When was the last time you cleaned out your spice rack? Chances are, if it hasn't ever run out then you haven't replaced it. Does this sound about right? If so, do yourself and your dishes a "flavor favor" by starting afresh!
Here are some tips for a clean sweep of your spices and dried-herbs from chef Mary Donovan, editorial project manager at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York.
Essential spices. Donovan recommends buying whole spices when you can or a good quality powdered version. "Figure out what kind of cooking you're doing and pick your top spices." Her top go-tos for whole spices: peppercorns, cumin seed, fennel seed, cardamom pods, mustard seed, allspice berries, nutmeg, caraway and dill seed as they can be used across dishes. Her top powered spices are cinnamon, clove, allspice, cardamom, ginger, curry powder, paprika (Hungarian, mild and smoked) and various other chili powders.
Essential dried herbs. Rosemary, tarragon, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram and sage.
Storage. Herbs and and spices lose pungency over time, especially if left near a stove, in the sunlight or where they can get wet, says Donovan. It's best to store them in a dark, cool, dry place.
When to rotate? Spices should be good for one year, possibly longer, Donovan says. While spices tend to last better- another reason to invest in them instead of the preground varieties. To test if the whole spices are still fresh, crack or pound it to see how much aroma you get.
To test the potency of dried herbs, simply take a pinch and rub it between your fingers. "If there's not much aroma, or if your herbs smell weak or dusty, it's time to replace them.
Tip! You don't need bulk sized spices, even if they are cheaper.
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