Archive for the ‘Home made Herbal Potpouri’ Category

Spices 101—General Information: Storing; Preparation; Short History

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

How to store dried spicesin general:

–Make sure that the containers are airtight. Moisture can cause your freshly ground spices to cake/go moldy.

–Be sure to keep your spice shelf away from strong, direct light, especially if your spices are packed in clear jars.

–And always keep your spices away from all heat sources, but still keep them close enough to where you prepare your food to be handy for daily use. (recipes for popular spice blends; herbal recipes and preparations; and more, please check the ‘category’ section of

Specifically, the proper way your spices should be stored will depend largely upon the ingredients of the individual spice mixtures.

Those spices containing fats–nutmeg and mustard for example– should never be stored in a transparent container which is exposed to the daylight. Both light and air will turn those fats rancid destroying their unique flavour. Instead, these spices should be kept in dark airtight containers, then stored in a cool and dry dark place. Similarly, spices containing volatile essential oils should not be kept in containers with loose fitting lids.

Transparent containers exposed to daylight will make the green parts of plants turn grayish. It is very important that your spice shelf or rack never be hung directly above your stove, because the steam and heat will greatly reduce the quality of your precious spices. A humid room will also destroy the spice quality by making them turn moldy. And who wants moldy spices?

Spice containers should therefore not just be pretty; they should also be functional. Wide-mouthed dark glass bottles fitted with cork plugs are highly recommended, as are ceramic containers with tight-fitting lids. Old-fashioned tiny drawers and decorative boxes with loose lids are totally inappropriate for storing your freshly ground spices. Most containers with screw caps or tight-fitting lids are suitable, provided they are not made of clear plastic. Wooden containers are attractive and, if the lids are tight-fitting, the spice will not lose its fragrance or its unique flavour. Because wood will absorb the aroma of a spice, you must always store the same spice in that specific box. (recipes for popular spice blends; herbal recipes and preparations; and more, please check the ‘category’ section of

Any spice that is freshly ground in a spice mill or grinder, grated on a tiny grater or crushed in a mortar, is more aromatic and piquant than one purchased already powdered. But for those occasions when time is at a premium, you will find it very handy to have a small quantity of your favorite ground spices ready. Similarly, when you are preparing mixed spices for your meals, never grate or grind too large a quantity at a time; and always store them in an airtight container which is just slightly larger than the amount of the ground mixture remaining.

How to Prepare Whole spices:

–Grinding or crushing whole spices release the flavour and aroma. Prepare only as much as you need at one time for optimum flavour.

Grinding: With few exceptions, including cinnamon sticks and mace, spices are very easy to grind. Spices like allspice and coriander can be ground easily using a pepper mill or small coffee grinder. (Keep a small coffee grinder exclusively for grinding your spices). Use a food processor or a blender only when you need to grind a very large amount.

Bruising: To release the flavour when you are using whole seeds or pods, such as allspice or cardamom, slightly crush the spice with a mortar in a pestle, or put the spice in a plastic bag and crush gently with the bottom of a skillet.

Roasting: When using whole seeds in cooking such as sesame, coriander, allspice; roasting them gently in a dry saucepan for a minute or two over medium heat will bring out their unique flavours even more. Once they cool, you can then grind or bruise the seeds before adding them to your recipe, or use them whole after roasting.

(recipes for popular spice blends; herbal recipes and preparations; and more, please check the ‘category’ section of

Spices Throughout History

Spices were probably first used in the Middle Stone Age, as seasonings to improve the flavour of meat, although it is possible that prehistoric man had already used leaves, roots, tubers, rhizomes and fruits found in nature as spices. The findings from the New Stone Age show that cumin may be the very oldest spice, but finds of poppy and angelica also date from this period.

50,000 BC Primitive man has discovered that parts of certain plants make food taste better.

992 BC The Queen of Sheba visits Solomon in Jerusalem, bringing spices as a gift.

65 AD In Rome, the funeral rites for Emperor Nero’s wife use up the entire year’s supply of cinnamon.

595 Mohammed’s followers combine spice trading with missionary work and build the first spice monopoly.

1493 Christopher Columbus discovers allspice in the West Indies.

1609 A ship carrying a record-breaking 116,000 pounds of cloves arrives in England.

1692 Elibu Yale starts a spice business in India, which provides him with the fortune needed to found the university named for him.

1797 The first large shipment of pepper arrives in Massachusetts, thus putting the United States on the spice map.

1821 The first spice-grinding company in the United States opens in Boston.

1910 Chili-pepper production begins in California.

1969 Spices go to the moon as seasoning the astronauts’ food.

1992 America’s appetite for spices reaches a new record. Total consumption: 856,548,000 pounds!