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Old 06-21-2010, 11:11 AM   #11
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I agree with GB.

It's freshness that matters above all else.

I only shop at Penzey's and Spice House because you are guaranteed a fresh and outstanding product.

And it's reasonably priced, too.
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Old 06-21-2010, 12:23 PM   #12
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While I do love Penzey's, there's absolutely nothing wrong with buying name brands at your grocery store. "Spice House" & "McCormack's" are perfectly fine brands to purchase. In fact, I buy large containers of McCormack's dried oregano, granulated garlic, & Telicherry Black Peppercorns at CostCo all the time. Quality is top-notch.
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Old 06-21-2010, 12:29 PM   #13
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I have a friend that works for a spice company that you likely haven't herd of but have probably had.

They take the same garlic powder and put the store brand on it and the name brand on it from the same barrel. They package a lot of the name brands people use, even some you might not suspect.

Oddly he always smells weird.
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Old 06-21-2010, 12:47 PM   #14
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I avoid buying anything online. I was raised to buy local, especially when economic times are tough. It helps with the local tax base.
I've been to some food manufacturing places and they've showed us how the same stuff goes into different packaging for the store brands.
Except graham crackers... man the store brand I've gotten tastes like cardboard!
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Old 06-21-2010, 12:56 PM   #15
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We make a yearly pilgrimage to a Penzy's store about an hour away which keeps us in good shape most of the year. For fill in's I generally get McCormick in the small plastic bottles or Spice Island. Locally, Spice Island is super expensive, but I've never had a problem with the quality.
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Old 06-21-2010, 01:02 PM   #16
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Ethnic markets are your best source for both freshness and price for the spices of those regions. They have the highest turnover, so their stock is freshest.

Spices that come in tins in supermarkets.... you don't want to know what is in those cans bsides the spices! They are allowed a certain ppm number of "other things" like rodent hairs or bugs! Besides, there's no real way to know how long those cans have been sitting on the shelves, or the warehouses before that.

If you don't live in an area where you can get to a good fresh source for dried spices and herbs, then online purchasing from a reputable source is your best bet. Buy only what you think you can use within 6 months. Things change after that. (Of course you can always share with family and friends ). And if you store your herbs and spices next to the stove or other heat source, their shelf life will be even less than 6 months. The heat will dry them out and change their character significantly.

I have had folks argue with me about these, but I know from experience of which I speak.

Penzey's, Spice House, Kalustyan's are all reputable on-line sources. I shop at Vanns. If you live in the Baltimore area, I th ink you can go to their location.
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Old 06-21-2010, 01:29 PM   #17
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Spices do not age well. Once they start to lose their potency due to age they decline quickly and quite hard. You end up with sawdust tasting spices. The mass markets spices you find in the supermarket can be OK, but the problem with them generally is that they can be quite old and thus have lost a lot of their potency. it is kind of a crap shoot. You may get some fresh stuff or you may get some stuff that is older than you. You just never know.

Places like Penzys and most ethnic markets do a lot of business in spices so their inventory turns over quickly. Because of that the spices are usually pretty fresh and potent.

I am a Penzys fanatic. I have never bought something there that I was unhappy with. And I find their prices better than the sprices in my supermarket. Of course I end up buying much more at Penzys then I would at the market so i do spend more money in the long run, but boy is it worth it to me.
I think that the shelf time on spices is at least as important as brand. Another reason for specialty stores like Penzys. Some of the more unusual spices on the supermarket shelves have been there a while.

I also tend to buy whole instead of ground and grind small quantities myself in the mortar and pestle. It is somewhat tedious, but the taste is much better.

I agree with the bulk spices in ethnic markets. You can buy as little or as much as you want, and the quality is much better.
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Old 06-21-2010, 01:54 PM   #18
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I use a clean coffee grinder (dedicated for spices) to grind my whole spices. It's a lot easier than pounding in a mortar with a pestle, and a lot less flies around the kitchen...
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Old 06-21-2010, 03:02 PM   #19
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I use a clean coffee grinder (dedicated for spices) to grind my whole spices. It's a lot easier than pounding in a mortar with a pestle, and a lot less flies around the kitchen...
Can't disagree with the coffee grinder. I hate to clean the things. Someone should make a grinder that will disassemble for cleaning. The same applies with whole bean coffee, If you grind one type, then switch. The difference is detectable.
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Old 06-21-2010, 03:06 PM   #20
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Can't disagree with the coffee grinder. I hate to clean the things. Someone should make a grinder that will disassemble for cleaning. The same applies with whole bean coffee, If you grind one type, then switch. The difference is detectable.
Speaking of, how DO you clean those things out? The only thing I've found that has sorta worked is rubbing the inside with a damp paper towel..
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