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Culinary Sleuth

 

'Tis the Season
to Freshen Your Spice Cabinet

by Lynn Kerrigan

 

Long-standing traditions usually mark the holiday season, but sometimes it's better to think "out with the old and in with the new"—especially when it comes to your spice cabinet.

Spices The fresher the spices and seasonings, the more aromatic and flavorful your holiday meals and baked goods will be. But how do you know if your herbs and spices are fresh?

"Sight, smell and taste" says Laurie Harrsen, Manager of Consumer Affairs at McCormick/Schilling. "Check to see that the color of your spices and herbs are vibrant. If the color has faded, chances are the flavor has too. Rub or crush the spice or herb in your hand. If the aroma is weak and the flavor isn't apparent, it's time to replace them."

If your cabinets are filled with ancient spices, now is the time to toss them and head to your grocer for new ones. If you end up tossing many stale items, consider buying smaller bottles when shopping for new spices. Base your decision on frequency of use and available pantry space. Buy the best quality herbs and spices you can afford—there really is a difference. Store herbs and spices away from heat, moisture and sunlight. This means it's a mistake to place that spice rack over the stove, over or near the dishwasher or sink or near a window.

 

Other spice saving/using tips:

  • Keep spices stored in tightly closed bottles after each use.
  • Never sprinkle spices or herbs directly from the bottle over a steaming pot, as the steam will hasten flavor loss. Instead, measure the seasoning in a cup and then add to the pot.
  • Use a completely dry measuring spoon when dipping it into a spice bottle, as moisture will make the contents deteriorate.
  • Store paprika, chili powder and other members of the red pepper family in the refrigerator to retain color and stay fresher.
  • Use a felt-tipped pen to mark the date on the label when you first open a new spice.
 

Storing Herbs

Here's how long properly stored herbs and spices should last:

Ground Spices ----- 2-3 years  
Whole Spices ----- 3-4 years  
Herbs ----- 1-3 years  
Seeds ----- 3-4 years  
Seasoning Blends ----- 1-2 years  
Extracts ----- 4 years  
 

America's Top Ten Holiday Spices
(in order of popularity)

1. Ground black pepper
2. Ground cinnamon
3. Seasoned salt
4. Garlic powder
5. Ground nutmeg
6. Garlic salt
7. Ground ginger
8. Poultry seasoning
9. Chili powder
10. Pumpkin pie spice

Try this recipe for Savory Orzo below—a delectably different side dish perfect for a holiday buffet or dinner party.

 
 

Recipe: Savory Orzo

Makes 6 cups

 

4 slices bacon
1 cup sliced green onion
1/2-cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
4 cups orzo pasta, cooked and drained
1/2-cup pine nuts, toasted
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
3/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

 

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until done. Remove bacon, drain and crumble; reserve bacon drippings. Add green onion to bacon drippings and sauté 1-2 minutes or until crisp tender.

Stir in bacon, 1/4-cup Parmesan cheese and remaining ingredients. Cook 1-2 minutes or until heated through. Top with remaining Parmesan cheese.

Recipe courtesy McCormick/Schilling

 


Current Culinary Sleuth Archive

 

This page created July 1999

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This page created December 1999

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Copyright © 1998-2001, Lynn Kerrigan. No portion of this article may be reproduced for publication without express, written permission of the author.

 

This page modified February 2007


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