Holiday Prep: Check That Spice Drawer

by | Oct 16, 2019 | Baking, Christmas, Cooking, Fall, Holiday, Spices | 2 comments

In the next two months, most of you will be hosting – or attending – gatherings of family and friends. Nearly every one of these events will involve food, some of it made by you. Now I know absolutely you want to bring something that will be flavorful. Of course this assumes that the herbs and spices you’re using will do the job.

When you make your famous broccoli-cheese casserole, make sure the seasoning is top notch. Don’t use old herbs or no one will eat it – except for the family dog, perhaps.

Just how old is that oregano you have tucked away on the kitchen shelf? Those decorative spice jars over the stove may look great, but do their contents taste great? All too often we buy spice jars, put them on the shelf and just assume they will do the job when the time comes. But like all foods, they break down and stop tasting good  when they are beyond their “Use By” date. Time for you to employ the Herb ‘n Cowgirl’s famous look-sniff-taste test to determine what to keep and what to toss out.

Look — Is the spice faded? Do the jar contents cake together when you shake the jar? Are there suspicious signs of insects (it happens, trust me)?

Sniff – Now open the jar. Can you smell the herb or spice? If there is no aroma, it’s probably missing the essential oils that provide scent and flavor. Time to get a fresh jar.

Taste – Take a small amount and taste it. If the distinctive flavor is still there, keep it. But if it tastes no better than dried grass, it won’t do anything for your foods.

Before you start your fall baking make sure the herbs and spices on your shelf are still flavorful by using my look-sniff-taste test. Don’t waste your time – and your ingredients – with less than flavorful spices.

Herbs and spices that fail this test are not worth keeping. Be ruthless. Throw them out and buy more. But how old is too old? According to the McCormick Spice Company, the average shelf life is:

  • Ground herbs and spices: 1-3 years
  • Whole herbs and spices: 4 years
  • Whole seeds:   3-4 years
  • Liquid extracts: 4 years
  • Seasoning blends: 1-2 years

These guidelines are for spices stored under perfect conditions, away from heat and light and in an airtight container. Spices that are too old or have not been stored properly won’t do their job. Buy replacements now to help you make tasty foods for the holidays.

2 Comments

  1. Diane S Clark

    I recently made a move. At that time, I decided to toss 90% of my herbs and spices and start over. Thankful that I did!

    Reply
    • Ann

      Good for you, Diane. Now you will have a new home with better food flavoring.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Top 10 Posts

New Ideas For Your 2022 Garden

New Ideas For Your 2022 Garden

Happy New Year! Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, may the coming year bring you many joyful moments. Of course I hope some of those happy times take place in and around gardens. To help you make this come true I've collected a few ideas to get you...

Caring For a Rosemary Holiday Bush

Caring For a Rosemary Holiday Bush

In recent years it’s been popular to borrow rosemary from the herb garden and shape it into a miniature Christmas tree. This is really no surprise because the essential oils in rosemary produce a scent similar to pine trees. Rosemary’s natural evergreen shape and dark...

Bogus Gardening Advice, Part II

Bogus Gardening Advice, Part II

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is my second helping of bogus garden hacks from an article I found online. The offending article was on one of those sites that claim to give the reader the “real facts” hitherto hidden from the average reader. It offered ten “gardening...

Bogus Gardening Advice, Part I

Bogus Gardening Advice, Part I

My beloved husband is always on the lookout for garden articles on the Internet that I might find interesting. Most of his discoveries are worthwhile. Recently however he forwarded a link to a page that had my blood boiling within minutes. The offending article was on...

Making a Rosemary Garland

Making a Rosemary Garland

With the cooling fall weather, herb gardeners are busy harvesting and prepping the garden for winter. This includes some trimming of the shrubs that may have exceeded their alloted space. If one of those shrubs is rosemary, don't toss the clipped branches. Instead...

Cinnamon Pecan Scones

Cinnamon Pecan Scones

Here in Texas the pecan tree is a native so nearly everyone has a source nearby for pecans. I the spirit of the Lone Star State here are some classic scones with cinnamon and pecan to add a flavor kick.

Adding Herbs to Tea

Adding Herbs to Tea

There's nothing quite as annoying to a confirmed tea lover as living in a Coffee Nation. Coffee is the default drink everywhere you go. This is never more obvious than when attending a banquet. Near the end of the meal, almost every waiter you see will be smiling and...

Snickerdoodles – the Original  and Five Variations

Snickerdoodles – the Original and Five Variations

Snickerdoodles contain cream of tartar, an item I never used in anything else. A little digging on the Internet revealed that cream of tartar was first discovered as a by-product of wine making. Crystals of cream of tartar (aka potassium bitartrate) form on...

Fall Garlic Planting – Do It Now!

Fall Garlic Planting – Do It Now!

By the end of October the gardening year is winding down to the quiet months of winter. There are a few tasks left to do but most gardeners are thinking fondly of the coming long winter's nap. But wait...there's just one more thing to plant. Now is the time to get...

Adding Herbs to a Fall Wreath

Adding Herbs to a Fall Wreath

At last, the grip of summer is loosening and the daytime highs are settling down. Next week I plan to bring out my fall swags and candles. The other day I was at my local craft store and bought a vine wreath to add to the fall decor. It's nice as-is but I just know I...

About Ann McCormick

I Believe

Books I Like