Spices and herbs are as essential as a sharp knife when creating delicious food.
Every cuisine on Earth has its own distinct combinations of seasonings that define the “taste profile” of each dish. Cardamom, for example, is used in Swedish baking to add a spicy note and to set off the citrus zest it is used in combination with. Cardamom in Indian cuisine is used in a unique way, mixed with other spices to create flavors very different from Swedish breads and desserts.
Spices are generally made from the dried seeds, fruits, bark or root of a plant. Ground ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin and coriander are good examples. Most spices are okay for at least two years after purchase. The best way to tell if they are still good is to taste them. If they still have flavor, don’t toss them.
Dried herbs are the stems, flowers and leaves of a plant. Their flavor is derived from the essential oils in the plant. Herbs have a much shorter shelf life than spices. They last about a year before losing their character. If the container of sage you bought 20 years ago when you first made Thanksgiving dinner is still in your cupboard, the likelihood that it has turned into olive-colored dust is very high.
I buy my spices and herbs in bulk, so I can buy a small enough amount that they are used within their expiration date. Bulk spices are often much less expensive than the jars from the grocery store.
The holidays are coming, so now is a perfect time for you to clean out your spice drawer and freshen everything up. When you are out replacing your stash, you might find something new to try!