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Season by the Seas: And Everything Spice

Tue, 10/01/2019 - 12:27
Caramel apples can be made the hard way, using a candy thermometer, or the easy way, by melting caramel candy and milk in a microwave or a heavy-bottomed pot.
Laura Donnelly Photos

On Sept. 23 at 8 a.m. the Hormel Foods company presented to the world what we have all apparently been missing: pumpkin spice Spam. This exciting new product, available only at Walmart and Spam.com, was sold out within six hours. I kid you not. It received a great deal of attention from many news outlets, and Jimmy Kimmel did a “live” tasting on his program. This is a late-night show so I can’t repeat what he said it tasted like.

This got me to thinking and investigating the variety of pumpkin spice items available to us, and it is mind-boggling. You can basically live a pumpkin spice life from the moment you wake up and have your pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks (or Keurig or Dunkin’ Donuts) to when you go to bed after slathering on some Eos pumpkin spice lip balm. Starbucks started the pumpkin spice latte craze in 2003.

Back to the Spam. Apparently the Hormel Foods company jokingly announced two years ago it had made a pumpkin spice-flavored Spam. This was so well received Hormel decided to actually do it. There are a lot of other Spam flavors like jalapeño, teriyaki, chorizo, cheese, hickory smoke, tocino, and six more.

My father developed a taste for Spam during World War II, therefore our mother would occasionally serve it. It was invented in 1937 and the acronym means either “special processed American meat” or a shortened version of “spiced ham.” My mother would garnish it with pineapple rings, cloves, and maraschino cherries as if this small rectangular pink blob of mysterious pig bits was an actual Smithfield ham. Spam has 16 grams of fat per two ounces and 600 milligrams of sodium. Yum.

Salty ham has a natural affinity for warm spices and maple syrup or honey. So if you think about it, it’s not so far-fetched that pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg) would go rather splendidly with Spam. Fun fact from the Hormel folks: “there are 12.8 cans of Spam products eaten every second.” Sometimes I dislike America.

Here are some of the other fine pumpkin spice products available to us: coffee, Yankee candles, pillows, cookies, T-shirts, lip balm, cereal, chai tea, travel mugs, Werther’s caramels, paleo pancake mix, more candles, more coffee, yogurt pretzels, KitKats, cocoa, hand soap, Coffee Mate, Katz gluten free creme cakes, and socks that say “Pumpkin Spice AF.” Ask your children what that means. If you want to go all handcrafted artisanal localism with your pumpkin spice, Hamptons Coffee Company is on the seasonal AF bandwagon.

Pumpkin flavored and spiced coffees are not just at Starbucks anymore. Hampton Coffee makes its own Pumpkin Pie blend.

I love pumpkin pie and pumpkin pie spice flavors. The other day I purchased my first pumpkin spice beverage from Starbucks. As it was a typically brisk late September day (oh, no, actually it was 80 degrees!) I got a frozen slushy one. It wasn’t spicy and it didn’t really even taste like coffee either. It was creamy and sweet and I only lasted about four sips.

So let’s move on to other fall flavors and favorites. Halloween is the time for candy corn and caramel apples. I love both in small doses. Candy corn was invented in the late 1880s by the Goelitz family company, now renamed Jelly Belly. It started as a “mixture of creamy fondant, rich marshmallow and warm vanilla notes — combined to create the distinct Candy Corn flavor.” Like Hormel, the Jelly Belly company (and Brach’s) has branched out to other seasonal holidays and flavors with red, pink, and white for Valentine’s Day, pastels for Easter, etc. Even marshmallow Peeps, once strictly a candy of Easter, have been reshaped and colored to represent purple ghouls, black cats, and green Frankenstein monsters. When I see marshmallow Peeps in the store, I can’t help but completely squish one through the cellophane. I can’t help myself. They remind me of mums, my least favorite flower of fall.

Caramel apples are delicious and fun to make. First take a trip to the Milk Pail in Water Mill to find the best kinds of apples to suit your needs. Tart, sweet, crisp, the Milk Pail has every type. You can make your own caramel dipping sauce but this involves technique and burning sugar and requires a candy thermometer.

The easiest method is melting a bag of unwrapped Kraft caramels with a bit of milk in a microwave and then dipping the apples. If you do not have a microwave as I do not, then do it the old fashioned way, melt over a double boiler or bain marie. From there you can dip the apples in chopped toasted nuts like almonds or peanuts, drizzle the bottoms with some melted chocolate, or coat with some toasted coconut. Wrap the apples individually in plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator until serving or giving to friends.

We can still swim in the bay and corn is still on the stalks, but marketing folks want us to know winter is coming and Halloween is upon us with Thanksgiving nipping at its heels. It’s decorative gourd season, people, let’s get that pumpkin spice fever!

I only wish there was a pumpkin spice car air freshener.

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