So, way back in February, I did a post called the Country Pantry, which gave you an idea of the foods I regularly keep in my pantry. Now, I’m on to the spice rack. Let’s talk spices just a minute. Spices rapidly lose their intensity and flavor in light, which is why most people keep them in the cabinet. They also don’t need to be exposed to too much heat, so don’t park them right next to your stove, either. Ideally, your spices should be no more than 6 months to a couple of years old. (why can I hear some of you laughing?) After that, their flavor starts to go downhill. Now, of course, we have no way of knowing how old they were to begin with, in the store, right? Just to add to the confusion.
About 4 years ago, I began buying my spices in bulk at a local natural foods store. I cannot tell you how big of a difference that makes! I have actually read where some published ‘foodies’ have said that they buy those 50 cent (to a dollar) spices you find on the bottom shelf at WalMart, because it doesn’t make a difference. Now, it may not make a difference if you are buying Great Value spices, but there is a HUGE difference in these fresh, bulk spices and GV brand stuff. The chili powder is soooo strong, it makes you long for enchiladas and chili. The cumin makes you drool. So, I’m just telling you there’s a difference. Also, did I mention that it is so much cheaper to buy in bulk? You aren’t paying for packaging, so you are just paying pennies for this stuff.
Also, people, STOP buying pre-ground pepper. I would like to slap the fool who came up with that! There is NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING like fresh ground pepper. All other pepper should be deemed illegal. If you want to be cheap (like me), go to the McCormick section, buy a little $2 pepper grinder (complete with peppercorns), and when it’s empty, have your husband wrestle off the top so you can refill it with fresh peppercorns. It can be done. I have refilled mine twice now. I admit I can’t rip the top off myself though. If you love pepper, go with peppercorns. I promise you, you will not regret it.
Also, pass on the garlic salt/onion salt/etc. It’s so easy to make this at home, and they charge you an arm and leg for these specialty items. (ok, maybe $3 isn’t an arm and leg, but if you already have the ingredients, might as well make your own, right?)
I save my old spice jars (especially glass ones…I’m trying to get away from plastics), and just refill those with the bulk spices. I know approximately how much I use in a couple of month’s time and buy accordingly. We fly through cumin, garlic powder, and chili powder around here so I go through a good amount of that. I store everything on a double stacked ‘lazy susan’ in my cabinet.
As a final note, here’s another reason to avoid certain spices. Salmonella sickened over 250 people after they ingested a certain brand of salami which happened to be seasoned with pepper that contained salmonella. So, I am wary of cheap-o spices. I’m not sure if those spices were even available to the public, but still. I pay attention to where the spices are manufactured.
My Little Country’s Spice Rack:
Salt (sea, iodized, and pickling)
peppercorns and grinder
celery salt (I loooove celery salt, wonderful in chicken salads)
celery seed (great in cole slaw)
paprika (another spice that is waaaaay better fresh)
mustard seed (used in pickling)
ground turmeric (mostly used in pickling)
ground ginger (for stir fry sauce…I could get away with about a teaspoon a year)
Knorr chicken bouillon/beef bouillon (I use the kind found in the Mexican food section. It is in powder form..who wants to screw with those blasted cubes???)
crushed red pepper
Zatarain’s/Tony Chachere’s cajun spice
That’s just about it for spices. I also have a product called Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up salt, and it is delicious! I am sure if I tinkered enough, I could make it, but….nah. It’s good on everything and the salt is flaked, which I really like.
Now, here’s a word on poultry seasoning and pickling spice. Don’t go into the store come Thanksgiving or Christmas and expect to find any poultry seasoning. Likewise, don’t go into the store in summer and expect to find pickling spice. Good luck. So, I am warning you NOW, when October comes, run out and snatch up some poultry seasoning (which around here, we use to season our dressin’ with…we don’t have stuffing, we have dressin’). It is also good to use if you ever make sausage, because it has quite a lot of sage in it.
The pickling spice will go on sale probably around September or October, so gear up for next year’s pickling season soon! Don’t be one of those women, such as my old self, who would go looking in vain for some dadgum, stupid poultry seasoning and NO STORE HAS ANY. Well, that was actually before I discovered the health food store, but still.
Now, let’s talk spice mixes. I have been making my own taco seasoning for the past couple of years and it’s delicious and so easy to make. I saved a tiny jelly jar to keep it in. Here’s the recipe. I double it, but really need to quadruple it, honestly. You can do that very easily with allrecipe’s serving size calculator. I also had, for quite a while Paula Deen’s House Seasoning. If you can’t find Jane’s Krazy Salt, here’s a super easy recipe for a great, all-around seasoning for everything:
Mix together, put in a little glass container, and there ya go.
Now, let me also mention using fresh herbs, too. In my garden, I try to keep rosemary, parsley, cilantro, dill, oregano, majoram, thyme, and tarragon going. Then I just walk out the back door and snip what I need. You just can’t beat the flavor of fresh herbs.
Lastly, here is a good guide to storing spices in your home. Bon appetit!
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