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Topic: My travelling spices collection

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Subject: My travelling spices collection
Date Posted: 12/10/2009 4:18 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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McCormick's advertisements lately have been about how out-dated spices should be up-dated with fresh new bottles.  The ads say that most spices have shelf lives of 2 to 4 years.   Shopping for spices, I noted how expensive they are, these days, even when one can use manufacturer's coupons.  The expense of an entire spice cabinet is what makes me carry mine back and forth between this state and the one in which I spend the summers.   One year I forgot to bring them back in the fall, and after that winter of borrowing from neighbors and improvising, I'll never forget them again!

I wanted to inform cooks in here who really like to use spices (and herbs) that the McCormick company put out a nice little cookbook some years ago called Spices of the World.   I especially like some of the recipes for vegetables, but the book covers the gamut of foods.  Learning to season foods interestingly has been one of the best moves I ever made to enhance my cooking skills. 

Subject: My antique spice collection....
Date Posted: 12/11/2009 10:59 AM ET
Member Since: 8/29/2007
Posts: 12
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Bonnie , I agree  Spices are expensive! I have a few bottles that are at least 10 years old . I also use  a lot of herbs and spices in my cooking so the ones I use regularly are always fresh. If I'm going to use an old bottle, I taste first, sometimes there is still enough flavor that if I increase the amount I don't have to buy new. I do hate having to shell out 5 dollars for something I only use once in a blue moon. 

I haven't seen the McCormick booklet but I have a Schilling pamphlet that has been my guide for years . I can't imagine cooking without herbs and spices.

Date Posted: 12/11/2009 11:48 PM ET
Member Since: 6/29/2009
Posts: 53
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Folks: if you have a FOOD SAVER or SEAL A MEAL: VACCUUM SEAL your spices! they will NOT start to AGE til opened! and shop BULK for spices! you do NOT have to pay $5.00 a bottle! I frequent the Grocery Outlet store in my area JUST FOR SPICES! many times I get a great buy on spices, food colorings (50 cents for the 4 ); 50 to $1.00 for REAL FLAVORINGS: not imitation;  I belong to an organic buying group in my area: and get a lb of organic garlic powder for $4.10! then i VACCUUM SEAL: many times various stores offer various spices: sometimes in packages (paper); other times in bulk: check out UNIT PRICING to find out which is less expensive: I always keep my spice jars: to put more in!

And the vaccum seals can be gotten at Goodwill or Salvation Army stores many times as low as $2.00!!!! get the generic bags on ebay: cheaply; simple, lightweight: and easy to take with you! YEAH! with the right spices: EVERYTHING tastes wonderful!

Date Posted: 12/19/2009 7:15 PM ET
Member Since: 6/15/2006
Posts: 6,060
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This is what Penzey's (the only place to get spices IMHO, cheaper and MUCH better than any grocery store) says about storing spices:

How much should I buy?
A good rule of thumb is to buy a one year’s supply of herbs or ground spices, and a one to two year supply of whole spices. The government’s guideline for freshness dating is four years for whole spices and two years for ground. Some people say six months is the longest spices should be stored, but most spices are harvested only once a year, so it does not make sense to discard them every six months. On the other hand, two years is too long to store finely powdered spices. Each spice contains hundreds of flavor components. It is the quantity and balance of these components that determines the quality of the spice. These flavor components will dissipate at different rates. A top quality spice may be better at two years old than a low quality spice at two months. When in doubt about a spice, just smell it. If it smells strong and spicy, use it. If not, toss it.

How should I store them?
Spices must be stored properly to maintain strong, fresh flavor. Heat, light, moisture and air all speed the loss of flavor and color. Glass or barrier plastic containers (such as those we use at Penzeys) are very good. DO NOT store your spices near a heat source: on top of the stove, dishwasher, refrigerator or microwave, or near the sink or a heating vent. The best way to avoid light is to put the spices inside a cupboard or a drawer. If an open spice rack is being used, place it out of direct sunlight. Some folks say that all spices should be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer. Whole, crushed and ground chili peppers (including paprika, as well as sesame seed and poppy seed) will stay fresh and colorful longer in cool storage, especially in the Summer months. Other than vanilla beans and extract, the flavor of spices will not be damaged by cold. The only problem with spices being stored in the fridge is that they tend to be used less (out of sight, out of mind). So we recommend keeping smaller quantities of spices out in the cooking area and larger backup supplies in the refrigerator or freezer.

Date Posted: 12/19/2009 8:35 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,476
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"Health food" stores almost always have a tremendous assortment of spices in bulk. In my experience it is far far cheaper. Common stuff like ground cloves that is so gruesomely overpriced in a McCormick's can or those pretty little bottles is not so much at all. (what in the world is wormwood for?)

Date Posted: 12/20/2009 8:09 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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John:  Wormwood is used in making absinthe, that wicked wicked drink that New Orleans dandies used to spend their days sipping.  And before you ask, horehound  (a kind of mint) is the essential ingredient in either a soothing syrup for sore throat or a kind of hard candy.  And juniper berries or juniper oil is used in making gin.  Dried red hibiscus flowers are used in making agua de Jamaica, a pretty red summer beverage  with lime juice and cane sugar thought to be a mild tonic.   (People also used to comb sage tea through their hair, when it started graying.)



Last Edited on: 12/20/09 8:10 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/21/2009 4:58 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,476
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Funny you mention horehound, Mizzou. Just this morning I was at the healthfood store getting 50 lbs of sunflower seed and my favorite non-fattening snack, dried apples. I saw some horehound candy and snapped it up. When I was a kid, it was always available at the local candy store on the square. It was produced by them in sticks about 4 inches long and 3/4 think. The old ones regarded it as top cure for a sore throat (what they really wanted, as long as it lasted, was Hadacol. Small wonder, of course, since it was taken off the market when it was found to be almost 40 proof). I just like the taste of it.

Date Posted: 12/22/2009 1:05 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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I haven't heard anyone in YEARS speak of Hadacol!  That "health tonic" that was so popular in Louisiana in the 1950s, concocted by "Cousin Dud", aka Dudley LeBlanc.  We used to say the name came from "Happy Days Company of Louisiana." 

It also made me think of Doctor Sloan's liniment.  You rubbed it on the aching part, and if that didn't make you feel better after a little while, you could try taking a swig of it, so the joke went!



Last Edited on: 12/23/09 3:09 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 12/25/2009 10:23 PM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,448
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I put my spices in dark glass jars.  My rack is on an inside wall,  close enough to the stove to use easily, but far enough away from the heat and moisture.  I label the jars with a china marker.  I buy the spices in bulk.  Indian or Mexican markets are also a great place to find spices. 

My Mother has had the same spices on her shelf as when I left home 30 years ago.  Yuck. 

I do look at estate sales and garage sales for jars.  But I'll take them home, empty the jars, wash them, and refill with fresh spices.  Remember that the jars may take on the herb or spice scent after years,  so I try and match the jars to the new spice.