I don't post much about cooking here on the blog but I do quite a lot of it. We are a family that eats together at home each night and that means a meal to please a family. And while Mr. Brown is actually quite a good cook, the kitchen is most often my domain. For me, it's important to have a variety of herbs and spices available. Many times I use a recipe but often I wing it. Just as important, is having spices that taste good! I've never had a spice go "bad" on me, but I have kept some well-past when they actually added any flavor to the food.
The key when checking your spices for quality is to actually LOOK at them and TASTE them. I have been known to sprinkle a bit of something on a spoon and taste it directly.
McCormick has a simple chart that breaks it down. In addition to giving the basic breakdown on how long spices will last they also provide tips on checking color and aroma and how best to store and handle them to retain their freshness.
If you don't like keeping ground spices around the house in full jars because you don't use them often enough, there are a few things you can do.
1. Buy whole spices and grind them yourself. A coffee grinder works well for this.
2. Try the new McCormick Recipe Inspirations packages of pre-measured spices. I have not tried these yet (I tend to cook enough to buy full bottles!) but it's a great idea. I think I'd like to try the Asian Sesame Salmon. (Thanks to reader Valerie for this great tip!)
If you love spices and want some fabulous high-quality additions to your cupboard, check out the great selection from Penzeys. We are fortunate enough to have one of their actual store-fronts just a few miles away and going in there is heavenly. There are so many wonderful aromas to take in and you can really see and smell the difference in the different varieties.
Personally, I have a set of their glass jars on my wish list along with the Pasta & Salad Seasonings Gift Crate! (*hints for anyone who'd like to buy me gifts!*)
Finally, I know you just read this and you're thinking "Hmmm.... just how old IS that jar of oregano in my pantry?" I can't answer that. But I can tell you that when you buy a NEW jar put the date on the bottom with a permanent marker (or a little sticky label if you have reusable glass jars). Then when you check your cabinets the next time you'll know if that jar is 6 months or 6 years old.