I was out and about shopping for baker’s ammonia (Hartshorn), that is used in Springerle cookies, when I stumbled across Mastic. Now this spice is called for in more then a few Middle Eastern dishes. ‘Previously I did not have this on hand so bypassed the spice’s inclusion with out fear of loosing to much of the essential flavoring in a dish. I now have this little gem of a spice on hand so I though I would share with you a little history.
From the Kitab Al-Tabikh, the author writes that a well knowing spice shopper, when out to purchase mastic, should be looking for “…the kind with large, bright grains, not small, and free of dust and dirt;…”(Rodinson, pp. 39)
Mastic is a resin, hardened and stored in air tight containers before being ground into powder for consumption, from the mastic tree (Pistacia Leniscus), also known as Arabic Gum (Not gum arabic) as well as Yemen gum or tears of Chios. The best “tears” are said to be the slightly green gold in color while the inferior tears are the white tears.
The inclusion of this spice, seems to be in a variety of recipes from savory to sweet as well as medicinal. The taste is faintly piny and is thought to help purifier the breath. 1/2 teaspoon is the maximum amount suggested in food for four people. So a little will go a very long way!
I purchased my small jar (roughly 1/4 cup if that) at the Phoenician Bakery in town, a small Middle Eastern Grocery store. I have no suggestions for an online spice shop as my usual go to store http://www.worldspice.com/home/home.shtml does not carry this. Luckily for me it was in town.