Are my spices too old?

I originally posted this back in 2009 in Al-Abode, but I feel it was worth posting again. This is my favorite time of the year to cook and try out new recipes. I can already smell the earthy flavors of the fresh roots roasting in the oven and the ambrosial aroma that spices can bring out from any dish. To prepare for this coming feast, I decided to re-organize my spices and in the process I started questioning the freshness of some of my bottled friends. I bought some of these spices when the Spice Girls were coming out with their first album--OK, I had to mention the Spice Girls somehow, forgive me.

I consulted the McCormick's site, they had some good tips to determine if you must edit your spices and replace them. To remember these tips think CASH (after all it cost some cash to replace spices)--Color, Aroma, Storage and Humidity. Here is the run down in my own words,

Color: Check to see that the color of your spices and herbs is vibrant. Pastels are not vibrant colors, I don't care what Martha says. If the color has faded, so has the sass--kind of the highlights on your hair. No color, toss. (of course, if the spice is cream or light to begin with, use your intuition)

Aroma: Rub or crush the spice or herb in your hand, smell it. (You can follow this rule in dating as well). If the aroma is weak and flavor is not apparent, toss it.

Storage: Store herbs and spices in a tightly capped container, and keep away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight. There were wars fought over spices and expensive enterprises were device just for spices - Columbus' journey, any one?  Spices are expensive, spend some time and effort in keeping them in the proper container. If you haven't stored the spices properly, chances are they need to be replaced.

Handling: Try not to sprinkle spices and herbs directly from the bottle into a steaming pot. OK, I do this all the time. Repeated exposure to heat and moisture will ruin the whole thing - think about the hair analogy again. Measure them into a cup, measuring spoon, or bowl and then add to your recipe. If the spice is moist, it needs to be tossed.

While doing my research, I found this very useful picture:

Determine if your spice needs replacement
Determine if your spice needs replacement

I love how Vanilla extract lasts "indefinitely"...guys, take note: diamonds may last forever, but vanilla smells better!

Have fun cleaning up your spices and if you have any questions let me know.

Posted on January 29, 2011 and filed under cooking, Organization.