Pumpkin pie spice is a blend of spices used when preparing pumpkin desserts (most obviously pumpkin pie) or any variety of harvest dishes. You can buy it at the grocery store or make it at home yourself.

Typically the mix is some blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and sometimes clove and mace. The most common ratio is probably 3 parts cinnamon, 2 parts ginger, and 1 part of any others.


Pumpkin Pie Spice Alternatives

The biggest hit this amateur chef ever made was with a pumpkin pie which substituted Chinese Five Spice Powder for every spice but the ginger. The pie was nearly cloying with dark molasses which made the intensity a perfect foil for clouds of freshly whipped heavy cream with a minimum of sugar added. The Five Spice Powder was substituted for all other spices (again, but for ginger) in a two-to-one ratio. This causes one's pie to vie for spiciness and intensity with the traditional mince-meat pie.

Now, Five Spice Powder must be inspected before it's purchased. Some Asian markets sell a powder which the label admits is nothing more than roasted Ginger perhaps with a little star anise added. When making pies, it's actually better to purchase the cheaper blends which omit the Cassia and Sichuan Peppers or black peppercorns.

Regardless, unless utilizing the Five Spice Powder for authentic Chinese dishes, it makes the most amazing pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins (and carrot-cake and raisin-bran muffins). Of course, the rest of the spices should be omitted.

A Caution; and Variations

Adding nutmeg to a pumpkin pie is often an error which causes one's pie to reek of the "store bought" variety; nutmeg is an extremely pungent spice which is often utilized by professionals only in savory dishes. Ginger, cloves and allspice make for the finest conventional pumpkin pie spice mixture, if one would please non-gastronomes who'd taste the pie made with the above-recommended spice amalgam and push the plate aside.

Pumpkin pie spice is extremely useful in Sweet Potato Pie, Candied Butternut Squash, and even buttered, glazed carrots. Custards containing very little pumpkin and/or carrot are often improved using this spice mixture.

Bourbon is often mentioned, nowadays, instead of the more conventional brandy or Cognac as the alcohol of choice to add to recipes containing pumpkin pie spice. I concur. When one becomes bored with bourbon, of course, there're many alternatives just as enticing, including a decent dry Anisette from Italy, Galliano, or even Southern Comfort. I have seen recipes which call for sake and even Chartreuse as the liquor of choice when preparing pumpkin pie-spiced dishes, whether sweet or savory.

Finally, unsweetened whipped cream or unsalted butter are de rigueur on the finish when using a pungent seasoning such as this.

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