The seeds, pods, bark, dried roots, dried berries and flower parts of many plants contain volatile compounds, which can be utilized by the cook to introduce new and exciting flavors and aromas to foods. We call these “spices” and their positive impact depends entirely upon you, dear cook.
- Buy whole spices whenever possible.
- If you have to buy ground, purchase small amounts from a reliable source.
- Buy an inexpensive electric coffee grinder for grinding spices. (Best to keep the coffee in its own grinder)
- Try concocting your own spice blends.
- Store all spices in airtight vessels (glass is best as it won’t absorb essential oils) and keep away from light and heat.
- Gently toast whole spices in a pan over low heat or in the oven
- Mount the center grind shaft of a pepper grinder to a battery-powered drill or screwdriver. It’s a very effective method for grinding large amounts of spices like juniper berries, cumin, coriander and yes, even peppercorns.Watch here for an example.
- Buy spice sets just because you like the packaging…or for any reason, actually.
- Buy spices in grocery stores unless you absolutely have to and even then…don’t.
- Think that vanilla beans aren’t spices. They are…botanically speaking.
- Buy spices in bulk unless you’ve got a darned good reason … like you own a restaurant, barbecue competitively or are working on a remake of Dune.
- Store spices where you can see them…and yes I’m talking about those spinning counter racks.
- Keep ground spices longer than 6 months.
- Assume that spices are always safe to consume raw. They can carry food-bourne illnesses such as salmonella. So buy from reliable sources and toast or cook when you can.
- Forget that the strength of spices, especially whole spices can increase over time the longer they’re left in a dish.