of the spice and eliminates the need to pick out whole cloves while eating.

Grinding cloves with a spice or coffee grinder

One of the quickest and easiest ways to grind cloves is with a spice or coffee grinder. These grinders are specifically designed to efficiently process small beans and seeds. Follow these steps to grind cloves with a spice or coffee grinder:

  1. Measure out at least 1 tablespoon of whole cloves.
  2. Place the cloves in the grinder.
  3. Close the grinder lid and turn the grinder on. You can give the grinder a gentle shake while it’s running to ensure even grinding.
  4. Once the cloves are crushed, turn the grinder off.
  5. Remove the lid and use a small, fine-mesh sieve to separate any large chunks from the ground cloves.
  6. If there are large pieces left, grind them again to a fine powder.
  7. Store ground cloves in an airtight container and use within 3-6 months for optimal freshness.

Grind cloves with a mortar and pestle.

Before the advent of modern grinders, people used a mortar and pestle to grind various ingredients, including cloves. This traditional method provides a practical approach to grinding spices. Here’s how to grind cloves with a mortar and pestle:

  1. Measure out 1 teaspoon or more of whole cloves, making sure the mortar has enough room to grind.
  2. Hold the mortar firmly with one hand and the pestle with the other, using your dominant hand for better control.
  3. Start by gently pressing down on the cloves in the bottom of the mortar, gradually increasing the force to break them apart.
  4. Use a circular motion with the pestle, applying more pressure as the cloves begin to crush.
  5. For best results, use the “rock and smash” technique:
    • Rock the pestle around the mortar to collect any cloves that have climbed up the sides, scraping them down to the bottom as you circle the mortar.
    • Push the clove pieces into the center of the mortar and apply downward pressure to crush.
  6. Continue the rocking and crushing process until you have a fine powder without large chunks.
  7. For a smoother consistency, place a small, fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and pass the ground cloves through, shaking the sieve gently.
  8. If large pieces remain, grind again until well broken.
  9. Place ground cloves in an airtight container, label with contents and grinding date, and use within 3-6 months.

Grind cloves with a blender

While most blenders are not designed specifically for grinding spices, some models offer flat blade grinding attachments that can effectively process seeds, spices, and grains. If you have a blender with this feature, you can use it to grind cloves. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Make sure your blender has a flat blade chopping attachment.
  2. Measure out the desired amount of whole cloves.
  3. Place the cloves in the blender’s chopping attachment or a small container.
  4. Attach the flat blade chopper to the blender.
  5. Pulse the cloves in short bursts until the desired consistency is achieved. Avoid overprocessing to prevent the cloves from becoming pasty.
  6. If large pieces remain, stop the blender and scrape down the sides of the container. Then pulse again until you achieve a uniform grind.
  7. Transfer the ground cloves to an airtight container and store in a cool, dry place.

Using ground cloves

Once you have freshly ground cloves, you can add them to a variety of dishes and recipes. Here are a few popular uses for ground cloves:

  1. Spice blends: Ground cloves are a key ingredient in spice blends such as pumpkin spice, garam masala, and Chinese five-spice. These blends add depth and complexity to dishes.
  2. Baked goods: Ground cloves pair well with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in baked goods such as cookies, cakes, and pies. They add warmth and a hint of sweetness.
  3. Savory dishes: Cloves are often used in savory recipes such as curries, stews, and marinades. They add a rich and aromatic flavor to meat, poultry and vegetable dishes.
  4. Hot beverages: Ground cloves can be added to hot beverages such as mulled wine, apple cider and chai tea. They add a comforting and spicy flavor to the beverages.
  5. Pickling and preserving: Cloves are commonly used in pickling brines and preserving fruit, adding a unique flavor and aiding in the preservation process.

Storage of ground cloves

To maintain the freshness and potency of ground cloves, proper storage is essential. Follow these guidelines to store ground cloves:

  1. Use an airtight container: Place the ground cloves in a clean, dry, airtight jar or container. This will prevent moisture and air from affecting the flavor and aroma.
  2. Label and date: Clearly label the container with the contents (ground cloves) and the date of grinding. This allows you to track the freshness of the spice.
  3. Store in a cool, dark place: Store the container of ground cloves in a cool, dry, dark place away from direct sunlight, heat, and moisture. A pantry or spice cabinet is ideal.
  4. Avoid frequent air exposure: Each time you open the container, moisture and air can enter, potentially degrading the quality of the ground cloves. Use the spice efficiently to minimize exposure.
  5. Check for freshness: Ground cloves are best used within 3-6 months for optimal flavor. Over time, the flavor and aroma may diminish, so it’s a good idea to check for freshness periodically.

BOTTOM LINE

Grinding cloves at home allows you to unlock the full flavor potential of this aromatic spice. Whether you use a spice or coffee grinder, a mortar and pestle, or a blender, the process is relatively simple and yields fresh, fragrant ground cloves that can enhance your culinary creations. Remember to store ground cloves properly to maintain their freshness and enjoy their unique flavor in a variety of dishes. Happy grinding and culinary exploration!

FAQS

No, it is not recommended to eat whole cloves as they have a woody texture and a concentrated flavour that can be overwhelming. Grinding cloves into a fine powder makes them easier to incorporate into dishes.

What is the best way to grind cloves?

The best method for grinding cloves depends on personal preference and the tools available. You can use a spice or coffee grinder, a mortar and pestle, or a blender with a chopping attachment. Each method will produce finely ground cloves with slightly different textures.

How long can I keep ground cloves?

Ground cloves should be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. They will keep their freshness and flavour for about 3-6 months. After that, the flavour may start to fade. It’s a good idea to label the container with the date of grinding for easy reference.

Can I use pre-ground cloves instead of grinding them at home?

Although pre-ground cloves are readily available, grinding cloves at home gives the freshest and most intense flavour. Pre-ground cloves may have lost some of their volatile oils, resulting in a less flavourful spice. Grinding them at home ensures maximum freshness and flavour.

What dishes can I use ground cloves in?

Ground cloves are versatile and can be used in a wide range of dishes. They are often used in spice blends such as pumpkin spice and garam masala. Ground cloves can also be added to baked goods, savoury dishes, hot beverages and pickles for their unique flavour and aroma.

How can I tell if my ground cloves are fresh?

Over time, the flavour and aroma of ground cloves can diminish. To check if your ground cloves are still fresh, use your senses. If the aroma is weak and the flavour is dull, it may be time to replace them. It’s always a good idea to check the freshness of your spices regularly.