Spices are too often neglected in the back of dark drawers and sprinkled carelessly into steaming pots. There are a few general rules for using spices that can help you get the most out of the ingredients in your cupboard and rediscover what they can do for your food.
In general, whole spices will keep for between a year and two years. Any longer than that, and their oils will have dissipated and they will have lost a lot of their flavour. Essential oils evaporate very quickly in ground spices. Throw your ground spices away after 6 months and get fresh ones. Any longer and you may as well be adding sawdust to your food. In any case, it’s always better to buy whole spices and grind them fresh when you need them. Store your spices in air-tight containers, away from heat and sunlight. Cool, dry, dark places are best. Never store spices in hot areas, like on the back of the stove. Heat will ruin the flavour quickly. Never sprinkle spices directly over a pot. There are two good reasons for this. Number one: it’s too easy to slip and dump in too much. Number two: when you’re over a pot, steam gets into the spice jar and causes the spices to get damp and clump together. We recommend always measuring spices into your hand or a small bowl and then adding them to the pot.
The most important rule of all is to enjoy your spices. Experiment. Try new flavours and new combinations. Spices used to be incredibly rare and valuable, but they aren’t anymore. So don’t hoard them until they go stale – crush them, grind them, roast them and bring the smells and flavours of the world into your kitchen. We’ll be here to restock you when you run out.