If you are anything like me you have a spice cabinet that collects relics of meals past. Every fall when I do my big cleaning as seasons change I am faced with one question. What do I do with My old Spices?
Spices can smell good for years but before the smell leaves they lose their usefulness as a helpful cooking ingredient. It is why most of us that cook have a graveyard of spices somewhere in the kitchen.
How to tell when your Spice should be retired
There is a broad berth in the life of a spice. Whole spices like cloves or cinnamon sticks they say can last up to 4 years. In their ground form 2-3.
Your Herbs the dried versions of what you can grow in your garden. The Basils and oreganos, parsley and such last 1-2 years.
Seeds about 1 year that would be sesame or poppy and the like.
Extracts like almond or mint or orange can go 3-4 years. Vanilla extract if pure can go almost forever because it has a high content of alcohol.
Those are the general guidelines for spices stored at optimum temperature, which is cool. They should also be stored in a dark, dry place. Let’s be honest in the average American household we do not store our spices in optimum environments.
Knowing we don’t store our spices in the correct way most of the time I make a general rule that around Thanksgiving I start to replace spices as I need them. That way when I am cooking Thanksgiving and Christmas food. Two of our more spice conscious Holidays I am using fresh spices.
How do you store your spices
As you can see from the photo above I just shove all the spices I own into the cabinet above my stove. A place less than desirable as it is not always dark, dry or cool.
There are better ways to do this and if you have the time you may try out the stainless magnetic organization method Stainless Magnetic Spice Tins
I have over the years tried and failed to put my spices in small Ball Mason Jars. They are cute but I have never finished that project.
The point I am trying to make is there is no one way is right to store spices and most of us fall down in one area or another. To much light, not dry enough or not cool enough so instead set a schedule to replace and use new spices for yourself. I do it yearly.
Don’t throw out those old spices!!
This is where the title What to do with my Old Spices meets, I psychologically have a hard time throwing away things that still smell decent and have a little color left to them. Come on go to your spices right now and take a look at that oregano you have. Its not really greenish color any longer is it, has it faded to a pale grey? If the answer is yes then Its time to start getting some new spices.
Every fall as Thanksgiving approaches I dig out a pot I have set aside just for the purpose of heating spices, herbs and extracts to make my house smell good.
I fill my little pot with water and I add a combination of spices, herbs and extracts to make a homemade potpourri that makes my kitchen and home smell fantastic. You will notice in the following recipes I also have added some citrus. I almost always have a lemon, lime or orange that is about to cross over to the Oh God! what did that used to be side of my fruits and vegetable drawer.
Notes about the recipes. These are not formal and they have no real measurements. They come from what I had in my spice cabinet. Tailor your recipes to the smells you like. Try new combinations. Throw it out if it smells bad you can always start again.