Spices and seasonings, What are the essentials for storing and taking care of those flavors that you love?
Well, it has come to our attention here at Lane’s that in most of America the spice rack goes unattended. Don’t believe us, that’s fine, but go look at the dates on your spices and seasonings. If you have spices that are older than some of your children, that might be a slight problem. Listen, 1982 was a great year, but you still shouldn’t be using spices from then. It is time to clean out the spice rack and come to this decade. So, what do we do? What is a solution for a common problem in homes across America? We are going to give you a few helpful tips or common practices to get the most out of your seasonings. And to bring rich flavor back to your cooking.
Clumping, what is happening with my spices?
Without being too scientific, the spice or seasoning clumps together because it has encountered some type of moisture. Carbohydrates or proteins in the spice break down a slight amount, becoming sticky, causing the granules to stick together. Hence, the clumps. Here at Lane’s, we use all-natural ingredients and do not add any extra preservatives. Some seasoning companies will add preservatives to keep their product from clumping. We would rather give you some information on how to care for your seasonings than fill them with harmful chemicals to prevent clumping. In reality, spices, humidity, heat, and light don’t really play well together. These are all factors that many people probably don’t think about. All they know is when the seasoning gets clumpy, they don’t like it.
Best Practices for Storing your seasonings/spices
The most common storage container is a glass bottle. Amber-colored bottles help keep light out and it is imperative that you have an air-tight lid. There is moisture in the air that those proteins love causing clumping or hardness. The low-budget option is always using a resealable sandwich bag.
Store at a Consistent Temperature
Be sure to keep your seasonings/spices away from heat sources such as the stove, oven, microwave, and dishwasher. All of these appliances put off heat that can cause the spices to heat up and cool down. This change in humidity inside the bottle can cause the spices to break down. Yes, there is convenience by keeping them close to where you cook, but just be aware of the heat. Even now a popular choice is to have a drawer next to the oven/stove; it’s convenient, but it is probably not the best for the spices.
Store away from direct Light
Being exposed to direct light can change the color of the spice/seasoning. And it can cause the spice to dry out. Ultimately, light weakens the spice and makes it less pungent. Look for a cool dry place you can store your seasoning. A few of the guys here keep their spices/seasonings in the pantry. A good idea was to get an over-the-door spice rack and mount it to a wall in your pantry. It will give you space without taking up your shelf space. Some racks even come with glass bottles and lids.
Never season over a HOT pot.
Most of us probably never think about this simple tip. When you season from the bottle directly over a hot pot the steam can cause major problems. Measure out your spices even if it is in your hand. If you like exact measurements, you can always put those into small glass bowls. We deal with “ishes” about here. (1 cup…ish, 2 tablespoons…ish) The point is not to get unwanted moisture in your seasonings/spices.
Do some spices need to be refrigerated?
Some spices such as paprika, red pepper, chili powder can be refrigerated. However, the change of temperatures in and out of the refrigerator can cause the spices to have unwanted humidity that can affect the spice. If you measure your spices, get what you need, and put the bottle back into the fridge. Avoid letting the bottles sit out while you do food prep and cook. Again, a cool dry place is an ideal place to store spices and seasonings.
When should you throw out spices/seasonings?
Most spices these days have an expiration date. But let’s say you have something that you cannot find a date on. Most ground spices/seasonings last for 2-3 years. The whole spices that you grind yourself will last 4 years. Both of these time periods are if you follow the described tips. Cool dry place, quality containers, air-tight lids, and out of direct sunlight. But what if you can’t find a date and you haven’t followed the tips,? Check the color and smell. If the color of the spice/seasoning looks off or not as vibrant as it should be, then that is one indication that it might be time to throw it away. The other is the smell. If the spice has a funny smell or doesn’t smell like it's supposed to, then you should definitely start over. We all get in the habit of buying bulk spices because it's cheaper but the reality is you probably want to buy less more often, to ensure the freshness of the spices/seasonings you are cooking with. Bad seasoning/spices can ruin the taste of a good meal you worked hard to prepare.
We Care at Lane's
Whether we know it or want to admit it, spices and seasonings are a part of all of our lives. We enjoy the process from start to finish. Creating a flavor profile, seeing it come to life, being produced, bottled, being distributed to you, and giving you the opportunity to cook with our seasonings makes our hearts happy. So, the next time you pick up that bottle of your favorite Lane’s seasoning, just know that there are lots of people involved in helping you make a dish taste great for you and your family to enjoy around a table. It truly is our pleasure!