Getting the best flavour from your spices

Getting the best flavour from your spices requires just a little planning.  Here are some easy tips to get the best from your spices.

Masala Dabba and Spice Jars

Masala Dabba and Spice Jars

  • Keep your spices in a cupboard or pantry, away from direct sunlight and preferably in airtight containers (metal tins or glass jars are best).  We sell Indian Spice Tins (Masala Dabba) – as seen on SBS’s Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation. This will reduce the damage to the essential oils contained within the spices.  While they might look good, NEVER display your spices on a shelf above the stove – the heat from the stove will reduce their life.  Also, keep spices away from the humidity of the dishwasher.  Keep spices at or below 18 C.
  • Try to remember to label your spice container when you first open it.  Use a permanent marker to write the date on the container, so you will be able to assess when to discard the product if required.  Whole peppercorns, nutmegs and cinnamon sticks tend to hold on to their flavor for a long time, and potent whole spices, such as cloves, cumin, and cardamom will also last for a long time, generally up to three years if stored properly.  Whole spices keep the longest because they have not been cracked or ground which would expose their flavors to air.  Ground spices have a shorter shelf life.  Pre-ground spices should be discarded after one year.
  • Where possible, purchase whole spices and grind them to order.  As explained above, whole spices have a much longer shelf life, particularly the more delicate varieties like nutmeg and cardamom.  Using a Turkish Spice Grinder will achieve excellent results – just a little time spent grinding provides a wonderful flavour boost.
  • When you are unsure of the amount of spice you might use, purchase the smallest container of a spice that is available.  Buying larger quantities is a false economy if you do not use the spice before its flavour falls away.
  • Buy your spices from someone who is interested in spices.  Test them by asking about the origin of the product.  If your spice merchant sells bulk spices, they are likely to be a safe bet as turnover is typically high, and the spices are most likely to be fresh.  An added bonus is that the prices you will pay are quite likely to be up to 50% cheaper than what you might pay in a supermarket!
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