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Old 10-13-2013, 11:22 PM   #1
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Bulk herbs and spices==Hello, help?

in honor of bulk foods week, my food delivery place is offering a sale on their newly expanded line of bulk organic herbs, spices, grains, etc.

i have not bought herbs and spices in bulk before, but would like to take this opportunity to expand my limited 'spice rack', and perhaps replace some prehistoric and/or inferior spices with fresh ground/crushed/chopped organic product.

here is a list of the spices i am considering: (they are all priced at $.20/Tbsp.)
coriander, cumin seed, curry blend, ginger, parsley, rosemary, turmeric.

1. which of these spices is a good buy, or not?
2. does it make sense to buy m/l than, say, 4Tbsp my first time out?
3. should i be adding other common spices to my list e.g.--basil, oregano, thyme, paprika, garlic, chili, etc...
4. what is the best type of container for my new spices?

if anyone is still with me after this long, convoluted query, i would appreciate whatever advice or suggestions you might have....

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Old 10-13-2013, 11:37 PM   #2
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Yes, that is a good price for the powders, a bit iffy on the herbs that are bulkier and weigh less. They should be selling by pound, not tablespoon.
I only buy what I am going to use in a few weeks, no long term storage.
Yes, on the ground ones if you are going to be using them in the next few weeks.
Glass jars with tightly fitting lids. I emptied out my old spices and kept the jars.
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Old 10-13-2013, 11:47 PM   #3
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Yes, that is a good price for the powders, a bit iffy on the herbs that are bulkier and weigh less. They should be selling by pound, not tablespoon.
I only buy what I am going to use in a few weeks, no long term storage.
Yes, on the ground ones if you are going to be using them in the next few weeks.
Glass jars with tightly fitting lids. I emptied out my old spices and kept the jars.
well, this is not good. why can the ground spices not be kept for extended periods of time, like my other store brand spices and herbs, pf?
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Old 10-14-2013, 12:29 AM   #4
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Ground spices lose their volatile oils (flavor) quickly once ground. They need to be kept in a cool dark place to keep them a bit longer. Some you can coax back to life if you toast them lightly in a tiny bit of oil. I still save money on spices, even buying them every few weeks. Once I decide on what I am cooking, I list the spices I will need and go get them from the bulk bins. The store I go to keeps an "open" date on their jars, so I can tell how long they have been on the shelf. I then put the same open date on my jars with a grease pen.
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Old 10-14-2013, 02:18 AM   #5
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Actually, the Penzeys catalog has a column on page 3(?) that says you can keep spices for a year. They reason that since the plants are processed only once during the year it's not necessary to replace properly stored herbs or spices more often than they are processed. I store mine in glass bottles in a cupboard not over the stove and I've had great success with viable spices. Even better, if I buy something in bulk at Penzeys (4 oz. or more bag) I keep it in its original bag down in the basement, away from windows or heat such as the furnace or hot water tank. Whenever I fill the upstairs bottles I'm doing the "sniff test" and rarely have to pitch anything before it's used up.

If you feel like playing with numbers and weights you could always take a spice you have (say basil) and measure out how many tablespoons you get in an ounce, then use the price off the Penzeys website to compare to the local bulk store.

I'd say if it's a spice or herb you use frequently you probably won't go wrong with a good amount of that item. Since you're expanding your palate we'd better see some interesting dinner plans showing up in the "What's for Dinner" threads early this week!
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Old 10-14-2013, 06:23 AM   #6
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I keep some of mine over a year without a noticeable flavor loss. When you buy in bulk to save on shipping you can only use them up so fast. Admittedly, the basil isn't what it used to be.

Sorry I can't help you out, Vit. Buying herbs and spices is always a task for me. I seem to get on a specific herb or spice kick and blow through the ones I should have bought more of while the others sit.
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Old 10-14-2013, 07:34 AM   #7
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I wish I had a Penzey's I could shop at.
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Old 10-14-2013, 07:56 AM   #8
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I buy a lot of my spices at the Bulk Barn. Herbs I usually use fresh and keep pots of the herbs I use most often either on the deck in the summer or the house in the winter. I tend not to use a lot of dried herbs. I buy fresh herbs and dry those, but not large quantities.

Like PF, I buy what I will use in a reasonable amount of time (thyme?). I store fenugreek seeds in the freezer because they go rancid and I don't use fenugreek that often. Having said that, curry powder that includes fenugreek can also go off, so I would store it in the freezer except that I use up curry powder fairly quickly (a friend blends her own and shares with me).
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Old 10-14-2013, 08:35 AM   #9
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Hi, vit. Spices - seeds, berries, bark, etc. - will keep best whole, so I would buy cumin and dill seed, whole nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, etc. You can grind these in a spice grinder or dedicated coffee grinder as needed. Woody herbs dry well and the whole leaves maintain more flavor than powders - thyme, rosemary, sage, bay and oregano. I crumble these when I use them to release more flavor. Soft herbs like parsley and basil aren't worth the money when they're dried, imo. These I grow or buy fresh and freeze in ice cube trays when I have extra.

The only time I use dry ginger is in pumpkin pie. Otherwise, fresh ginger kept in a jar of sherry or rice vinegar will keep practically forever and has much better flavor.

Think in terms of the types of cuisine you like to make. If Mexican, get Mexican oregano, cumin and chili powder. If you make rubs or seasoning blends, get garlic and onion powder and other seasonings you want to include.

20 cents per tbsp. seems like a good deal, although a weird measurement. Glass jars with tight-fitting lids are the best way to keep them. My brother gave me a set of Penzey's herbs and spices for Christmas one year and I just recycle those jars and others I already had. I replace my herbs annually; spices I sometimes keep longer, depending on what they are, how they smell, and whether I have used much of them. Hope this helps.
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Old 10-14-2013, 11:31 AM   #10
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I find that cinnamon is really hard to grind to a fine powder, so I keep some ground cinnamon. I also keep the sticks.

I re-use spice jars. I also save small glass jars, like from Dijon and capers for herbs & spices.
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Old 10-14-2013, 12:27 PM   #11
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Caper jars, good call.
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Old 10-14-2013, 04:11 PM   #12
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You can shop Penzey's on line - https://www.penzeys.com/

Free shipping with $30 purchase. I usually have trouble keeping it down to JUST $30, LOL!

However some spices such as cumin, coriander, etc can be had much more cheaply and just as fresh at an Indian grocery, should you have one near you. Most mid-sized cities have at least one. Here's one online resource to find an Indian grocer near you:

India Grocery Stores in US, Indian Grocers in United States, USA, Video DVD Rentals, Desi Shop

Google for others.
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Old 10-14-2013, 04:13 PM   #13
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I re-use spice jars. I also save small glass jars, like from Dijon and capers for herbs & spices.
I used to love saving baby food jars, but the new ones don't have screw on lids anymore. They have some weird plastic gasket and the lid basically presses on. I don't trust them! I was sooo sad when I bought some baby food recently just to get the jars and discovered this!
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Old 10-14-2013, 05:00 PM   #14
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Penzey's sells empty jars, too: Spices at Penzeys Spices Glass Jars
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Old 10-14-2013, 05:05 PM   #15
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Tho harder to buy now, I use those Ziplock quart vacuum bags, fill it with bulk spice or herbs and then vacuum seal it, and store it in the fridge.
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Old 10-14-2013, 07:46 PM   #16
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I know all about Penzey's, I just don't use it up fast enough. Buying what I need a few weeks at a time works for me.
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Old 10-14-2013, 09:02 PM   #17
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If you have a Whole Foods near you check out their bulk herbs/ spices. Prices per pound may look like a lot $$, but you probably only need an ounce or less and then it's less than a dollar, and far less than jarred spices in the grocery aisle and far more fresher.
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Old 10-14-2013, 09:07 PM   #18
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I'm a jar hoarder, save everything from mustard to caper jars. What I like about Penzey's packaging is that you can easily peel the labels off their package and attach it to whatever jar you might use.
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Old 10-15-2013, 03:54 PM   #19
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I keep some of mine over a year without a noticeable flavor loss. When you buy in bulk to save on shipping you can only use them up so fast. Admittedly, the basil isn't what it used to be.

Sorry I can't help you out, Vit. Buying herbs and spices is always a task for me. I seem to get on a specific herb or spice kick and blow through the ones I should have bought more of while the others sit.


+ 1. Applies to me too. I buy most of my herbs and spices in Sam's club in those big containers, here is a picture of one of them: http://www.samsclub.com/sams/mccormick-reg-ground-cinnamon-18-oz/155801.ip, using this just as an example. Some of the stuff I buy and use more, some has been seating on the shelf for a while. The stuff that I do not use a lot also means that I am not crazy about or simply not very accustom to it, so I do not notice the big difference from time to time I use it.
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Old 10-15-2013, 03:59 PM   #20
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I have a few of those big jars of spices. The town grocer had some and they were very reasonable.
I'm using red pepper, cumin and red pepper flakes from probably four-five years ago and just starting to get down towards the bottom of the jar, but they all still taste fine to me. Nothing using a bit more wouldn't fix anyway.
That probably means when I get around to needing more cumin to go easy on it, as it will be stronger than I am used to.
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