To make nutmeg for seasoning, the nutmeg seeds are dried gradually in the sun over a period of six to eight weeks. During this time, the nutmeg shrinks away from its hard seed coat. The spice is ready when the kernels rattle in their shells when shaken. It is separated from the outer coat (the mace) and sold whole or ground up and packaged.
Nutmeg has a very interesting history, dating all the way back to the 1st century A.D. It was a treasured spice, considered high currency for trade, and was even the cause of war; the Dutch conquested the Banda Islands, which ended in a massacre, to monopolize the nutmeg trade. This resulted in the establishment of the Dutch East India Company, an amalgamation of several Dutch trading companies.
Mace is a yellowish-brown spice that is derived from the dried lacy coating of the nutmeg seed. Available in ground form and as dried “blades," it is often paired with other aromatic spices. Mace figures prominently in Asian, Caribbean, Indian, and Moroccan cuisines, and is also used in British, Dutch, and French cooking. It is commonly found in spice blends and baked goods, as well as savory dishes like soups, sauces, and poultry and fish recipes. The “mace" that is used as a defensive pepper spray has no relationship to the spice.