Question: I’ve had the same spice rack for 5+ years now. When I bought it, it already had herbs and spices in its containers. Are they still good? Can dried herbs and spices expire?
To be fair, everything eventually expires. Even me.
Now, let’s take a look at herbs and spices. At first look, one might find that dried herbs and spices don’t have an expiry date. This is relatively true. If you find some cinnamon in your grammy’s cupboard with a label older than you, it will probably still taste like cinnamon. HOWEVER – compare this to a cinnamon stick you just ground, and I think that teaspoon for teaspoon there will be a noticeable difference.
I generally work with whole spices as much as possible. I keep a coffee grinder specifically for grinding spices and will generally grind within a day or two of using them (for nutmeg I use a microplane). You can also toast them to bring out some aromas. In some cases (like dressings) , I find blooming them in hot oil for a few minutes releases tons of flavor into the oil and into the air. As long as the oil doesnt get too hot, you can then cool it for a vinaigrette or pour your spice mix over vegetables or proteins as you would a sauce.
As for dried herbs, I personally don’t use them for much. I try to cook with as many fresh herbs as I can get my hands on. I recommend that unless you have a specific purpose for using a dried herb, go with fresh. You will not get much flavor out of the dried herbs compared to the fresh. The only time I see dried herbs in anything is in jarred tomato sauce and packets of pre-made biscuit gravy, but I also avoid those. Make your dishes fresh, add your herbs at the very end and you’ll get a great product.
Fresh herbs expire quickly, but you can do some things to help preserve them. I usually wash them in a bowl a few times to get the dirt off completely. Shake them as dry as possible (be careful as some of them will fly apart if you shake them too much). Wrap each bunch in a couple sheets of paper towels, then wrap again in plastic wrap. After a couple of days, check the paper towels and change them. Depending on the type of herbs you have, they should last approximately one week this way.
Question: What are your favourite herbs and how do you store them?
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