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Question about spices?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
In my area it is really hard to find fresh herbs at an economical price. I don't have access to a Whole Foods Market or anything like that, just small grocery stores. I am trying lots of new recipes that call for herbs and spices. When is it Ok to substiute dryed herbs and what is the best way to store them and how long will they keep? I am wondering about cooking with herbs like oragano, basil, parsley, etc... all those dryed herbs. that you find in the spice section.

Which ones will i use the most often and are the most versatile. I just don't want to have all these herbs and spices that I will rarely use and then when I do need it - is it going to be good after a few or several months?
Thanks!
Natalie-Mom of FOUR BOYS who is tired of "LITTLE BOY FOOD"
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Thanks!
Natalie-Mom of FOUR BOYS who is tired of "LITTLE BOY FOOD"
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post #2 of 14
Hi Natalie,

Penzy Spices has some great dried pices. I'd suggest replacing a few of your drid spices at a time. The paprika's and chili powder are to die for! There mixed spices are good too.

As for fresh herbs...you could buy either seeds or plants and pot them either inside (now) or outside once spring hits.

good luck!

dan
post #3 of 14

Message for ani!!!

Your question didn't disappear! I moved it to the Chef's Garden forum. :D

Natalie -- before you start buying herbs and spices, think about the kinds of cuisines you like best. If you like Mexican, you might want to get cumin, Mexican oregano, chiles, and so on. Italian: basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary. Mediterranean: rosemary, lavender. Indian: cumin, coriander, chiles. This is an oversimplification, but if you know first what flavors you like, you can get what you think you'll use and not waste a lot on stuff that will just fade away. You might have noticed that there's some overlap: cumin is used in several different cuisines, rosemary in others. Look at your favorite cookbooks, list what's called for, and see which herbs are called for in the most recipes.

Penzey's is definitely a good source, and they have sets for various cuisines.

There are two main things to remember: the first is that dried herbs are much stronger than fresh. (The drying makes them more concentrated.) So for most herbs, use only about 1/3 the amount of dried as called for of fresh. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of chopped oregano, only use 1 teaspoon. The second thing is that while fresh herbs are added near the end of cooking, dried herbs are usually added closer to the beginning; they need the extra time to rehydrate and for the flavor to bloom.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #4 of 14
Store them in a cool dry place for no more than 6 months.

Also, some herbs are better dried than others. You can get away with dried thyme and oregano but dried parsley and basil is analogous to grass scented cardboard clippings. I imagine you can at least find fresh parsley at your regular grocery store?

Mark
Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
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Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
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post #5 of 14
I believe this applies to dried herbs and spices like ground cumin, ground corriander and ground nutmeg. If you buy the whole seed instead I have heard the shelf life can be up to two years. In my experience grinding your own tastes and smells a LOT better and is more economical.
The same thing applies to dried chiles. I keep ancho, guajillo, arbol and chipotles in my pantry because these are the ones available in bulk locally. I suspect anchos, at least, are available most everywhere and and, ground at home, are an improvement over supermarket chile powder in my opinion.
Same thing here. I can buy parsley or cilantro at 79 to 99 cents a bunch which I consider economical but any other herb, basil for example, is 3 to 5 bucks for half a handful. I consider that exorbitant. Lets get some of the vast experience of this forum onto the thread Suzanne cited in the Chef's Garden forum.
just an old guy learning to live off his own cooking
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just an old guy learning to live off his own cooking
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post #6 of 14
yes, the whole will last longer. I'm not sure if you can get 2 years out of them but yes, definitely longer than ground.

In any event, the sooner you use any spice the better. There is a gradual deterioration no matter what condition it starts out in. Avoid buying large quanitites that you won't use in a reasonable amount of time just to save money.

Mark
Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
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Salad is the kind of food that real food eats.
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post #7 of 14
Can anyone point me to a spice grinder that is easy to use, does the job, and doesn't cost the earth?
más vale tarde que nunca
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más vale tarde que nunca
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post #8 of 14
I use a Braun coffee grinder that cost about $20. Here is a link.
just an old guy learning to live off his own cooking
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just an old guy learning to live off his own cooking
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post #9 of 14
Me too. Any brand of coffee grinder like that works fine; I just also happen to have Braun. But others can be just as good (Cuisinart, for example).

To clean it between uses, I brush out the inside with a soft-bristled pastry brush and give it a wipe with a slightly damp paper towel. Not wet enough to get into the mechanism, just damp enough to pick up the remaining bits.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #10 of 14
I too use a coffee grinder. Mine is also braun. I have one for spice and one for coffee. It's been a while, but I believe I bought Braun because it has metal guts.

Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
Paninicakes.com

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Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
Paninicakes.com

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post #11 of 14
Lately I've learned that instead of hoarding a large amount of an item I may like (spices, salts, peppercorn, oil etc.), I've been ordering more often (or buying more often) in smaller amounts. This way I have a high rate of turnover and keep my spices (etc.) fresh.

The thought came to me with coffee beans. While I go thru a decent amount of coffee beans, I used to buy WAY too much. I would place an order that would last me 4-6 months. But now I order a months supply at a time. Much fresher!

Fresh Herbs? While I don't have anything close to a green thumb...I do still grow my own herbs. I figure if the things is alive and producing for 6 months or so I'll be well ahead of the game compared to buying a bunch of sad looking wilted herbs from the store. I'm looking at planting alot more herbs this year...I suppose I should be looking for some more help in the "garden" section.

happy eating!

dan
post #12 of 14
Salts like garlic salt or celery salt, right? I assume table salt, kosher salt or sea salt would last forever if kept dry.
While you're looking for help, how about sharing your experience.
Which ones?
Inside or out?
Pots or ground?
Lighting?
See above.
Please advise in The Chef's Garden
just an old guy learning to live off his own cooking
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just an old guy learning to live off his own cooking
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post #13 of 14

another way to clean spice grinder

I also use a braun cofffee grinder for spices and such. To clean it I use a small chunk of fresh bread. Through it in and grind away. It picks up all the bits and pieces. I have had my braun for about 12 years now. Still works.
My life, my choice.....
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My life, my choice.....
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post #14 of 14
I use a coffe grinder too. I had to get a separate one after I accidently invented curried coffee. Yech!

Tony
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