Spices have incited wars, led to the most epic journeys in history, and inspired our greatest explorers to set off on their quests. It is not known exactly when humans started using spices in their cooking but it is speculated that the virtues of spices and herbs were first discovered when ancient cooks wrapped their meat in leaves to preserve it, discovering that the wrapping imparted flavor when the protein was cooked. Spices and herbs were not only cherished for their flavors, colors, and aromas but also valued medicinally in nearly every culture throughout history.

We love spices today as much as our ancestors did and by following a few simple steps, we can ensure that they are preserved for as long as possible. The good news about spices is that they tend to keep for a long period of time and if they are stored properly, this time can extend into years.

Whole spices keep for much longer than ground spices with an inexpensive coffee grinder transforming whole pods, seeds, roots, and leaves into finely ground, aromatic powder. Spices are one of a cook’s most powerful assets and if stored properly, they will add aroma, flavor, and color to your recipes for many months and in some cases, years, to come.

  1. The best containers to use for spice storing are tin because they prevent all light from getting through and do not impart any flavor. Cobalt blue, amber, or glass jars of another dark color also work. Clear glass jars should be kept in a dark place.
  2. Make sure that the container is completely dry before adding spice to it. Once the container is filled, seal it immediately to prevent moisture from getting into the jar.
  3. The ideal temperature to store spices is  70°F. Keep spices in a dry place away from a heat source like an oven or grill because higher temperatures will diminish flavor.
  4. Use removable labels to avoid a sticky mess when the container is ready for another spice variety.
  5. Whole spices like cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, or whole nutmeg, retain their flavor, color, and aroma nearly twice as long as ground spices.
  6. Some spices will keep for years, others for months. Test your spices for flavor, aroma, and color by using your senses. The aroma should rise up to your nose, the flavor should have its original intensity, and the color should be as vibrant as it was when the spice was first stored. If not, it’s time to throw it away.
  7. Never use wet measuring spoons because the moisture they will leave behind is a sure-fire way to ruin a jar of spice.

14-Spice Dry Rub Mix

The Yummy Life

This is the ultimate catch-all for ground spices. Once you’ve created it, store the extra rub just like you would any other ground spice. You’ll return to it again and again for a pop of flavor. Get the recipe.

Hunan Beef with Cumin

Pickled Plum

The flavor is so intense and addicting in this recipe that it’s hard to believe it comes together in 20 minutes. It’s the perfect canvas for your stored cumin. Get the recipe.

Smoked Paprika Chicken with Roast Potato Spinach Salad

Nadia Lim

Smoked paprika gives this chicken recipe a deep and nuanced flavor. It’s the ideal recipe for a summertime party or anytime you’re looking for something healthy and unexpected. Get the recipe.

Turmeric Hummus

Dizzy Busy and Hungry

Add a twist to your hummus with turmeric. The spice not only imparts exotic flavor and healthful virtue, but also adds an intensely golden hue. Get the recipe.

Homemade Tandoori Masala Chicken

Little Kitchen Big World

The beguiling appeal of India is infused into this tandoori chicken recipe. Make extra tandoori masala (masala means spice blend in Hindi) to use again and again on everything from chicken and pork to roasted cauliflower or sprinkled atop baked buttered naan. Get the recipe.

Warm Apple Pie Bread

Spend with Pennies

Everyone will want to gather around the breakfast table for this aromatic apple pie bread that uses ground cinnamon as its secret weapon. Get the recipe.

— Head photo: Pixabay.

Jody Eddy is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan. She has cooked at Jean Georges, The Fat Duck, and Tabla and is the former editor of Art Culinaire Magazine. Her most recent cookbook was "Cuba! Recipes and Stories From a Cuban Kitchen", published by Ten Speed Press. Her cookbook "North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland" was published by Ten Speed Press in 2014 and won the 2015 IACP Judge's Choice Award. She is the author of the James Beard nominated cookbook "Come In, We're Closed: An Invitation to Staff Meals at the World's Best Restaurants" and her upcoming book for Ten Speed, "The Hygge Life", will be published in November, 2017. She is writing a cookbook for W.W. Norton profiling the cuisine and food traditions of monasteries, temples, mosques and synagogues around the world which will be published in 2019 and a cookbook with the Food Network chef Maneet Chauhan profiling the cuisine of India via an epic train journey throughout the country. She writes for Travel+Leisure, Saveur, Food & Wine, The Wall Street Journal, Plate, and VICE, among others. She is the author of JodyEddy.com, leads culinary trend tours for food and beverage corporations in Iceland, Peru, Mexico, Ireland and Cuba and is the Vice President of Marketing, Partnerships and Events at Hop Springs, an 85 acre agritourism destination opening in Nashville in May, 2018.
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