Beau Monde in French means “high society” or “good society.” This was historically people of wealth and titles. They were also the ones who could afford spices that came from the region in South Asia known as the Spice Island. These spices was brought to Europe through the trade routes that took a long time to travel. Spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamon, mace, nutmeg, allspice, bay leaves, black pepper and white pepper came from that region. Also included in this region is ginger and turmeric that were both rhizomes of herbaceous plants. These spices were almost priceless and worth more then gold before modern travel. In the 15th century, Europeans began to explore the Oceans to find another route to India for tea and spices.
Spices were sold in tea shops and apothecary shops. Because they were so costly they were kept locked up like jewelry to prevent servants from stealing them a little at a time. Some spices were used for medicinal purposes besides cooking. Spices where kept in locked spice cabinets until the last quarter of the 19th century when shipping became faster and safer and the prices fell.
Apothecaries would blend the most expensive spices with less expensive herbs to make them more affordable to people that was middle class. These blends were known as “Beau Monde” spice. Usually they contain sugar or salt. There were blends for pies, cakes, pickling and sausage making. The herbs that were grown in Europe and blended together was known as the generic name such as “Herbes de Provence,” which means herbs of rural France, and certain herb blends are still called that today. Our culinary history is full of regional herbs and spice blends that still retain their regional names. Some of us are lucky to inherit our ancestors recipes that included their recipes for herb and spice blends.
Now today there is a company by the name Spice Island that has a celery onion season salt that has been trade marked “Beau Monde.” That means no one else can use that name on their commercial spice blends. This leads to confusion for many cooks that are looking for a copy cat recipe when unable to obtain the commercial Beau Monde season on the internet. What they usually find are heirloom recipes for spice blends that are made with spices from the Spice Island region. These recipes where usually used as a starting point for sausage making, pickling and meat rubs. There are variations of these that were adjusted to taste or availability.
Traditional Heirloom recipe using spices from the Spice Island region.
In researching Spice Island company I found a few hints as to why this company ended up calling a season salt Beau Monde. The company was established in 1941 as Spice Island Company and in December of 1941 the Pearl Harbor was attacked leading us into WWII. I can only speculate that the trade mark was also granted around then. The war in the South Pacific made spices from Asia hard to obtain. Many food items were rationed because the war cut off suppliers. The first year or so into the war things looked bleak because we were not making any head way with winning the war. A business decision not a culinary decision must of been made to recover the original investment to go with what they had to work with. The company was granted a trade mark that today would have remained a generic term in the public domain. They created a very nice celery onion seasoning and gave it the trade mark name Beau Monde and built their company on that.
In the 1950’s after the war people could enjoy entertaining and party food recipes where developed by companies to market their products. Herb dips of sour cream that used Beau Monde seasoning became popular. These same recipes are still enjoyed today. But finding the commercial Beau Monde seasoning can be hard because not all stores carry it.
I went to 5 stores until I found it. I had never used it so I had no idea what it tasted like. I normally don’t buy top shelf spices. I have always made my own celery salt using celery leaves that I dry myself.
I was familiar with the heirloom spice recipe because I make my own sausage when pork is cheap. I also use it in Cincinnati Chili. I can see why there is so many requests for a copy cat recipe because even stores that have Spice Island don’t carry the Beau Monde.
The recipe is easy to make and only takes a couple of minutes. What I would do if you are in a area where you can’t find the commercial made Beau Monde and your bottle is close to empty. I would make a small batch of it. That way I could taste what I still have and make adjustment to what I am making. The reason for this is all celery salts and onion salts vary in flavor. You should be able to get pretty close to the commercial blend so it can tied you over until you can buy another bottle. If you are like me, I hate to pay more in shipping then what the item cost when I buy off the internet.
1 teaspoon of celery salt
1 teaspoon of onion salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of confectionery sugar
1/4 teaspoon of corn starch
Put it in a small jar and shake. You will notice that your bottle list dextrose or monodextrose. This is sugar that comes from corn. The corn starch keeps it from clumping up and flowing.