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  • Conversion, Use & Storage Tips for Herbs & Spices

    Conversion, Use & Storage Tips for Herbs & Spices

    Knowing how to use herbs and spices in cooking can make or break a dish. I have had lots of questions recently about just that: herbs and spices. All of the questions are pertaining to: conversion, use and storage tips for herbs & spices

    Here are the three questions that I get asked most frequently.

    •How long do dried herbs and spices last?

    •How do you convert fresh herbs to dry in a recipe?

    •How can I get the most flavor out of the dried herbs that I use?

    Let’s start with:

    How long do dried herbs and spices last?

    Well, it varies, so let’s break it down.

    Whole Spices:

    Wholes spices such as whole nutmeg, cinnamon sticks and whole cloves last the longest. They can last up to about 4 years.

    Ground Spices:

    Ground spices such as ground cinnamon, ground ginger and ground turmeric last not as long. Ground spices can last up to 2 – 3 years.

    Dried Herbs:

    Dried herbs are more fragile. They are more affected by heat and light, so they don’t store as well. Dried herbs can last about 1 – 3 years.

    Well guess what? These rules appy to perfect conditions in your kitchen. Well, I don’t know about you, but the conditions in which I store my herbs is NOT perfect!

    So what are perfect conditions for storing herbs and spices

    •Store them in a cool, dry place. Thus, away from heat and light.

    •Store them in dark containers. Kind of like the dark green bottle that extra virgin olive oil comes in. The dark color of the glass further protects the delicate flavors from deteriorating.

     

    In the imperfect world of my kitchen, my spices live above the stove and in the cabinet to the right of the stove. Not a perfect scenario for herbs and spices, but guess what? It’s perfect for me! They get warm, they are not in dark green jars, hence they don’t last as long.

    So here are my personal rules are for my herbs and spices:

    1) As soon as I buy a new jar of herbs or spices, I write the date on the jar (usually on top) in permanent marker. This way, I know for sure when I bought it and I can replace it before it loses all semblance of flavor.

    2) I test for freshness about every 3 – 6 months. I do this by pouring some in the palm of my hand, moving it around and sniffing to see if it gives off a flavorful aroma. If it does, it stays, if not, I trash it. I know, I know….spices can be pricey! You hate to toss them, but it’s necessary.

    3) I replace my herbs and spices once a year. I just DO it!

    An extra little tip:
    Don’t leave herbs and spices open for long. Keep them tightly sealed and they will last longer.

     

    Let’s go onto the next question:

    How do you convert fresh herbs to dry in a recipe?

    This too, varies….

    Here are 4 tips for herb and spice conversion:

    1) Generally speaking, use a third dried herbs to fresh. In other words, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon fresh basil, you can substitute 1 teaspoon dried basil. (1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons)

    2) Some of the ‘master spices’, like garlic, onion, parsley and bell pepper, need about half as much dried as fresh. So if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of garlic, you could replace it about 1 1/2 teaspoons of granulated garlic. Here’s a little extra tip about garlic. 1 clove of garlic is about 1/8 teaspoon of granulated garlic.

    3) Dried Ginger is very potent! To convert 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, use about a 1/4 teaspoon of dried ginger in your dish.

    4) When it comes orange and lemon peel, the same rule as the ‘master spices’ applies. One tablespoon of fresh peel equals about 1 1 /2 teaspoons dried orange or lemon peel.

     

    And the final question:

    How can I get the most flavor out of the dried herbs that I use?

    •Crush dried herbs between your palms before adding to spice mixes or dishes. This will release the oils and hence produce more flavor.

     

    Keep in mind that dried herbs release flavors more slowly than fresh herbs. Rubbing between your fingers or crushing them in your palms gives them a little boost.

    Final Thoughts on Conversion, Use & Storage Tips for Herbs & Spices

    Using the right herbs and spices in a dish can turn it from mediocre to marvelous!

    Points to remember are:

    •Store your herbs and spices well.

    •Check them for freshness every 3- 6 months.

    •Replace them yearly if you store your herbs and spices near the stove.

    •Rub or crush herbs in your hand before adding them to your dish; it will release their flavors.

    •Use the conversion tips above for yummy results in your recipes.

     

    If you have questions that I missed, feel free to ask in the comments sections. I am happy to answer them for you!

     

    To learn more about the health benefits of herbs and spices, check out my blog post: Learn About the ORAC Factor

     

    I buy my spices here

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