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Star Anise

Information about Star Anise plus Star Anise recipes collection


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Star anise is the dried fruit of a small to medium sized evergreen tree, Illicium verum which belongs to the magnolia family, Illiciaceae Magnoliaceae and grows up to 8m (26ft).


Origin and History of Star Anise


Native to China and Vietnam , today the star anise tree is mainly grown in China, and Japan although it is also cultivated in Laos, the Philippines, Indonesia and Jamaica.  In China, apart from its use in cooking, Mandarins used to chewed the whole dried fruit  as a breath freshener  and it was also used for other medicinal purposes such as in the treatment of colic, flatulence and nausea.


It was first introduced to Europe in the 17th Century where it was mainly used in baked goods and in the making of fruit compotes and jams as well as in the manufacture of anise-flavoured liqueurs such as anisette and Pernod, usually in the form of the oil which is produced by a process of steam extraction.


Cultivation of Star Anise


The tree is propagated by seed and requires a lot of water in a well-drained, acid soil to grow well. Although it takes 5 years to flower, and generally only starts to bear fruit when it is 6 years old, it is a very long-lived tree and often continues to bear fruit for almost 100 years. The fruit, or more properly, seed pods, are harvested before they ripen after which they are sun-dried. The red-brown, star-shaped seeds contain 5-10 oval sections up to 12mm/ -inch in length, each containing an oval seed. These pods are then either packaged whole or ground ready for sale. Both the pods and the seeds are used when ground.


Buying and Storing Star Anise


It's best to buy whole stars which can not only be added directly to the cooking pot either whole or in segments but can also be ground.  Stored whole it keeps for well over a year in an air tight container.



Star Anise in Cooking


Star anise has a powerful and liquorice-like aroma which is  stronger than anise. Its flavour is reminiscent of a bitter aniseed albeit much more pungent and harsher. It is one of the spices used in the spice mix called Five-Spice and it is used in certain Chinese dishes such as red-cooked dishes where meats are slow-simmered as well as some Vietnamese and Malaysian recipes.


In the west it is traditionally used as a cheaper substitute for anise seeds in fruit compotes, jams and in baking although its wonderful flavour is now gaining favour in many savoury dishes, combining successfully with  fish, poultry lamb and beef.  It can also be used to substitute Anise seeds in recipes - 1 crushed star anise = 1/2 teaspoon crushed anise seed.



Click here for lots of Sweet & Savoury Star Anise Recipes


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