As the temperature drops and the leaves fall, early autumn conjures up thoughts of pumpkin pie, hot mulled cider and even holiday cookie baking.
It’s also a time to start thinking about cooking cold-weather comfort food, such as a big pot of hearty chili.
For all of these culinary uses, there’s a variety of spices that have come to be associated with fall.
Judy Gitomer, co-owner of The Spice & Tea Exchange of Lancaster on West Orange Street, says a lot of her customers have recently started asking for autumnal spices .
“As soon as September 1st hits, I feel like pumpkin spice just goes everywhere,” Gitomer says. “And, obviously cinnamon, cloves, allspice, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, ginger.”
At stores like Gitomer’s and Sharon Landis’ expanded Zest! Spice Shoppe on East Main Street in Lititz, fall spices are the dominant ingredients in many spice blends.
Gitomer says those blends have become a popular option for home cooks and bakers over the past few years.
“It makes it easy, if you’re afraid of cooking, or just want something different. Grab one of these and you can just change up your whole meal with it,” Gitomer says. “You can add a little life to your vegetables or grilled things that you like to do.”
“Fall is really considered baking season,” says Landis, owner of the Zest! kitchen store in Lititz and Zest! Cooking School on Erbs Quarry Road, southwest of town. “And, of course, anything pumpkin ... or butternut squash” can be enhanced with these spices, Landis says.
Aromatic cardamom has come to be associated with fall baking as well, she says, “and adds a unique flavor to whatever you’re baking.”
Chili powder and dried chili peppers also have come to be associated with colder-weather autumnal cooking, Landis says, in that “everyone has a chili recipe that they like.
“By changing out the chili powder that you use, you can completely change the dish,” she says. She currently carries 16 different kinds of chili powder in her store, ranging from mild to the hot Carolina Reaper powder.
“My personal favorite is smoked serrano,” she says. “It gives a deep, smoky flavor, and I love that.”
Landis has expanded her kitchen store into the vacant space next door to create the new Zest! Spice Shoppe, carrying about 180 different spices and a variety of spice grinders.
Fall spices certainly aren’t only for baking pumpkin pies, ginger snaps or snickerdoodle cookies, Gitomer says.
“You can use them on any of your meats, your chicken, your pork, just to kind of give it a little fall flavor,” she adds.