Getting the Most Out of Your Spices

All cooks have their own secret ways to make the dish special. This time of the year, we are using spices that may have not been even thought of in 10-12 months. Bottles of spices that make everyone's dishes a little bit different probably have been on a shelf waiting to be used again.

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You may have heard spices are only "good" for six months. I believe this is not true. They have been dried and can be used for up to a year (sometimes more). So never buy the biggest container if it's used only a couple times a year. One reason things may not have that familiar flavor is the spices are old. I have saved so much money buying mine in whatever form they may come in at the 99 Cent store.

Being dried is a way of preserving them. It also makes the "bang" go to what I call asleep. They are easily woken up, if you simply put the spices in palm of your hand, instead of putting them directly onto meat or into a dish. Rub the spice for several seconds. If adding 2 or more like I do, you can put them all together and rub them back to life for a minute or so. The friction of heat caused by your rubbing them brings back what has been sleeping. You will notice the smell come to life. Sounds funny but in layman's terms that is what has happened.

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My other trick with using spices that may be older (never know how long they have been dried) is to add a fresh anything to preparing your dish or meat. Even chopping parsley into very small bits makes the dried spices come alive; being more potent.

Cloves or cilantro works well also. It does not have to be part of the dish. You use a small amount so that fresh ingredient doesn't take over the seasoning blend you desire to have. After you do this, all of the other spices will come back to life with the smell, which is why we use spices.

If what you are cooking calls for garlic or onion, that also works if added to spice. If it calls for dried celery, onion flakes or garlic, etc., use a small amount of fresh of these. It will have same result not costing you a bunch of money.

Spices can be expensive, so I just could not throw away a half used container when this simple solution prolongs the life of any spice. Make sure you taste it. With chilies, some bring heat while others have a more smokey flavor. If spice is old, this may have changed a bit. You can make up for that before putting in your favorite dish.

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This year I have noticed you can buy citrus zest where we get all of our spices. If it calls for a lot of this, buying the container is good. If not, use the fresh zest off of the citrus. Using the juices of it to add a little something extra to the sauce or gravy. No need to waste, add it to a glass of water. Tastes great!

Cooking is trying new things. So save a bit of money on your spices or watch how they suddenly have that desired taste you remember.

Source: My grandma, like almost everything I know. Living in the South, I became accustomed to hot and spicy since while still loving that. Spices we use before adding the heat is what makes everyone dishes have a signature.

By Luana M. from San Diego, CA

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February 3, 20130 found this helpful

I store all my herbs and spice in the freezer, all marked carefully. I have a huge herb garden, when it comes to Winter Cooking, I have all the things I don't have to buy at the store.

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Whether fresh or store bought, date the package, and store in fridge or freezer. What herbs I don't grow, I buy at farmer's markets or co-ops. And if available bulk and dried, I get a quart to gallon zip bag full. I transfer to glass canning jars for the storage.
Remember to rotate your herbs. I have many mixtures of different herbs to use from soups, to meats as rubs or enhancement of flavors.

I am currently cooking for Ash Wednesday at church (200 servings) and all my flavorings went on the turkey as it cooks, nothing goes in soup. I used 11 different herbs/spices, popped into a blender/bullet to grind to powder, and infused many ways on the 23 lb turkey. I make turkey roll out noodle soup each year.
With the spices on the turkey, and when done, I carefully pull all the skin and bones away from the meat, drop into water to boil flavors off again.

Again, using the cheap and healthy ingredients instead of salt filled bought ones.

You can restore some older spices/herbs to usable state by soaking in EVOO or sesame seed oil and use all in cooking item.

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