Sumac is one of my favourite spices of late. I first encountered it when Hubby and I spent rather too much - both time and money - in Istanbul's spice bazaar at the end of our honeymoon. We picked up masses of spices, some known to us, like Pul and Urfa Biber, some new to us. Some were simple spices some blends, labelled things like "meat spice" or "salad spice". To this day I have no idea what was in them, but we happily used them in a wide variety of dishes for as long as we had them. Sumac is one that once we discovered and found through experimentation that we liked it, we were able to restock and it has remained a favourite ever since.
For cooking, the dried fruit of some species of sumac trees (genus Rhus) are ground into a powder. Powdered sumac has a lemony tang to it and is crimson in colour. It is commonly used in the cooking of North Africa, the Middle and Near East. In North America it is used to make a drink. It has been used medicinally, especially in East Asia and the Middle East for centuries, and a clinical study found that it has anti-hypertensive effects.
I use it for its slightly spicy, lemony tang as a finishing spice in all sorts of things. I find it helps balance flavours out, especially if they are leaning too sweet, or a little too flat. I often sprinkle it on just before serving or as I tweak flavours towards the end of cooking. It works in raw foods too, like salads or hummus. As Sumac comes from a few different trees, flavours vary slightly, as does the depth of colour, but not significantly enough for me to have really noticed an effect on cooking.
Here are links to some of the recipes I've used it in:
I'm also planning on trying out some recipes in which sumac is traditional in the next little while too, so stay posted!
Here is a link to find it on Amazon and try it out for yourself! (This is an affiliate link, meaning that I get a small commission if you order from there, but that does not in any way affect how much you are charged. You are simply supporting me a little).