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spice tasting

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Is tasting dried spices recommended? There are some spices I have no clue how they taste alone so I don't know how it will effect the taste in the final product. Especially in those recipes that ask for a lot of spices.

Thanks in advance
post #2 of 15
I have never done it with spices. With fresh herbs tho I usually just add them to scrambled eggs to get the flavor profile.
post #3 of 15
You're not crazy. There are so many spices available these days of varying quality that you don't have much choice but to taste from time to time. One thing I've found really useful when working with a new spice is to buy a small amount and sautee a couple of proteins (e.g. chicken and pork) and a vegetable (e.g. zuchini) to see how the flavor profile changes with each ingredient. You could also mix a new spice into an existing flavor profile (e.g. your favorite spice blend) just to see how it changes the flavor. Go ahead and experiment; there's a lot of good stuff out there!
post #4 of 15
Agreed - you are not crazy :) Keen would be my description and that's wonderful! Great advice above, put the spice with something you know how it tastes, and see how it works.

Sniffing the spice can work too - just don't get your nose too far into chilli powder of ground peppers - it can burn your skin and nostrils. Try a tiny bit on your tongue and mix it all around, that way you'll get to know what spots it hits, what you would prefer, etc. Sometimes you have to wait a while for the full flavour hit, especially the hotter spices. It can seem like only a little heat, but it can hit you in a minute or so.

Experiment, and read, as much as you can. But tasting is the best. I've got a cupboard full of dried spices - it really is good fun mixing and matching. I've been home cooking for many many moons, and have wound up with a good deal of combinations. Some I rely on regularly, but other times I branch out and try something differnt. Hey, it works sometimes, other times not, but I haven't made anyone ill ....yet. But the day is young.

What I like is buying a new spice blend, then without reading the ingredients, try to taste and decide what is in there.

Good luck with it and enjoy!
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #5 of 15
If you want to taste spices like they do on the manufacturing level mix it warm water(about 100F) at a rate of 3-5%, let it steep for 2-3 minutes and than begin to taste on a spoon. It will let the flavor bloom properly without searing and breaking down the volitile oils that naturally occor.
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
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Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
post #6 of 15
Thread Starter 
wow, thanks for the good advice everyone I'll be sure to try your suggestions!
post #7 of 15
Keep in mind, though, that the warm-water test is just a first step, to give you an idea of the flavor profile. Many spices are heat activated. That is, roasting (such as seeds) and frying (such as chilis) intensifies their flavor and heat characteristics.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 15
Actually seeds are not toasted before they are ground and chilis that are either roasted or smoked usually go by seperate names(jalapeno/chipotle, Poblano/Ancho). The reason for this is once you heat them the lose some of the intensity by releasing the oils. While it makes for a great aroma, the ground spices you by in the stores are almost always raw.
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
post #9 of 15
I think we're talking apples and oranges, Chefhow.

You're referring to how things are in their jars in the supermarket.

The OP is talking about how things taste when used in a recipe. As was I.

It's rare that I would either buy, or recommend buying, ground spices if they're available in their whole form. Many reasons for that, not the least of which is that preground spices lose their potency rather quickly. The worst thing a home cook can do is buy those big jars sold by Tones and the big-box warehouses. They'll never use one of those up before it goes dead. Indeed, those plastic jars have stood around in storage so long they often have lost their potency before the consumer gets 'em home.

On the other hand, a large jar of whole spices, stored properly, can retain its potency two days longer than forever. So buying one of those might be a bargain, whereas buying a big jar of preground is almost always a waste.

In the case of seeds, you can toast them before grinding to bring out their full flavors. Just toss them in a hot, dry skillet until they release their aroma and start to change color. Then grind them for use in the recipe.

>go by seperate names(jalapeno/chipotle, Poblano/Ancho).<

Techically you are correct. However, there's been a continual dumbing down of these terms, and a tendency to use them as synonyms. Just this weekend, for instance, they were selling fresh "ancho" chilis at the farmer's market. And I've seen commerical chili powder that was labeled "poblano" rather than "ancho."

Am I happy about this? Not at all. Can I do anything about it? Not at all. Except recognize it as a reality.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #10 of 15
I have a house full of spices.
I don't know what many are as I bought them from specialty stores for making specialty foods. What's wrong with putting a tiny speck on your finger and tasting it.
...All anyone ever does is complain....stop griping and start being thankful...be grateful...be appreciative...
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...All anyone ever does is complain....stop griping and start being thankful...be grateful...be appreciative...
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post #11 of 15
Nothing wrong with it per se, LuvPie.

The problem is, you get a very concentrated burst of taste, which may or may not reflect the flavor profile of that spice as it effects other foodstuffs.

For example (and excluding chiliheads now), if you taste cayenne directly off your finger (or even salt, for that matter) you might never use it in a recipe.

By following ChefHow's advice (i.e., dissolving it in water and then tasting the water) you'll get a truer feel for it's flavor profile, and how it's likely to combine with other foods.

Best bet would be to try this first with a spice you're familiar with. Taste some directly. Then taste some that's been dissolved in water. You'll see how it differs.

I would try each spice both ways, where appropriate. First I'd merely grind it, dissolve in warm water, and taste. Then I'd try roasting the seeds, grinding them, dissolving in warm water, and tasting again.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #12 of 15
If you dont taste the spices than how can you use them? Dont be afraid and trust your nose, generally it will smell like its going to taste.
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
post #13 of 15
start out with tablespoon of ground cinnamon. ;)
post #14 of 15
If you're lucky enough to live near a Penzeys, you can taste everything. Not that you'll like what you taste! As has been noted, some are best tasted when "brewed" or "bloomed". You can buy small amounts from them too.

I've tossed a few onto coffee grounds before brewing- seriously! I did this with garam masala (there are many versions of this- I used a Penzeys blend) and did get some sense of the profile. I've also done this with tea using a rather neutral, light tea like Darjeeling or even plain ol' Lipton's.
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post #15 of 15
You mean there's a Penzeys location anywhere? I thought it was only a web site. Gad I'm outta the loop:chef:
...All anyone ever does is complain....stop griping and start being thankful...be grateful...be appreciative...
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...All anyone ever does is complain....stop griping and start being thankful...be grateful...be appreciative...
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