Cloves are pungent and versatile enough to be used in both savory and sweet dishes. This spice shows up in many spice blends including ras el hanout and pumpkin pie spice. Even a small amount of excess cloves can easily overwhelm all the other flavors in a dish, making that dish taste of cloves and nothing else. However, do not give up and discard your dish if you wind up going overboard and using too much clove. There are a few tricks that you can try to balance the flavors and save the meal.
You can do this by adding volume to your dish thus reducing the proportion of clove. Your options include making another batch without clove and adding it to the first batch. You will wind up with more food, but the clove flavor will be cut in half. Another option is to cut the batch with too much clove in half and add enough ingredients to make it back up to a full recipe.
Milk, cream and yogurt are common tools for overcoming excessive spice. They are bland and their creaminess can tone down the essential oils from clove that can make your dish bitter. In addition, the increased volume can help to dilute the clove flavor and make your dish palatable again.
Remove the cloves
As soon as you realize that you have added too much of the spice, get the whole cloves out of your dish. They will continue to release flavor as they cook and make the problem worse. If you are using ground cloves, you may be able to rinse them from the food. For example, you can rinse the exterior of a roast or grilled vegetables and reapply other spices without the clove.
Cinnamon’s sweetness is an excellent complement for cloves when both spices are used in moderation. When cloves are used in excess, cinnamon can help to mask the overpowering flavor and make it less bitter.
Use a sweetener
One of the problems of excess clove will be how bitter it makes your dish. Bitterness can usually be counteracted with sweetness. If you are trying to rescue an apple pie or another dessert, try adding a little extra sugar or some maple syrup. If the clove flavor is only slightly stronger than it should be, this can help to correct the problem without resulting in an overly sweet dish. Molasses is another sweetener that you should consider for some dishes. Not only does it add sweetness, it has a stronger flavor that may be able to mask the clove to an even greater extent.
Add tomato sauce
Depending on the dish you are making, tomato sauce can help. Not only does it provide an increased acidity, it will bring sweetness as well. Both acidity and sweetness are useful for neutralizing strong flavors like those that come with clove.
Consider using a lot of garlic to help mask the flavor of excess clove. For a savory dish, garlic is not usually a bad thing. In addition, most people can tolerate garlic even when it is used in excess. Garlic has a strong, penetrating flavor that can overpower most flavors.
Note that the risk associated with this fix is that you may not be able to taste anything but garlic, depending on how much you need to neutralize the clove.