I'm going to be posting a few new food related topics here at Sweet Basil 'n Spice (SBNS), including helpful info I've learned regarding cooking and the kitchen in general.
Today's topic: Spices.
Sweet Basil 'n Spice would hardly be self-respecting blog without some good tips on spices :-).
The right spices can make or break a meal. (I learned this the hard way as a teen experimenting in the kitchen!). But often they expire before we even realize. Expired spices probably won't hurt you, but they sure don't offer the flavor for which they were intended. Sweet spices like cinnamon and cloves should be very pungent and almost make your eyes water if inhaled deeply. If your allspice smells like grandma's old potpourri, it's passed it's prime. Outdated savory spices tend to smell like dirt or have a non-descript grass scent.
I've found that spices lose most of their potency after 6 months, and are usually pretty dead after about a year. Now, some of you will be like "oh, they all smell the same to me whether they're brand new or a year old". But one thing I have learned in my years of cooking and baking is that God has given me a very strong and sensitive sense of smell and taste. From the time I was a kid I have been able to taste a meal at a restaurant and know what spices and ingredients were used in it, then go home and recreate it. Trust me; I know my spices, folks. Good spices really do make a difference in the flavor of food, so make sure to keep your spices fresh.
I've found the real solution to this problem is to NOT buy spices in bulk. For things like cinnamon that I use a lot, I will purchase the medium sized container, but most of my spices I buy in the small size. Some, like ginger, I keep in the fridge to keep potent. For the frugal cook, it might seem counter intuitive to not buy something in bulk when you can, but I find I am not spending that much more, and the flavor of my food is so much more distinct with the use of fresh spices.