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Herbs and Spices

(26 Posts)
gillybob Sun 07-Apr-13 09:54:26

I made my husbands favourite dish for supper last night (Beef Stifado) who said that the way to a mans heart isn't through his stomach?

The dish calls for quite a few different herbs and spices and whilst I had everything on hand (except the fresh ingredients of course) I wondered if dried herbs and spices have a shelf life and whether the flavours diminish after time? Do I need to invest in a new spice box or will the (out of date) jars I have still be okay? smile

Grannyknot Sun 07-Apr-13 10:05:37

Hm, I chucked out a whole lot of spices the other day some of which were a year or more past their 'best before' date. I do think that spices should be fresh.

On another note - does anyone know where I can buy aniseed for my Italian rusks? I can't find it anywhere Italian rusks are just not the same without them.

whenim64 Sun 07-Apr-13 10:08:57

Some out of date spices like dried chilli flakes stay ok for ages, but others like paprika need replacing. There must be a guide on Google somewhere. If they're kept out of the light and in dry conditions they are usually able to last longer than the date on the pack or bottle. I love beef stifado - haven't cooked it for a while and now you've reminded me how tasty it is smile

Elegran Sun 07-Apr-13 10:09:56

I have stacks of spices in my cupboard, some of them bought specially for some recipe or other. (Until recently I had some that were in Madhur Jaffrey's series on Indian cooking - how long ago was that?)

Every so often I have a turnout. When I buy replacements, usually at the last minute for the recipe I am using, they always taste better than the elderly ones I have thrown out.

I don't know the recommended shelf life, but I am sure absent can tell us.

Elegran Sun 07-Apr-13 10:11:27

Grannyknot do you have a Realfoods near you? They stock a lot of spices. I think they do mail order or online buying too.

whenim64 Sun 07-Apr-13 10:11:58

grannyknot, have you tried fennel seeds? I use them in breadsticks after trying some Italian ones and they give a lovely flavour, especially if half are pounded with a pestle and mortar before adding them.

absent Sun 07-Apr-13 10:13:20

Conventionally dried herbs and spices lose their aroma and flavour within quite a short time and are not much use if kept for more than 6 months. They should always be stored in a dry, dark place. Although they look attractive in racks on the kitchen wall, storage like that will cause them to deteriorate faster.

Freeze-dried herbs may keep longer.

Grannyknot Sun 07-Apr-13 10:19:20

Thanks for the tips everyone, I'm going to bake today and will try fennel seeds until I can order aniseed.

There's also a smashing recipe in the April Waitrose mag for home-made digestive biscuits so am giving those a go today as well, will greatly impress husband as they are his favourites.

gillybob Sun 07-Apr-13 10:19:51

Oh dear it looks like a clear out is called for. I do keep mine in my pantry which is dry and dark but have to admit to some of the spices being well out of date. I bought many of them in Cyprus and just fill the little jars up when I need to. What a waste.

absent Sun 07-Apr-13 10:24:05

gillybob Unless you use particular herbs and spices frequently, it is always better to buy them in small quantities. Sadly, this is one time when bulk buying is a false economy. Especially don't do it with paprika which seems to attract some sort of weevil creature.

Forzanonna Sun 07-Apr-13 10:29:14

I'd agree most herbs and spices should be renewed fairly often - having said that I've a cupboard full of stuff that should be replaced blush. Best herbs are the ones that come out of the garden.

absent Sun 07-Apr-13 10:45:01

Forzanonna I couldn't agree more. Dried herbs cannot compare with fresh, especially freshly picked ones.

annodomini Sun 07-Apr-13 10:58:54

I keep some herbs in the freezer. For example, I bought a pot of coriander and didn't use much of it, so popped the rest in a freezer bag and use it as needed. It seems to keep its aroma. Likewise with parsley. By the way, my mint, grown in a big pot on the patio is terribly slow to show any foliage this year. Is it just the weather this year or should I re-pot it? It's been in the same large pot for twelve years, since I moved some roots from my previous garden.

Nelliemoser Sun 07-Apr-13 11:17:05

It is well worth freezing fresh herbs. Once you have tried them the dried just don't compete.
Curly parsley does well, I freeze coriander, I have done Sage, Tarragon, Dill, I will try Basil. I have used frozen curly parsley by the tablespoonfulls in tabbouleh salad, which I adore.
The curly sort is dryish to start with and keeps its texture well.

Pick up what you can in the supermarkets or when its cheap and short dated. I wash, chop and dry it well in a salad spinner and put in freezer bags, tubs or whatever.

gillybob Sun 07-Apr-13 11:26:57

Yes I see that now Absent I will have a clear out soon and get rid of all the out of date stuff and start replacing them as and when I need them.

Agree that fresh herbs are by far the best and I do have a couple of herb boxes although living so close to the NE coast I am a bit restricted in what I can grow.

annodomini Sun 07-Apr-13 11:39:30

I have a huge lovage plant in the garden which is ideal for freezing and excellent for stews and soups. I always have far too much, because a little goes a very long way. Once frozen, herbs crush easily which saves the hassle of chopping.

Galen Sun 07-Apr-13 12:02:21

Anno mine hasn't shown much sign of life yet either

kittylester Sun 07-Apr-13 13:07:53

Delia advises going through all one's herbs and spices annually and getting replacing any that are not used often or have gone past their use-by date and it has become one of my regular new year jobs. [virtuousemoticon] Having done that, I rarely feel the need to do anything more housewifely!

The problem arises when I come across something I don't use often, can't remember what it was used in, chuck it and don't replace, then dig out a recipe that I haven't used for ages and, lo and behold, I need it so have to buy a new one. confused

Am I unusual in having about 40 assorted jars of herbs and spices?

gillybob Sun 07-Apr-13 15:50:04

No not unusual kittylester I have had a similar amount. I just collected them as and when I found something in a recipe that I didn't have. Mind you lesson learned . I will be replacing the ones I use the most of but not bothering with the rest for the time being.

Forzanonna Sun 07-Apr-13 16:10:13

It's a pity you can't buy tiny packets of herbs/spices. Has anyone ever finished a standard size? I've never tried freezing herbs but will give it a go I think. Just bought a new marjoram plant this morning - last one was a bit old and had gone a bit woody.

gillybob Sun 07-Apr-13 16:16:54

Yes I agree Forzannona There are some spices I use very rarely but still like to have them in, just incase, but even those little jars hold more than I could use in a year . I too am going to give herb freezing a try as I hate waste.

annodomini Sun 07-Apr-13 16:18:15

Is there any point in freezing small packets of spices and using them as needed? Absent - are you there?

gillybob Sun 07-Apr-13 16:20:22

I wouldn't have thought you could freeze spices anno . Can you actually freeze powders? confused

Nelliemoser Sun 07-Apr-13 17:13:25

forzanonna I buy most herbs and spices in 50gm packs from our local wholefood shop. I dont know if you can buy much less than that in one go.

I always try to avoid the very pricey Schwartz ranges. I dont like paying for advertising budgets when I don't have to.

I would be worried about frozen spices suffering when you defrost them. I suspect the condensation from the defrosting process might make them damp and spoil. I havent "tried it at home" though.

Whatever you do keep them in sealed jars in the dark.

absent Sun 07-Apr-13 17:20:08

annodomini I don't know for certain but I should think it is unlikely. I'm also uncertain about how you would use them once frozen, so I don't think I'll try.

Probably the only spice that does get used completely is saffron as one tends to buy very tiny quantities as it is so expensive. Did you know that it takes 70,000–80,000 stigmas from the saffron crocus to produce 500 g of the spice and it has all to be picked by hand? Sorry – I just love these trivial bits of information. grin