How many times have you gone through your spice cabinet and picked up a jar of something and thought, “How long has this been in here?” or “Damn is there something crawling in there??”
Having an organized spice cabinet can help easily elevate your cooking process by enabling you to always know the following.
- What’s in stock in your cabinet
- How much you have left
- What you need more of
- What should be trashed and what should stay
For the most part we all have our go-to spices and they are key in our signature dishes. But expanding outside of your typical palate, or getting into other types of cuisine will call for different spices and very specific flavor profiles for particular regions.
You would be hard pressed to go into a west indian kitchen and not find whole allspice berries, just as you probably wouldn’t go into an east indian kitchen and not find whole cumin. These are examples of the staples that distinguish the varieties of cuisine that we partake in and all of these ingredients are readily available for us in this age of online shopping.
As an exercise, I challenge you to take a moment and clean out the area designated for your spices. Remove everything and if it’s a cupboard or drawer give it a thorough wipe down. Next, give each individual spice a look over.
First check expiration dates, anything expired, toss.
Then, see if there is anything growing or living in it other than the spice. Due to moisture, heat, neglect and packaging, spices are a great place for unwanted guests to settle in.
Then test for potency and freshness, how do you do this? Taste it! Spices lose potency over time especially when not stored in airtight containers. When you taste it, if the flavor is less than half of the potency, toss it.
If it’s a spice that you frequently use, make note and replace it immediately but chances are it’s not one you use often since it’s gone bad. When replacing the more obscure spices, buy in smaller amounts as to not risk waste in the future and store in an airtight container.
Finally, wipe down each remaining bottle, jar, box and/or bag of spice. I use a solution of 4 parts water to 1 part vinegar and I keep this in a spray bottle. Side note: this is my go-to cleaner in the kitchen, safe, healthy and works better than any chemical product on the market!
Dry off the spices and put them back in the designated area in an order with the lesser used spices to the back. Also try to keep the labels facing up and if they do not have a label then make sure to label them. This can be done with a labeler or just masking tape and a marker, get as fancy or creative as you like. If your kitchen inspires you, watch how much more you will cook!
If you’re an organizer like me, I would suggest getting small, airtight, jars and lids from an arts and craft store or online and place your spices in these vessels so everything is uniform and easily reachable. I would also suggest jars with wide mouths and shallow enough to get a measuring spoon in so your not going in with your fingers every time which can aid in the breakdown and spoilage of your spices.
Practice this and I assure you that you are one step closer to enjoying the process of cooking which always results in better tasting meals. One Love.