Storage

How to store herbs and spices for freshness and flavor.

People often ask us about the best way to store herbs and spices and what their shelf life might be. We thought it was worth posting a short guide on the subject for you here.

Ground Herb/Spice Blend

Ground Herbs and Spices: A special case.

Once ground, the game is in overtime on flavor loss for herbs, spices, and blends. While storage conditions are important for both whole and ground spices, it's more critical for herbs and spices.

The smaller particle size of finely ground spices enhances the loss of volatile oils and other flavor components due to exposure to air (oxidation), heat, and moisture. The clock is really ticking here but proper buying and storage makes a huge difference.

It's best to buy ground herbs, spices, and blends in smaller quantities. Get what you need for 6 - 12 months and no more. There is no "economy" of scale here.

It's always best to buy ground spices from a trusted source as well so you know they're fresh.

Why?

Shelf life: on ground spices--from the moment they're ground and assuming proper storage conditions--is about a year. Shipping, warehousing, and sitting on the shelf at your market all take their toll long before you buy them.

Know your source and buy it fresh.

Whole herbs and spices

Out with the old: Get rid of any ground herbs or spices in your pantry that have been there longer than one year. If you have improperly stored ground spices or herbs that are older than 6 months, chunk them out now. Really--the flavor is gone--they're just dust and belong in the dust bin.

Whole Herbs, Spices, and Blends: When bought fresh, have a shelf life of about three years under proper storage conditions. Clear them out after that, they are not useful any longer.

Make it a habit once a year (New Years is a good reminder) to check your spices and clean out the old stuff. Restock with fresh as needed. You'll feel better and your food will taste better. Really.

Keep it fresh.

Proper Storage

The Enemies: Your enemies are air, moisture, heat, and light. These are the flavor killers.

That means good storage conditions are the opposite: A dry, cool, dark place.

Packaging matters: Thin plastic bags or cellophane packages allow volatile oils (flavor) to evaporate. if you buy herbs and spices in bulk bags, don't keep them that way after you get them home. Store herbs and spices in glass or metal containers with an air-tight seal.

Keep it tight.



Avoid heat: Optimal storage temperature is less than 70 degrees F. / 21 C. Anything more than that dramatically speeds up flavor loss.

Store herbs and spices away from heat ducts, your furnace, radiator, or heater, the stove, and sunlight. A constant temperature is best because fluctuations in temperature may cause condensation leading to mold and mildew.

If you store herbs and spices in your refrigerator or freezer, place the container (jar or tin) inside a freezer bag. You can package several together in one bag. When ready to use, pull the bag out and allow the whole thing to come up to room temperature before unsealing. After using, get it back in the bag, get as much air out as possible, sealed it up, and put back in the fridge or freezer pronto. This helps control condensation.

Keep it cool.

Avoid Air and Humidity: Spice containers must seal tightly. Exposure to air causes oxidation and very rapid flavor loss. Humidity from condensation or other sources causes mold and mildew. Both happen concurrently unless tightly sealed.

We all have one or two very dry environments in our homes: The refrigerator and the freezer. If you're cupboard isn't dry, dark, and cool or if you have larger quantities to store, keep tightly sealed containers inside freezer bags in the refrigerator or freezer.

Avoid storing spices and herbs near sources of humidity like your sink, dishwasher, kettle, coffee maker, stove, microwave, or out on the countertops.

Keep it dry and sealed.

Avoid Light: In addition to the heat caused by exposure to the sun or other strong sources of light, many spices and herbs are photosensitive. Light causes changes in flavor. And, those changes aren't very tasty ones. Store your herbs and spices (ground or whole) in a dark place away from direct light.

Keep it dark.

Smiling Coyote Farm supplies ground spice blends freshly made to order. We start with fresh, whole herbs and spices. We hand blend, process, and package it fresh. You're ahead of the game when you start with fresh, wholesome, and local.


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