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Old 02-03-2019, 01:36 PM   #1
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Storing herbs and spices

The discussions on the "Who needs spices?" thread made me start one on this topic, and made me think of a lot of things I do to extend the life of spices. It also made me remember setting up my kitchen (in '84!), and thinking, "where am I going to put all of those spices, so I can easily get to them?" This was way before I got into Indian, and other types of cooking that have a lot of spices, yet I still had way too many to stick on those turntables in the cupboards, and I hated those things, anyway!

So I used one of the drawers in a cabinet, and labeled the tops of the jars (I had saved those jars for years, when emptied). To make it easier to locate things, I highlighted them - herbs green, sweet spices orange, and others yellow. A lot are blue now, but I have to relabel those. Took about 2 years to totally fill this - now there's another drawer, plus 4 labeled boxes, for Indian, but these are the ones used for most things:
Spice drawer by pepperhead212, on Flickr

To keep things fresh, I do two things - freeze and foodsaver (my slang for vac/pack). Before I had a foodsaver, I froze most things, and put enough in the jars to last 3-6 months. For some things, this was a small amount, others, the jar could be filled. The ones I don't use much of, I put in those small jars I would get freebies in from Penzey's; I use those for spice mixes I will use slowly. For freezing, things like cinnamon, cloves, and other potent spices of which the aroma permeates the plastic bags, I'd keep in jars, with rubber seals, and the bags around them, in a large box in the freezer.

Now, I don't keep as much in the freezer - only ground spices (in foodsaver bags), and things like saffron and blades of mace, that I don't that often. The whole spices and herbs I foodsaver, and they keep very well, and I store them in an 18 gal tub in the basement. I have three 2 gal ziplocs labeled Misc. Spices, Indian Spices, and Herbs. Easy to locate something, when I have to refill a jar.
Here are some foodsavered spices, from the Misc. bag:
Foodsavered spices by pepperhead212, on Flickr

(When I took this photo, I noticed some things that I have to toss! Mostly freebies, but some that I just stopped using way back.)

It's easy to refill from those bags - I just snip the corner off one, and pour it into a jar through the small opening. Then, I re-foodsaver it, and put it back away.

One thing I do with frozen spices, though this might be unnecessary, esp. in the winter, is let it come to room temp, before snipping the bag, and refilling the jar. If the humidity is high, as in the summer, condensation could occur on the spices, though, again, this is probably just OCD!

I remember when I started cooking, it seemed that I would have to increase the spices in many recipes, for it to taste right. I thought it was because I just wanted things to taste stronger. It wasn't until years later, when shopping in NYC, at "The Spice Shop", where I got fresher spices than I had ever found, and I didn't have to double the cinnamon in a recipe any longer! Cayenne pepper (the only hot pepper I had back then), that's another story...

For years after that, a bulk spice and tea shop in the Italian Market in Philly was my source for spices. Sadly, it closed, but shortly after that, the only sources started up!

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Old 02-03-2019, 01:51 PM   #2
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That's really quite impressive Dave.

If I had available drawers I'd do the same as the top picture, and would go so far as to alphabetize them. Your printing is a lot better than mine though.
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Old 02-03-2019, 03:06 PM   #3
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Another thing that I forgot about, until I opened a cabinet, and saw my package of these things - oxygen adsorbers. I use these occasionally in spices - usually ones that I rarely open, but I want to keep some of it out of the freezer, like the saffron. They remain active for a long time, since there is little O2 in the jar, but this is adsorbed many times after closing it, and the oxidation of the flavor components is greatly reduced. Besides herbs and spices losing aromatic compounds, oxidation is another cause of their loss of flavor.

These O2 adsorbers are something you have to store in a vac pack. I originally got a pack of 250 of them really cheap, and when I first opened it, they started warming up! So I took out a couple, and re-vacuum packed it. I just take out what I need (I use them mostly for jars with grains and legumes), and reseal it.
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Old 02-03-2019, 03:31 PM   #4
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Quote:
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...If I had available drawers I'd do the same as the top picture, and would go so far as to alphabetize them...
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Old 02-03-2019, 03:34 PM   #5
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I moved my cooking spoons and rubber scrapers and such to a big pitcher on my counter just so I could put my short jars in a drawer. All of my bigger containers ate in the cupboard above.
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Old 02-03-2019, 04:18 PM   #6
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Good job on the drawer CG, but I'd need bigger labels for these eyes.



A long time ago we had a thread with pictures of all of our cupboards of spices but I can't find it now. Maybe you can.
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Old 02-03-2019, 04:49 PM   #7
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I have a corner kitchen cabinet with a three level Lazy Susan where I keep the majority of my spices. They are, of course, arranged alphabetically. I also have a spice annex in the basement storage area where I keep overflow and less frequently used spices. I’m fortunate in that I have a penzeys store close by and I can go shopping there periodically to refill my supplies.
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Old 02-03-2019, 05:08 PM   #8
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Considering my nature, my tool cabinet and my pantry are pretty well organized. Not in alphabetic order, but my spices are on a rack that I built, my salts are all together on one shelf, as are all of my oils. Pastas, beans, and other canned goods are all grouped together.

Whether I am cooking, or working on my car, I can walk to a spot, and immediately find what I need. If some of you recall, I recently lost my wallet for three days -- in my house. So, my tool cabinet and pantry are a major accomplishment for me.

Back before I organized my pantry, I was always buying things I already had, because I thought I was out of them. When you get to four jars of the same spice, you have a pantry epiphany. Now, if it ain't where it is supposed to be, I am actually out of it.

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Old 02-03-2019, 07:06 PM   #9
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CD, Your mention of having 4 containers of the same spice reminded me of another thing that I do - I keep an inventory of all of the extra spices I have. I also ended up with too many of the same spice, before beginning the inventory.
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Old 02-03-2019, 07:19 PM   #10
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CD, Your mention of having 4 containers of the same spice reminded me of another thing that I do - I keep an inventory of all of the extra spices I have. I also ended up with too many of the same spice, before beginning the inventory.
I was an art major in college. Keeping an inventory of anything would make my head explode. Writing out a shopping list is a real achievement for me.

I am glad I finally organized my pantry. And, I've kept it organized for over a year. Amazing!

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