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Monday, September 3, 2012

Date Your Spices & Dried Herbs When You Buy Them

I simply put the month & two-digit year on a blank spot somewhere on the bottle. If no blank spot exists, then write it on a small label & place that label on the spice jar somewhere. Keep that spot consistent from jar to jar, like on the top of the lid. The maximum time to keep a spice is about eighteen months. Spices never go "bad", but they lose fragrance components over time & eventually become faded in aroma + flavor. When they no longer smell fragrant & potent, out they go- believe me, you won't get the desired flavor from them otherwise. This takes all of about one minute when done even on a once-a-month basis. I made it a part of my weekly kitchen "boogie" to check my herbs & spices for their date- if it's been more than 18 months based on date & the aroma is no longer potent, then out the spices go. Whole spices usually fade before ground ones, as well. For single-note spices like nutmeg, I actually would say that nine or ten months tends to be the maximum duration for full flavor, and that's with buying decent stuff to begin with. However, paprika & curry powders, as well as seasoned salts, seem to last quite a bit longer. Your nose is always your best judge, but if you have see-through glass jars, you can also tell if the color in the spice has started to fade (another sign of losing flavor components).

Keep dried herbs & spices in a cool, dry part of the kitchen cabinets or drawers- I use the upper cabinet next to the stove, not right above it. For storage, I like to use those expandable shelves that look like a set of three small stairs & non-slip turntables best inside of cabinets. I've never stored spices in drawers, but there are nifty organizers that do just that these days. As always, measure first just to make sure your space will support the organizer you buy- and with spice bottles, unless you just own four or five of them, you really do need some kind of organization. I cook every night & bake occasionally- I own two turntables of spices & dried herbs (I have a lot of spice blends, because those really "make" a dish). Wall-mounted storage is an option, as well, though a drill or a handyman who owns one will be required.

I buy all of my dried herbs & spices from, and have for twenty years now. They also sell four different extracts & five or six different soup bases, all of which are very high in quality. The spice blends that they sell are unique, plentiful & have myriad origins- Thai, Chinese, German, Russian & much more. Prepare to have fun making dips, lean protein, vegetables & much more new again if you've never tried their blends. Their double-strength vanilla extract is the only vanilla that I will EVER use in my baking. There are also Penzey's Stores across the U.S.- check their website to see if there's one near you.

Here's to being an organized minimalist,

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