Some ingredients are unavoidable, if you want to retain the authentic taste of the dish. The spicy Mexican stew 'chili' would not taste the same, if you prepare it without ground cumin. Cumin is a spice that is said to have been used by humans, through the centuries. In fact, it is believed that ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used this spice for culinary, cosmetic, as well as medicinal purposes. Native to Egypt, cumin is now widely cultivated and used in India, China, countries in the Middle-East, Mediterranean region, etc. This spice is available in both whole and ground forms.
What is Ground Cumin?
It is nothing other than cumin seeds in the ground form. Cumin seed is a popular spice and is the dried seeds of the plant Cuminum cyminum, which is a member of the parsley family. These seeds resemble caraway, but have a peppery flavor with a slight lemony touch. The unique flavor of this spice makes it an indispensable ingredient in a whole lot of recipes.
Even though packaged ground cumin is available in super markets, it will be always better to prepare it fresh at home. Grinding cumin is not a difficult task, as all you have to do is to make a powder of cumin seeds. You may do it with a mortar or pestle or even a rolling pin. However, the result may not be a fine powder. If you want it fine, use a spice grinder or a coffee grinder. If you want the perfect ground cumin flavor, then make sure to toast these seeds, before grinding. Toasting brings out the aromatic nutty flavor of this spice.
Ground cumin has a stronger flavor than whole seeds. If you want it as a replacement for whole seeds, then use a lesser amount. For example, if you need 2½ teaspoons of whole cumin seeds, replace it with around two teaspoons of ground cumin. It is always better to store whole cumin seeds, as ground cumin loses its flavor, with time. So grind the seeds as and when needed. Store the ground cumin in an airtight jar, and keep it in a cool, dry place.
As stated above, you may use whole cumin seeds as a ground cumin substitute. In such case, use appropriate quantity to avoid variations in flavor. Whole cumin as well as its ground form has a unique flavor that no other spice can replace. If you are in a real hurry, you may go for ground caraway, or any other ground cumin substitute. Some people use coriander powder for this purpose, but it may not produce the same flavor. Even anise seeds are said to have a similar flavor. Such substitutes must be used in small quantities. A combination of anise seeds and caraway, in the ground form, may also be used for this purpose.
In short, ground cumin is a spice with a strong and unique flavor and is an indispensable ingredient in many recipes. Apart from the flavor, this spice is also said to have nutritional benefits. Cumin seeds are said to be good for digestion, and offer a lot of health benefits.