Cloves are the dried flower buds of a tropical evergreen tree. This sweet, pungent spice is a staple in holiday baking, especially
gingersnaps. When ground, a tiny sprinkle can bring a dish to life.
How to Choose Cloves
Cloves are sold whole and ground. Whole cloves are shaped like tiny nails, perfect for studding a ham. Ground cloves lose potency quickly, so it’s best to buy in small quantities.
How to Store Cloves
When stored properly, ground cloves can last up to 2 years and whole cloves up to 3 years. Both should be stored in airtight containers away from light and heat. Faded color or diminished aroma or taste usually indicates that the spice is old and should be replaced.
How to Prepare Cloves
Cloves can be used whole or ground. You can grind them at home with a spice grinder, but they are very hard so it’s difficult to get the fine consistency needed for baking; they also might damage your grinder.
Avoid sprinkling ground cloves directly from the container into a hot or steaming pot. The steam can hasten the loss of the remaining flavor and aroma in the spice. Taste and smell the spice before adding it to your dish. Older spices will have lost some flavor, so you may need to use more in the recipe.
How to Use Cloves
One of the strongest spices, use cloves sparingly; a little goes a long way. Cloves add a spicy punch to sweets like gingerbread and pumpkin pie. They can also be used as a pickling spice or to liven up savory dishes such as baked beans and chili. Use them in mulled cider or press their stems into baked ham.
—Stephanie Southworth Geary
Real Simple Clove Recipes:
- Orange, Soy, and Five-Spice Rub Chicken
- Oatmeal and Pie-Spice Cookies
- Zucchini Spice Bread
- Spice-Baked Sea Bass and Red Lentils
- Chicken With 40 Cloves of Garlic
Fruits and vegetables at their peak right now.
Find out what's in season in your area right now, then locate a farmers' market near you.