Hunt Valley’s McCormick & Company launched a limited edition Old Bay Caramel seasoning with fighting words: “Move over, pumpkin spice.”

One envisions a battle between Old Bay fans and pumpkin spice acolytes. Crab mallet-fisted Marylanders duking it out in front of the local Starbucks with women in Ugg boots eager to welcome in Fall.

Over the years, Old Bay has become a local icon, on par with crabs and the Orioles as a symbol of Baltimore pride.

Then you have pumpkin spice, a seasoning with its own intense following, and a dizzying number of pumpkin spice-flavored items on the market. Ironically, McCormick itself deserves either blame or credit, depending on your perspective, for the entire pumpkin spice craze to begin with, having first launched its pumpkin pie spice in 1934.

According to a release from McCormick, the new flavor was “inspired” by fans “taking our classic blend in a sweet direction.” Sold only online, the seasoning is just the thing “as we make the transition from summer to fall” and is meant to go on everything from french fries to blondies. We’ve included their recipe below.

There’s a case to be made here, really. While Starbucks keeps advancing the release date of its infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte, practically a religious holiday in certain Millennial circles, the annual display of autumnal vibes can feel forced, like wearing fuzzy leggings when it’s 70 degrees out or when Costco starts selling Christmas gear in July.

Could there be room in the world for a mid-September flavor that’s not quite summer, not quite autumnal? Is this an alternative for the pumpkin spice fatigued among us?

David Alima may well have been the first person alive to mix Old Bay and caramel, though he’s a bit cautious on that front. “No flavor has never been done before,” said Alima.

Still, Alima said, “I had never seen Old Bay caramel,” before he and his wife and business partner added it to the roster of offerings at their Charmery ice cream shop.

Old Bay caramel was the product of trial and error. Alima, a Baltimore native, was determined to have one Old Bay ice cream flavor on the menu when they opened nine years ago. At home in his kitchen, he experimented with an Old Bay sweet cream and Old Bay chocolate. The latter “was not great,” he said -- way too salty.

The game changer was Old Bay caramel, with the caramel better able to absorb the salty Old Bay flavor. “I was shocked at how well it worked,” he said. Though he says the pairing is “hilarious,” he adds: “I don’t think you can taste it and think that’s disgusting.”

Old Bay caramel ice cream has stayed on the core menu at The Charmery ever since. “It’s one of of our flavors that we opened with and one of the flavors I’m most proud of,” he said. And it’s spread from Fisher’s popcorn to Mouth Party Caramels.

And now, McCormick is getting in on the fun. Old Bay Caramel is marketed under a line of seasonings called McCormick Inspirations, which includes specialty blends like French’s cheeseburger and salted maple bacon sugar. The new seasoning is part of a recent surge in Old Bay branded products. Recent months have seen the launch of Old Bay bagel chips, vodka and soup.

Alima said he hadn’t previously heard McCormick was launching its Old Bay caramel blend, but said, “I think it’s awesome.”

Old Bay Caramel Blondies

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 13x9-inch baking pan with parchment paper. Spray lightly with no stick cooking spray; set aside.

2. Mix 2 cups packed light brown sugar, 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter and 4 tsp. OLD BAY Caramel Seasoning in medium bowl until well blended.

3. Add 3 large eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in 2 tsp. vanilla extract.

4. Add 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 2 tsp. baking powder, stirring to mix well. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped pecans, if desired.

5. Spread batter into an even layer in prepared pan. Bake 30 to 32 minutes, until center is set and edges are lightly browned.

6. Cool completely on wire rack. Cut into bars and serve with vanilla ice cream, drizzled with caramel sauce. Sprinkle with additional OLD BAY Caramel Seasoning, if desired.

Test Kitchen Tip: Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Do you plan to try the new OLD BAY-inspired spice? Email me with your review at christina.tkacik@thebaltimorebanner.com

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