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Old 08-24-2021, 11:02 AM   #1
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How To Test What Something Tastes Like

Say I got a spice I never heard of, or did but never had any.

Some have said a wet piece of bread, I dunno about that.

For example, how does saffron taste ? I never had any but when I do get something I need to know how it tastes before I can use it.

So then what, a saltine cracker ? I think the salt would throw it off.

???

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Old 08-24-2021, 11:13 AM   #2
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Unless it's a hot pepper powder or flakes, I usually put a little on my hand a lick it. A lot of hot peppers and even some hot sauces, just taste hot if they aren't diluted. I will often mix some into some cream cheese and then taste it on a spoon. For a lot of herbs and spices, it would good to let it sit in the cream cheese to re-hydrate a bit. I bought some horseradish powder, because I can seldom find fresh horseradish around here. I tasted a bit on my finger. It didn't seem to have any flavour. I read that it needed to be mixed with water to "wake up". I mixed it with some water. Oh my! Now it had flavour and punch.

I suggest trying out with some herbs or spices that you already know. Then you can get an idea of how much the bread, cracker, cream cheese, or whatever changes or masks the flavour.
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Old 08-24-2021, 02:14 PM   #3
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A few years ago, a restaurateur friend of mine came back from NY with 26 different curry powders. Curry from the Caribbean, from Malaysia, from Sri Lanka, from Japan, from the UK, from Indonesia... every one different. " Prepare me a course of Curries of the World!" he said. Since spices tend to give up their flavour once heated, I did a test. Boiled up a few potatoes, and then simply stir-fried a bit of potato with the different curry powders. It worked, because I made plenty of notes to distinguish between one and another.
The same test would, Id imagine, be valid for spices. Herbs, Id suggest, need to be rehydrated (unless theyre fresh) before using.
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Old 08-24-2021, 08:00 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taxlady View Post
Unless it's a hot pepper powder or flakes, I usually put a little on my hand a lick it. A lot of hot peppers and even some hot sauces, just taste hot if they aren't diluted. I will often mix some into some cream cheese and then taste it on a spoon. For a lot of herbs and spices, it would good to let it sit in the cream cheese to re-hydrate a bit. I bought some horseradish powder, because I can seldom find fresh horseradish around here. I tasted a bit on my finger. It didn't seem to have any flavour. I read that it needed to be mixed with water to "wake up". I mixed it with some water. Oh my! Now it had flavour and punch...
Another thing about spices, and many other foods, as well, is that many of the flavor compounds are oil soluble, so you'll get different flavors when you cook them in oil, than when cooked in water. This is why many Indian dishes are finished with a tarka - often called tempering - which is a very quick process, cooking spices (some of them sometimes added early in the dish, as well), and often curry leaves, in a small amount of oil, and this is added to the dish at the end, giving a totally different flavor than if these spices were simply added at the beginning, and simmered. I have a very small pot that I use almost exclusively for this process.
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Old 08-24-2021, 08:15 PM   #5
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I agree that hydrating, and heating are required. Cook something bland, like long grain rice. Don't season the rice, but taste it as a benchmark. Add bit of your new herb/spice to it. Stir it in well, and let it sit for ten to fifteen minutes, to let the new herb/spice release its flavor. Carefully observe how much you add, and how strongly it affects the rice. For instance, the saffron you mentioned is very strong, and expensive. Just a single stamen is enough to impart a golden color, and lots of flavor to a cup, or two of rice. Dried parsley, on the other hand, has very little flavor. The same is true of dried cilantro.

Most spices are very flavorful in dried form. Many herbs are too. However, other herbs are very flavorful when fresh, but have very little flavor when dried.

One thing I did when I first started learning to cook was to purchase a bunch of herbs, and spices that were new to me. Once a day, I would open each container, one at a time, with my eyes closed, and smell it. Then I would try to identify the the herb/spice. I did this until I got good at it. Now, as hers, and spices give a lot of there flavor through the olfactory senses, I can eat something new to me, and roll it around in my mouth for a bit, letting the aroma fill my sinuses. Then, I can usually identify the herbs/spices used to make the dish.

I know, long post. That's why I'm called Chief Longwind of the North.

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Old 08-24-2021, 08:33 PM   #6
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I have read that you should soak saffron in warm water before using it. I have never tried that.
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Old 08-24-2021, 08:46 PM   #7
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I have read that you should soak saffron in warm water before using it. I have never tried that.
Ive used it soaked in a little milk, rather than water; although I dont know why exactly.
Ive also used it in Indian cookery, just toasted in a large serving spoon before adding it to the dish.
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Old 08-24-2021, 11:51 PM   #8
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Yes, saffron needs to be infused in water before use, like tea.
Indian spices need to be toasted before grinding, or if used whole (such as cumin, coriander or fennel), tempered in oil in order to bring out the flavours.

So, when I make a curry, first I sizzle the whole cumn seeds in oil until thny darken lightly, then add the onions etc.
Ground garam or other masala goes in after the onions are soft. Otherwise, the powdered spices might burn.
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Old 08-25-2021, 06:25 AM   #9
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Should be a book

This thread should be a book!

Everyone's advise is great!

I just need to remember when needed.
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