They may be fiery hot but they enjoy being as cool as a cucumber.
Sure, not all spices are … spicy hot, but if you want them to impart their delicious and unique flavours to the foods you cook you’ll make sure to store them the way they like it.
Forget about the pretty spice rack above the stove. It may be convenient but it’s the death knell for any self-respecting herb or spice. The steam from cooking liquids will cause them to cake or clump, and the heat will rob them of any flavour.
To keep your spices smelling fragrant and to help them maintain their savoury goodness they must be stored somewhere dark, cool, dry and airtight. Of course they need to be handy in the kitchen so here are some locations you might try.
Spice Cupboard or Pantry
Allot one or two shelves in a dark cupboard (no glass doors, please) for storing precious herbs and spices. Choose a cabinet close to, but not above, your stove so that you will be able to handle what you need with ease. Stow rarely used spices at the back, but stash frequently used bottles up front so you can reach them effortlessly.
Store your spices in recycled jam or mason jars and remember to label them correctly. Make your own labels to personalize each bottle. Look for drawer racks and separators to help keep everything neat and tidy. This type of storage works best if you don’t have loads of different spices and want a handy way to keep them organized. Labelling the tops of the jars will help you to find the right spice quickly.
Ground and powdered spices will maintain their color, flavor and aroma and keep freshest if zipped up in heavy plastic bags and stored in the freezer. They will remain potent for six months to a year. Whole herbs and spices will last indefinitely in a darkened spot. They do not need to be stored in the freezer. Ground and powdered spices lose their potency quicker than whole herbs because they have more surface area that is exposed to air. That’s why storing them in freezer bags helps them to retain their flavours longer.
Tricks & Tips
- Use a coffee grinder to grind whole spices like cloves, cumin seed and cinnamon before using them in recipes. Make sure you use the grinder exclusively for spices as the spicy aroma is almost impossible to eliminate. Grind up some raw rice between uses to keep it clean after each use.
- Toast whole spices in a skillet before grinding to release even more flavour.
- Nutmeg and cinnamon can be grated for easy use.
- Use your nose to test whether the turmeric or other ground spices are fresh. If the colour has faded or there is a lack of smell, throw it away and buy some more.
- Be careful when sprinkling herbs and spices in a stew or curry. Ladle it out into a small bowl and transfer to your dish. Steam from the stove can sneak into your spice bottle and its savoury bouquet will deteriorate rapidly.
- Use a dry spoon when measuring out spices so that no moisture sneaks into the spice container.
- Dry summer fresh herbs by hanging them upside down in a cool, dark basement. When dry, the leaves can be rubbed and broken up, and then stored in jars in the spice cupboard.
- If you are an avid chef and enjoy trying out different ethnic dishes, stow spices according to different cuisines. Devote a section of each spice rack to Indian, Japanese, Chinese or Italian spices.
Store your spices wisely and your taste buds will thank you.
By: Beverley Burgess Bell