It’s Autumn in America, and lines are being drawn in the sand. We here at Rum & Biscuits aint scared to say it. While we’d never embrace even half the dairy content of a Starbucks “PSL,” this blog is Team Pumpkin Spice, fam. It should be enjoyed year-round, we have always stood by that belief, and we never needed a reason beyond “the sh** is delicious.”
But now we have one. And if these days you consider yourself a vocal, indoctrinated hater, or just a shameful and silent fan begging for the courage to come clean, please, please take note:
The combination of spices known collectively as “pumpkin spice” also happens to be the base of a classic jerk seasoning.
Cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg and allspice; just add a few savory flavors like thyme, salt, onions, and fiery scotch bonnets, and the stuff of maligned lattes for 19-year-olds becomes the pride of Eastern Parkway.
Why the surprising ingredient overlap? There are a few ways to look at it:
Why those spices together?
All five components apart from allspice are Southeast Asian in origin, and their use together dates back centuries across cultures – take for instance, Indian masalas. The addition of the final puzzle piece – allspice, a Caribbean native – can be tracked back to the 15th century’s “Age of Discovery,” when Europeans brought the Asian elements to the islands.
Why both pumpkin and jerk?
The earliest documentation of pumpkin spice and jerk seasoning interestingly occur at the same time, but they didn’t look nearly as similar as today. The blend now known as “pumpkin spice” was appearing in American cookbooks as early as 1796, but found its way to English recipes all the way back in 1658. Three years earlier, England’s capture of Jamaica from Spain and the subsequent escape of African slaves, or Maroons, into the islands hilly interiors is widely associated with the birth of jerk cooking, when West African methods of pit cooking fused with indigenous Arawak/Taino spices. At this time, however, these were limited to salt and the local pimento: allspice.
As jerk became more popular and commercialized, additional spices like nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves were added. Whether these were first used by local populations on foods like squash or pumpkin, which were also found in the islands, is hard to say, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that two cultures, using local produce inspired by their native populations and spices introduced by British and Dutch colonists could have intermingled at some point, or even come to similar conclusions (and recipes) independently of one another.
However it happened, if you still need a reason to come around to pumpkin spice, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Far from “basic,” pumpkin spice is as legit as it gets, provided you ask yourself, Do I need all of this cream, whipped or otherwise?, answer No, and carry on accordingly.