What is Mastic?

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Mastic is a resin extracted from the trunk of the mastic tree.  The mastic drips out of the mastic tree trunk as if the tree were crying – so the resin is called mastic tears.  Although mastic starts as a liquid, it hardens to the yellowish crystals shown above.  Just like Champagne can only be called Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France, true mastic must come from a specific location – the Chios island of Greece.

How Is Mastic Used?

Have you ever seen a photo of chewed gum on a food blog before?
I don’t think I have.

Gum: Mastic is the original Winterfresh gum [paid link].  Mastic has been used as a breath freshener for thousands of years.  Pop a mastic crystal (or two or three) into your mouth and start chewing.  The mastic will taste bitter for the first few seconds, but then it turns into a refreshing gum with a flavor that most closely resembles the scent of a pine forest on a winter day.  The more you chew, the more the pine experience intensifies.  After thirty minutes of mastic chewing, I felt like I was lost deep in the woods.  The gum hadn’t shown any signs of flavor loss.

Sadly, since mastic is only produced on one small island in Greece, it’s too expensive for most of us to use as an everyday chewing gum.  The small jar of mastic shown at the top of this post cost $11 and was kept behind the counter at my local international grocery store (they’ve had problems with people stealing it).

But, mastic isn’t only used as a gum…

Mastic Powder:  If you grind the mastic tears with a mortar and pestle, you end up with fine cream-colored mastic powder.  Mastic powder can be used to flavor custards, cookies, and cupcakes.  I’ll be posting soon about the Winterfresh cupcakes that I created using mastic.  Not only are they unique and tasty, but after eating one, my mouth feels tingly clean.

When using mastic in powdered format, the small jar will go a long way and the $11 will no longer seem like such a large investment.

To Learn More About Mastic

To learn more about mastic, check out the mastic post on Wikipedia (it talks about some interesting health benefits) and the post about mastic from Greek-Islands (which has some informative photos of mastic harvesting).

Where to Buy Mastic

Look for mastic at Greek or international grocery stores.  You can also buy mastic online [paid link].

Special Thanks

Special thanks to reader Eric.  He’s from Cyprus and suggested that I try baking with mastic.  I had never heard of mastic prior to his comment.

Shout Out

I told the Cupcake Project Facebook community that I was using a new-to-me ingredient that started with the letter “m” and I let them guess what it was.  Debbie Cahill guessed it right!  There were lots of other good guesses, though – have a look.