Warm Up to Winter with Spices

Thanks to a beautiful, long autumn, I have found myself thinking a lot about the seasonal foods and flavors that have started to appear on our plates. I always welcome the return of pear salads, butternut squash soup, rich stews with local onions and potatoes, kale and spinach salads, Brussels sprouts, and of course great apple and pumpkin pies.


As the seasons change, I encourage you to take a look in your pantry—particularly your spices. If you are thinking of adding a few seasonal spices in your pantry, I suggest experimenting with star anise, green cardamom, pink peppercorns, and bay laurel leaves.


Star anise is a popular element in asian cuisine.  It is also great in desserts. It adds an anise or “licorice” like flavor to your dishes and flavor depth to broths and beverages.


Green cardamom is a popular flavor in Indian dishes, both sweet and savory. Try adding it to your favorite rice pudding or savory rice dish.


Pink peppercorns are a great addition to roasted proteins or as an addition to salads. They are best crushed and sprinkled. Add pink peppercorns to give a pop of flavor to a salad with fennel and oranges, or as an addition to a rich meat based sauce. They are also a delicious addition to cream sauce or mashed potatoes.


Bay Laurel Leaves are my favorite winter spice. I add them to every soup or braise that I prepare. They add earthy depth to your dishes and really bring out the flavor in your broths, and I love placing them between the flesh and skin when roasting my chicken.


I’d like to share one of our family’s winter favorites. It would not be fall or winter in our house without a family night where we serve hot spiced local apple cider.


My mom rarely starts a winter party without the hot cider on her stove. The orange, cloves, and cinnamon always make the house feel warm and comforting, and the aroma is just the best. One if my earliest memories is of going to school and studding oranges with cloves. The memory of that spicy sweet aroma always stays with me and this cider captures it perfectly.


Equally memorable are the wintertime sweets like spice cakes or honey cakes made from the fantastic seasonal citrus and dried fruits, or local honey, or maple.

I’ve been especially busy with the launch of fire spice company which will allow me to share my own crafted spice blends,  proportioned and ready to use, along with some of my favorite recipes. Our French spice cake and mulled cider recipes and spice packs will be available in limited quantity in December at fire food & drink. You can sign up for updates about the new products on our website.


Here’s one of my favorite holiday treats. Try sharing it with your family and enjoy using your senses to connect with your local food in Northeast Ohio.

CiderMulled Local Cider
1/2 gallon local apple cider
3 strips of orange peel
4 cloves
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 slice 1/16 inch thick fresh ginger
Put liquid, orange peel and spices into a 3 quart sauce pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to low and lightly simmer for 30 minutes. Serve hot with your favorite winter cookies or spice cake.

Mulled Local Cider

—Story by Douglas Katz, Photos by Donna Ruhlman

KatzDouglas Katz is the owner and executive chef of fire food and drink at historic Shaker Square, owner of The Katz Club Diner in Cleveland Heights, and Chef/Partner of Provenance, Provenance Cafe, and Catering By Provenance at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Chef Katz will launch the fire spice company in January 2016, which will offer handcrafted spice blends for the home cook.