Tips for Storing and Organising Herbs and Spices …

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For the record, I couldn’t survive without my herbs and spices. I use a lot of fresh herbs like coriander, lemongrass and parsley and I grow my own basil but I also have a huge collection of dried herbs and spices, which I use when I cook.

 

When I renovated my kitchen, I tried to consider where everything would be stored once it was complete and I wanted to find a great solution to how I would store my herbs and spices. In a previous kitchen, I had stored these in wire racks that were attached to the inside of cupboard doors and that worked really well. My clever cabinetmaker worked into the design a small cupboard with 3 narrow shelves and that’s where my herbs and spices now hide. It’s absolutely perfect because it’s near where I cook (right where I need them) and I don’t have to scurry across the kitchen to the pantry to retrieve what I need. They are also out of sight which means they don’t contribute to benchtop clutter … love that! So it’s definitely something to think about when deciding where to store them.

 

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If you check out Pinterest, there are loads of ingenious ways to store herbs and spices but whichever method you choose here are a couple of things to be aware of and a few tips that might help you out:

 

  • It’s a good idea to store all your herbs and spices together in one spot. Whether it be in a basket, in a drawer, on a shelf or some other creative storage method, it’s practical to only have to look in one place. If you have to dig around on several shelves to find the elusive herb or spice that you know you have but just can’t find … well, that will only drive you crazy and waste your valuable time.

 

  • Whether you store your herbs and spices in glass or plastic, just make sure that it’s airtight and the lids seal really well. This will help them stay fresh and last longer.

 

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  • If you’re looking for a cheap storage solution, recycle the glass jars that you may already buy your spices in. When the jar is empty, remove the lid and soak the jar to remove the label. If there is any sticky residue left from the label use something like De-Solv-it Sticky Spot and Stain Remover or a little olive oil to remove. Wash the jar and lid in hot, soapy water or run it through the dishwasher. Allow the jar and lid to thoroughly dry, then label and refill. This will allow you to buy your replacement herbs and spices in packets (which is much cheaper than buying them in jars) so not only will you be recycling but you’ll also save some money as well.

 

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  • If you decide to repackage your herbs and spices (in other words, buy them in a packet and then transfer them to your own containers) make sure you record the expiry date on the container. You can write the date on the base of the jar with a black marker or a trick I use is to write the date on one of those little tabs that are used to indicate on a document where a signature is required, trim it and attach it to the bottom of the jar. When it’s time to refill the jar, the tab lifts off easily so you can attach a new one.

 

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  • Make sure all the jars are clearly labeled so nothing is mixed up when you’re cooking … that could lead to a culinary disaster! A label maker is ideal for this job and the labels can be stuck on the outside of the bottle or the lid, depending on how you’ve stored them. Alternatively, write clearly on some small white adhesive labels.

 

  • Be sure to regularly check the expiry dates. Herbs and spices have any expiry date just like everything else and because you may not use them often, it’s very easy to overlook those dates. A lot of herbs and spices will have a “Best Before” date rather than an expiry date so, as long as they look and smell okay, I will often use them a bit beyond the indicated date but only by a couple of months.

 

McCormick Foods Australia produces an extensive range of herbs and spices and offer the following guidelines on their website:

 

  • Ground Spices will last 3 years
  • Whole spices will last 4 years
  • Herbs will last 1 – 3 years
  • Seeds will last 4 years, except poppy seeds and sesame seeds, which should be used within 2 years.

 

You can view these guidelines by clicking on this link:

 

http://www.mccormick.com.au/resources/herbs-and-spices-101/tips-and-usage.aspx

 

  • When buying herbs and spices at the supermarket, always check the “Best Before” or “Expiry” date before you purchase so you don’t buy something that is due to expire soon.

 

  • Keep spices and herbs away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight to preserve their freshness and flavour.

 

  • If you buy herbs and spices just for every day home cooking, I tend not to buy huge quantities because I simply don’t use them up before they expire … then I have to throw them out and that’s just a waste of money. Most herbs and spices are only used in fairly small quantities and will last a very long time.

 

  • When cooking, avoid sprinkling herbs and spices directly from the bottle over a bubbling, steaming pot. This will allow moisture into the bottle, which make them lumpy and cause some flavour to be lost. Also, make sure any measuring spoon is completely dry before dipping it into a bottle of herbs and spices for the same reason.

 

So tell me, what’s in your spice rack and when was the last time you checked to see if everything was still fresh and usable?

Comments

  1. It is a good idea to check expiry dates I have to agree! 😀 I found one packet in the back of the pantry that was expired in 2012! No wonder it didn’t have much of an aroma.

    • I’m ashamed to admit, Lorraine, I found a bottle of herbs that was much older than that … funny thing was though, the aroma was still quite strong. I didn’t want to risk it, so I threw it out and bought a new jar x

  2. I do keep all my herbs and spices in the one spot but boy is it a mess. I do need to give it a good sorting. I like the idea of keeping the old jars, removing the labels and reusing – I’ll try that xx

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