Keeping the Freshest Herbs & Spices
with Samuel Garrett
mortar and pestle storage
“How do I keep my spices fresh?” is a question that we frequently get in our stores. Keeping the freshest spices is essential to preparing a wonderfully flavorful meal. If your spices aren’t fresh, you won’t be able to taste the symphony of flavors that are hidden in your food when you pair ingredients with freshly ground herbs and spices. With spring right in front of us, there is no better time to go through your spice rack and see what needs replacing. To determine what you should keep and what should be tossed, check out our “tricks of the trade” on keeping your spices fresh!
Keep your spices cool.
Storing spices above the hot oven is a no-no.
Prolonged exposure to heat will lead spices to lose their flavor and potency. While quickly toasting spices brings out their flavor, extended exposure to warm temperatures while you aren’t cooking does irreversible damage. If you’re like us, you’ve seen spices stored near the oven or just above the stove. Keeping your spices near these direct heat sources is a HUGE no-no when it comes to keeping your spices fresh. While it can be convenient to have your spices at an arms-reach, we’re sure having better tasting spices will make up for it.
Keep your spices in a dark place.
Spices stay fresher when stored in a cool, dark cabinet.
When herbs or spices are exposed to light, be it sunlight or lights in your kitchen, your seasonings will suffer. Light will cause the color and vibrancy of your spices to fade, turning your spices from gorgeous and eye-appealing to tan and dull. Using spices that have become light damaged can result in discolored dishes which will lead to a less than stellar dining experience.
Keep your spices sealed.
Transfer your fresh ground spices to a sealable glass bottle to help the flavor last longer.
If spices and herbs are exposed to air for long periods of time, especially if the air is moving, their flavor will rapidly disappear. This is due to the essential oils (which give spices their flavor) drying out or dissipating. When it comes to containers it is best to use a glass jar with a secure lid. In most cases, keeping your seasonings in a sealed plastic bag works well. However if you notice that your spices are losing their color or if you start to smell them through the bag, it might be time to switch to a jar. If you believe that your spice container might not have been completely sealed and you’re afraid your spice has gone bad, take a smell and taste. Remember: If it doesn’t have a good smell and color, it won’t have a good flavor.
Buy in small quantities.
We grind our spices on a weekly basis to give you the freshest flavor possible.
When you buy spices in small quantities, you can make sure the ingredients you’re using are as fresh as possible. That’s exactly why we sell our spices in bulk! A good practice to get in the habit of is to determine what spices you will use within a few months. As a general rule, ground spices will keep their best flavor profile for about 6-12 months, depending on the spice. Whole spices last roughly twice as long, so use them within 1 to 2 years. There’s nothing worse than purchasing herbs and spices that you think you’ll use, only to let them go unused and turn stale.
Use whole spices (grind your own), where possible.
A mortar and pestle is one of our favorite tools to hand grind whole spices at home.
On average, whole spices have twice the life of ground spices. Once a spice is ground, the essential oils in the spice (which give it its flavor) start to dissipate. Grinding your own spices is the best way to ensure the best flavor and to extend the life of your spices. The simplest grinding method is to use a mortar and pestle. Mortars and pestles have been used since ancient times to pulverize and crush substances into a paste or powder. Requiring some elbow grease, the ingredients are placed into the bowl (mortar) and are ground using the club-shaped pestle. If you’re looking for a more user-friendly way to grind whole spices, using a small spice grinder is quick and easy. A coffee grinder works well too but we advise you to dedicate different grinders to spices and coffee. Between spices, grind a few grains of rice to clean out remaining spice dust or residue. If grinding your own spices isn’t for you, just remember that we grind our spices in small batches to ensure freshness…it’s the next best thing to grinding them yourself!
If you’re trying to use up some of your spices, take a peek at the Recipes section of our website. We have over 400 different recipes that use our herbs and spices, and we are always adding more!