When fruit plays a starring role in a spread, sauce, chutney or other product, the choice of seasonings can make a powerful statement. Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice are a pleasant, traditional blend for a blueberry sauce ready to be spooned over ice cream or pound cake.

Spice the dessert sauce instead with allspice, ground red pepper, black pepper and grated lime zest, and consumers will take notice. A blueberry sauce flavored with shallots, cider vinegar, black pepper and tarragon, on the other hand, is designed to complement savory dishes such as duck or pork.

Taking a cue from white-tablecloth restaurant menus that identify the origin of premium ingredients, some prepared food makers are writing label descriptions to entice consumers. For example, a chutney label might tout “dried Rhode Island cranberries” and “the finest cinnamon from Indonesia.” Through serving suggestions, labels can also guide consumers on pairing seasoned fruit products with appropriate foods.

Ideal as a condiment for Indian food or barbecued meats, Hot Green Mango Chutney plays the sour taste of the underripe fruit against vibrant curry spices that include crushed red pepper, ginger, cumin, fennel seeds and coriander.* Crystallized ginger, vinegar and ground red pepper contribute sweet-spicy, hot and tart notes to a cran-apple conserve, which can be spread on a turkey or pork sandwich, or served on the side with roast chicken.

As accompaniments for grilled seafood or jerk chicken, prepared salsas made with tropical fruits—such as mangos and papayas—take well to Caribbean-style seasonings, such as lime juice, chiles and cilantro. Banana-Ginger Salsa also falls into the tropical category, with its sprightly blend of citrus juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground black and red peppers.*

Many barbecue sauces and glazes are tilting away from recent hot-and-hotter seasonings: toward a milder profile and placing fruit in a prominent role. In addition to adding melon-like flavor and sweetness to a barbecue sauce with a hint of heat, papayas contain an enzyme that helps tenderize meat. In a Southeast Asian curry sauce, tamarind pulp provides a sweet-sour dimension, similar to the role of citrus juice and zest in Western-style sauces.

Fruit and spices make a joint appearance in many baked products. For example, lemon peel and juice team up with saffron to give a delightful but delicate flavor and golden tint to Saffron-Lemon Tea Bread.*

Of course, spiced fruits can stand on their own. Poaching is a time-tested method for infusing fruit with flavor. A classic example: jarred peaches prepared with vinegar, sugar and pickling spices, purchased as a condiment for a baked ham or fried chicken. A blend of allspice, vanilla bean, cloves, cinnamon and lemon zest accounts for the spiciness of poached pears in Zinfandel.* Alternatively, cinnamon, onions and sugar simmered in vinegar make an aromatic solution for pickling grapes—a wonderfully piquant hors d'oeuvre. Poaching dried figs and apricots with rosemary adds herbal overtones; this can be served as part of a cheese plate, or with roast meats.


Peppered Blueberry Dessert Salsa
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1-1/2 cups diced mixed fruit (such as apple, pineapple, pear, grape or papaya)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
In a small bowl, combine blueberries, mixed fruit, lime juice, sugar, lime peel, allspice, red and black peppers and salt. Cover and chill. Serve over sliced pound cake, ice cream, etc.

Yield: 4-1/2 cups

*Recipes for “Fruitful Ideas for Spices” were developed for Prepared Foods by the test kitchen of the American Spice Trade Association. More recipes on this theme are at www.astaspice.org. Also visit www.preparedfoods.com and type “Flavor Secrets” into the keyword search field.