Maximizing the flavor of spices

This article was originally published in November 2013

Spices are to cooking what accessories are to fashion — the perfect detail that can earn you a ton of compliments or the afterthought that you secretly hope people don’t notice.

 

Storage

Volatile oils are the source for both the nutritional profiles and the intense flavors of spices. These oils break down over time, but you can delay the process by storing them in airtight jars away from heat and humidity — rather than in that pretty set of clear jars next to the stove.

Replacement

Ground spices should be replaced at least every 12 months. While some well-organized people are careful to buy in small batches and date each jar at the time of purchase, an easier way of remembering to refresh your spices is to think of it like back-to-school shopping. Each year, when you’re planning your holiday dishes, check your supply and make a list of everything that’s likely to be outdated. Head to the bulk department and refresh your jars with an estimate of what you’ll use in the next year. This way, you’ll have absolutely peak flavor to honor your family recipes.

Fresh grind

You can extend their shelf life indefinitely by buying whole spices and grinding them when you need them. Cardamom and nutmeg lose their flavor so quickly after grinding that it’s always best to purchase these in whole form. Grinding tools include a mortar and pestle, a clean coffee grinder, and a fine grater for nutmeg.

 

Homemade seasoning blends

These two spice blends just need a quick shake to combine the ingredients. The salt can be used on salads, roasted vegetables, chicken or fish. Make a double batch of the sugar to give as a gift, or sprinkle on toast, cookie dough or the rim of a martini glass.

Seasoned Salt >>

Sugar ‘n’ Spice >>

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