Submitted by Vanessa Gillard
The grocery aisles are full of products touting “Healthiest Ever!” and “Low-Trans-This” and “Low-Sodium-That,” but none seem to broadcast in big bright letters on a giant starburst, “High In Flavour!” Spices can be the best option to enliven your recipes, be they simple everyday fare or elaborate, tried and true favourites. And the difference between a fresh ground spice and the pre-ground variety can truly astound the taste buds.
Whether you are a long-time culinary conjurer, a mad scientist experimenting with whatever recipes and ingredients that pique your interest, or just someone trying to get out of the weekly grind, spices can inspire and reinvigorate your love of cooking.
The Silk Road has many, many vibrant, distinctive and delicious ingredients that arrive weekly from around the world and are hand-blended in-house. Spices are a great alternative to salt and fat when it comes to adding flavour, but replacing the spices that have languished in your cupboard for years is essential to the depth of flavour in your creations.
Herbs and spices owe their flavour to volatile oils that oxidize when exposed to air and become stale. This is inevitable, but you can slow this process by storing your spices and herbs in a cool, dark place in airtight containers. The top of the stove may in fact be one of the worst places to keep your favourites, however handy. Most salts are fine to keep out and about, though, as standard salt doesn’t get its saltiness from oils (this doesn’t apply to flavoured salts, however, such as Black Truffle Salt – keep those ones stored properly ).
We recommend that dried herbs be replaced within six months due to their delicate nature, ground spices a year to year-and-a-half, and whole spices any time after a few years. Your spices won’t “go bad” after this time period, they will just have lost a portion of their intensity. It is also worth mentioning that shaking spices over your pot while cooking is not ideal as the moisture from the steam can ruin them.
The amount of surface area exposed to the elements is directly related to how fast your spices will deteriorate, so ground spices won’t last as long as their whole counterparts. Grinding your spices freshly for each meal will always ensure the most flavour; this is easy to do with a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder, both of which we have in our accessories section. Just toss in the desired amount and wiz around until the right coarseness is achieved. A customer recently suggested cleaning your spice grinder by grinding some rice and then discarding it.
If you don’t want to grind for each meal and prefer the convenience of ground spices then try to buy what you will need for the year. This will save you time and money and you’ll know approximately when you should be restocking that particular spice as well.
It’s pretty simple to figure out if your spices and herbs need to be replaced. If they aren’t adding anything much to your cooking, that’s a good indicator but even just giving a sniff is an effective and simple test. If you can’t smell much you won’t taste much either.
We offer various sizes of jars to suit whichever rack, cupboard or pantry your spices live in. Don’t want to waste the jars you have? We can pack you up a baggie to take home and refill your jars, and refill bags are a dollar off the original jar price.
Cooking can be fun and exciting, but without the right ingredients you may be left disappointed by what your efforts have resulted in. Surprise yourself with some fresh spices and you might find you can’t wait to try some in another creation, and another, and another.