I know three things about cumin:
It’s used widely in Indian and Mexican cuisine, it’s one of the two main ingredients in my “house seasoning”, and it’s essential to my chili, taco seasoning, and many other recipes.
Correction: I knew three things about cumin. Because I love cumin so dearly and use it so often, I decided to dive a little deeper and discover what it is, where it comes from, and where it’s used. Okay, that’s a lie. I had to write this piece for school so I’m sharing it with anyone who might be super interested in learning about cumin.
I really do love cumin though. I’ve shared my recipe for my house seasoning before, but this one is scaled down for the home-cook’s pleasure. I also cut the cayenne and oregano out of this one which makes it more versatile.
Cumin: A seed well-traveled
Cumin traveled all throughout the world and began its journey about 4,000 years ago. It was originally used for culinary purposes, medicine, and as a preservative, particularly in the mummification process. It proves its presence in Ancient Mesopotamia in the Yale Culinary tablets, the world’s oldest known recipe collection that dates back to 1750 BC.
Cumin eventually traveled to Europe and even became a currency because of its culinary value and perceived medicinal value. It was thought that cumin helped women’s reproductive health and calmed “hysteria”. You might say cumin was a friend of the ladies, or at least the men thought so. From Europe, it traveled to India by way of the Persian Gulf and to China by way of the Silk Road trade routes.
With the help of the “Columbian Exchange”, Cumin met the Americas after 1492. It was planted by Spanish settlers. It flourished in what is now New Mexico and then journeyed throughout the Southwest. This was cumin’s last newfound area. It had then made its mark on most of the world.
India is the largest producer of cumin today with close to 80 percent of the global market. To grow, it prefers warm dry climates with long hot summers. When its seeds are ready, the whole plant is removed and bathed in the sun until dry. Then its seeds are removed, sorted, and dried once more. It is then ready to be sold in whole seed form or is ground and sold as powder. If bought whole, it is often toasted and then ground fresh for use.
Today, cumin is a friend in Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Asian kitchens. It gets along great with other spices and is used in chilis, curries, soups, and marinades. Its strong flavor and can be considered spicy, but not with heat like that in chile pepper. It’s earthy, nutty, and warm. It pairs well with savory dishes and stands up nicely to robust flavors.
J. Fae House Seasoning
Yield: about 1 Quart
½ C cumin
½ C chili powder
1/3 C granulated garlic
1/3 C granulated onion
1 T ground mustard
1 T celery salt
¼ C salt
¼ C pepper
Mix well and store in an airtight container.