Have you checked the freshness and fragrance of your spices lately?
While refreshing other parts of your home, take a few minutes to “spring clean” your spice cabinet.
Believe it or not, even I needed this reminder! With all of the business of life, I realized I had not taken time to check my dried herbs and spices for a while. It became very evident recently when dishes that I’ve prepared many times were turning out dull and flat. All it took was a sniff or two to determine that some of my spice cabinet inhabitants were very much overstaying their welcome.
Since spices play a leading role in cooking, it’s important to use ones that are fresh, fragrant, and flavorful in order to reap big rewards at the dinner table. Here are 7 tips to get you on your way to spring cleaning your spice cabinet and freshening up your cooking masterpieces.
1. Take all of the spice jars out of the cabinet.
Simple, yes, but it’s essential. You’d be surprised what hides and lurks behind jars, containers, spice shelves, and the like. Plus, you may find that you have 3 jars of marjoram and didn’t even know it!
2. Give it the “sniff test”.
Dried herbs and spices should be fragrant and smell like what is supposed to be in the jar. If they smell dull, flat or like cardboard, they are of no use in your recipes. Dump them!
3. Make a list of the ones you are discarding.
Write down whatever ones you discard as you do it because if you’re like me, you’ll most likely forget when you try to recall them later.
4. Save or recycle the jars, help the planet.
Most spice jars are made of glass or durable plastic and are very much reusable or recyclable. And, many spice companies are now offering packaging that encourages refilling jars.
Give the empty jars a good wash and thorough dry so they are ready for the fresh round. Once refilled, add a label with the spice or dried herb name plus the brand name, if different from what is on the old label.
5. Check if there are any spices or dried herbs that you do not use.
Sometimes we have jars of herbs or spices that we truly do not use – it may be a flavor we don’t care for or something a bit obscure that we needed for a recipe tried long ago. If it is simply taking up real estate in your cabinet, give it away (if still good) or discard it.
Photo: Love + Craft Kitchen, LLC
6. Restock your cabinet in an organized fashion.
Now, I know I am a bit of an organization fiend, but this really does help cut down on waste and facilitates prep time! Choose an organization method that works for you – maybe alphabetically, maybe by herb or spice type – just some way to easily find what you have. I have multiple circular holders – some for dried herbs, some for herb and spice blends, some for dried spices. On those holders, I group similar herbs and spices together, such as basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. Or, chili powder, cumin, and coriander. This makes it easy for me to locate what I need for certain flavor profiles. Whatever the system, make it easy for yourself.
When you are ready to shop for dried herb and spice replacements, seek out good-quality providers. Here are a few ideas for you –
Grocery store brands that are generally reliable
- McCormick Organic
- O Organics
- Spice Islands
- Frontier Co-Op
- 365 Organic
Specialty markets are great places to shop for spices and are usually reasonably priced
- Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Greek, Indian, and Asian markets
Note: I recently purchased a few spices from Patel Bros. Market in Cary, NC. What I have tried of the SWAD brand so far are very good.
Interesting retail and online spice companies each with their own personality
- Savory Spice Co.
- Diaspora Co.
- Burlap and Barrel
- Le Boit
Keeping the contents in your spice cabinet fresh is an essential part of preparing delicious food. Take time this spring to freshen it up – you’ll thank yourself in the months to come!
For further information on selecting high-quality spices, read this related post – Maximize Flavor with Good Quality Spices.
Have a favorite spice shop or tip to share? Share it in the comments section below.