What is anise?
As a spice, anise or aniseed is the fruit of anise plant (Pimpinella anisum) although fresh leaves can be used as an aromatic herb. It is used abundantly in the kitchen for making meals and cakes of all kinds. Is very useful for flavoring soups and stews.
Aroma and flavor of anise
The driedfruits - badly calls seeds - provide an aromatic touch to it due to their essence that this formed mainly by anethol, a compound that besides being aromatic is very sweet. It has been found that anethole has more sweetening power than sugar itself, which is why when you chew the fruit of anise is so sweet to us.
This compound appears abundantly in other spices, like fennel, tarragon or basil, also used abundantly in the kitchen. Between the medicinal plants that contain more proportion of anethol is liquorice or peppermint, which is why when you chew the seeds of anise these taste a lot of liquorice, a plant which, moreover, has nothing to do with this.
Photo of anise fruits
Anise tastes sweet, pleasant, quite similar to fennel, another spice that contains similar principles, although is something sweeter than this.
Uses of anise
Anise as spice is used in preparations like the French soup of bouillabaisse. In Spain, it is used for preparing bagels, rolls of anise, the Andalusian "pestiños" or anise cakes. In England, aniseed balls are made, a sweet rounded inside which there is a whole fruit. In Italy it is used to flavor and give aroma to "pizzeles", very popular during Christmas, the "drops of anise " or "anise cakes". In Germany, manufactures the "anisbrod" or anise bread", a type of bread that contains the fruit. In Argentina, "Mendoza tablets" are produced.
The fruits of this plant are included in many inlays to which they provide flavor and aroma. The fresh mixture of seeds and leaves is used to decorate plates of greasy meats. Anise is part of many sauces like curry or the sauce hoisin. This last one also is called sauce of China barbecue, that is used in the kitchen of this country to decorate the seafood and the greasy meats like pig or duck. It tastes sweet and sharp.
In many places their fresh leaves or their fruits are used to decorate the salads. These same crushed leaves can be used to give more flavor to the fish (it combines very well with the salmon)
Besides being used in the meals, the essence of the fruits of anise is part of many drinks to which they contribute to his aroma and sweetness. This essence is obtained by distillation of fruit with alcohol vapor. The steam carries the essence of alcohol that is mixed with other components for the production of alcoholic beverages in many places in the world. The most important of all is anisette - as it is called in France, or anise, but also verywell known are other drinks like absenta, vermouth or "pastis". Very famous commercial liquors that contain anise essence are the French Pernod and Chartreuse, the Becherovka Czech, the Greek Ouzo or the Moroccan Arak .
Where is it produced and used in cooking?
Anise is used much in Mediterranean kitchens, especially the Italian and French Portuguese, as well as in the German and English kitchen and the one of the Middle East. The main producing country is Spain, whose anise highlights in aroma, higher oil content and better presence. (See photo above) Other important producing countries are Turkey and Egypt.
More information on anise in the listing above