Good cooks know there’s a big difference between freshly ground spices and their pre-ground counterparts, and this is particularly true in the case of nutmeg. See for yourself: Open the jar of ground nutmeg that’s probably in your cupboard (and may be several years old—come on, admit it), and compare it to some freshly grated. The freshly grated smells sweet, fragrant, almost citrusy, and, well, fresh. The pre-ground smells sharp and musky by comparison.
This isn’t to say that there’s no place for pre-ground nutmeg in the pantry alongside the whole nutmeg—it’s convenient, after all—but I like to think of them as different spices. If a recipe calls for pre-ground nutmeg, go ahead and use it (provided it’s not more than six months old). But when a recipe like the Pecan Pineapple Upside-Down Cake calls for freshly grated nutmeg, please don’t be tempted to substitute—the results won’t be nearly as nice.
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