When to toss old spices and condiments


Cloves, Allspice and Cinnamon

I’ve long been a big fan of spices in cooking instead of salt. But there comes a time when even the consummate cook has old spices in store. When to weed them out? The Seattle Times comes to the rescue.

For spices, the government’s guideline for freshness dating is four years for whole spices and two years for ground spices. But two years is a long time for a finely ground spice to stay fresh. A good rule of thumb is to buy no more than a one-year supply of herbs or ground spices and a two-year supply of whole spices.

 

Keep in mind that each spice contains hundreds of flavor components. It is the quantity and balance of these components that determine the quality of the spice. The flavor components will dissipate at different rates. When in doubt about a spice, smell it. If it smells strong and spicy, use it. If the aroma has faded away, toss it. Old spices never go bad, they just fade away. Spices must be stored properly to maintain a strong, fresh flavor. Heat, light, moisture and air all speed the loss of flavor and color. Store accordingly.

 

In addition, flour will be good for nine months if stored in an airtight container and kept from heat; sugar for up to two years. Sauces and other condiments, once opened, will keep for six months if properly refrigerated.

 

Since I use spices alot in my cooking, I doubt I have any that are older than six months.

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