Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What To Do with Old Spices

Throw them out.  There's nothing thrifty to do with them, and it's false economy to save them and hope they have flavor when, actually, they don't.

To wit:  this is supposed to be cardamom naan (naan is a yeasted Indian flatbread).  I adore cardamom.  I keep a little bag, tightly sealed in two layers of platic, in the freezer for the rare occasions I need its unique flavor.  Apparently it was older than I realized.  The recipe called for 1/4 tsp. and I added over a teaspoon of my cardamom.  I was so sad:  there was not even a whiff of cardamom in the finished naan!

I went through the rest of my stored spices and herbs relentlessly.  They either reside in a dark cupboard, tightly sealed, or in the freezer as I mentioned.  I threw out anything tasteless, and I have a few that I'm planning to test in cooking before I throw out.

Makes an excellent argument for shopping at my little herb shop with my little containers!  What good are bulk spices and herbs if they go tasteless before I can use them all?  Thrifty cooking that uses up odds and ends needs to handle flavors cleverly, so I'm going to be careful to have really flavorful herbs and spices on hand.


BLD in MT said...

We use rather small containers. I guess its helped prevent this problem, though I'm sure I have to go to the shop to refill more often. Only a few heavy use spice do we fill in larger jars.

That's a bummer about the naan though. It can be such a let down when things you're looking forward to are lackluster.

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

I have the same problem..Even buying spices/herbs in small containers.. They will loose the flavor, before I can use them up.. Because some spices I use so rarely..
I am one of those people who hate to throw them out.. so sad.ha

Unknown said...

I buy all my spices in bulk as needed, with a little xtra, so they stay fresh. Cheaper and no dull tastes!

Hazel said...

I try not to buy too many different herbs and spices. The temptation to buy another type for a particular recipe can mean you end up with a shelf wedged full of spices you used once.

I try now to just stick to the ones I know I'm going to use regularly (so absolutely no dried basil in my cupboard!).

One year my eldest daughter made a Christmas potpourri for her teachers and along with pinecones and cinnamon sticks we used old spices like whole cardamon (I love cardamon too) to bulk it out a bit.

Sarah Barry said...

I have never had cardamon - or heard of it. I'm intrigued.

And I agree with Hazel's comment about not buying too many. The first year we were married I bought every spice that a recipe called for and I ended up with several obscure spices that I never used again. It was such an "ah ha" moment when I learned to omit an ingredient here and there.

Margo said...

Sarah, I first had cardamom in high school when a friend made cardamom bread. It's delicious. I often find cardamom in Indian recipes - chai, curry, whatnot. I hope you get a chance to try it sometime!