Monday, December 18, 2006

A spicy life...

...gone awry.

Whilst perusing my latest issue of 'everyday FOOD', I came across an ad for McCormick spices. 'Get rid of your old spices' was the gist of the ad. I state the obvious, but 'Buy new spices' is the other half of the message.

The ad shows a picture of McCormick's 'old' packaging in the square-ish tins as well as a bottle of McCormick's with a 'Baltimore, MD.' on the label. OLD STUFF. At least 15 years old!

I went straightaway to the kitchen drawer where my spices/herbs are kept. Sure 'nuff, there were 6 tins of ancient McCormick's herb-spices in the mix! I'm happy to report, though - that I have NO jars with Baltimore, MD. on the label.

However.
Though I'm 'busted' as far as being one who keeps old spice TINS, rest assured that not all the spices therein are past the usable due date. I like the look of the old-style tins so much that I've refilled two of them in the past fifteen years: whole allspice and whole celery seed.

Hmmmmmm, the cardamom, turmeric and mace tins are indeed old, but still over half full...
[sniff]
Hmmmmmm....they still smell....spicy...
(to keep or not to keep?)
(how often do I actually use cardamom, turmeric and mace anyways?)
(though I am planning to cook more East Indian fare in the coming year....)
(trash 'em and start anew, then?)

Moral of story as interpreted by O Baffled One: buy the spices/herbs you need but don't use often in teeny tiny quantities from the bulk section of a food store. Forego any size of the packaged or bottled stuff if all you need is a pinch.

OOOOPS! Counterproductive advertising!

I'm taking the liberty of combining adverts here, but this post begs the question:
'What's in YOUR spice rack/ drawer/ cupboard?!?'

7 comments:

Conn said...

I too saw that ad and thought the same thing.
I have no old spices as I only keep about 10 at a time andd use them like crazy. Especially cumin!!!! I cannot keep enough of it.

baffle said...

Keeping a basic larder of 10 spices/herbs that are used 'like crazy' = you are the paragon of efficiency!

Inspiring suggestion!
In my never-ending pursuit of K.I.S.S., I really should follow suit - and narrow my own spicy choices down to the essential few.

I agree with you - cumin would also be a mainstay in my spice drawer. It was years before I finally realized that cumin was THE ingredient in Mexican dishes that I coveted (it's so aromatic and subtle in flavour), beyond any chili powder action. From that point on, I made sure to stock it and 'use it like crazy' too.

A new fave is garam masala!

justducky said...

what happens if you're not into cooking and your spices are old?
death to the dinner?

Anonymous said...

so i checked my cupboards and surprise surprise, no tins. no baltimore, md, plastic containers either! however, they are from some other city in md., from what year though? why don't they just print the expiration data on said containers of spices?
i can tell you what the oldest spice i have is, and i guess it's still good, is my saffron. i hate to use it cause it's so expensive....so why have it? i also have a quite old, glass jar of poultry seasoning. i used it once? maybe? then my next oldest spice is curry. i bought it to make curried chicken, but i'm the only one who liked it, so that recipe is now gone with the wind. i pretty much buy small jars of spices, and use them up, some more quickly than others, within a year's time. what's in the fridge, is more questionable! bottles of A-1 sauce or worstershire or salad dressing bought for a holiday party and never used until, the next holiday party. is that beyond it's prime? should it be given the heave-ho? will i give myself food poisoning if ingested? perhaps i should just follow the old rule that "they say"....when in doubt, throw it out!
hmmmm, that bottle of wine in the fridge, i think fermented into wine vinegar. :(

d

Conn said...

ok...i tried this yesterday and lost the post... an internal error it said.
I too discovered a few years ago that Cumin is THE ingredient in mexican cooking. To cook mexican food without it is a crime. I have also re-visited my cabinets to find the following spices... ok so I said I had 10... who's counting?
1. Cumin
2. Celery Salt
3. Cayenne Pepper
4. Garlic Salt / Powder
5. Rosemary
6. Ground Sage
7. Ginger
8. Mustard
9. Coriander
10. Cinammon
11. Nutmeg (whole)
12. Chili Powder
13. Curry Powder
14. Salt & Pepper

As for the Rosemary, I like to grind it up in a peppermill.. it really releases the flavor and no woody bits in your mouth. Try it!

Also... a few years ago, John and I got a spice pack from some firends that were really good. They were mostly combined spices and we went through them in about 3 months. They were by Penzey's Spices and the Bouquet garni was our favorite.

Conn

http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/shophome.html

baffle said...

you guyz are silly: posting the spices in your cabinet!
I adore youse!

You inspire me!
I have been looking in my spice drawer every day lately and deciding what stays and what should go. Nothing is tossed out - yet.

I get attached. Dang!

Good idea about grinding the rosemary! We have many a rosemary plant round here - grows like crazy and the deer don't eat it.
Sometimes I use it fresh, have also dried it. Never been a fan of the woody bits...

New fave spicy thing: the Lemon Pepper Grinder from Trader Joe's!
Fun, zesty, tasty.

baffle said...

Ai ya Conn!
How can you get through life w/o dried sweet basil and oregano in your larder?
BTW, thanks to your suggestion, I went to the website, ordered and received - a Penzey's catalog!

d, I think the A-1 should go. Ditto the salad dressing. The 'old' worchestershire may still be usable, though...

I too held on to a (tin) container of poultry seasoning for much too long before finally tossing it.

I've always been to cheap to get saffron or even real vanilla bean. What a treat that would be (think Xmas stocking next year). I do use ONLY pure vanilla extract (Watkins is my fave) in my baking.

Ye who does not cook/use herbs-spices: trash 'em!