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Weed Out Old Herbs, Spices From Kitchen Rack

January 21, 1988|NINA KILLHAM | The Washington Post

There's no better culinary resolution than to weed out old herbs and spices from the spice rack. Face it, some of those bottles haven't been touched since the beginning of time--that is, since you brought them home from the store.

In general, herbs and spices should be stored tightly sealed in a cool, dry, dark place. So take them down from above the stove--easy reach often makes for stale herbs.

As a rule, the color of dried herbs or spices is a fairly good indication of its strength. So if tarragon or basil is looking more like the color of mowed grass, it's time to invest in new ingredients. The same goes for spices such as paprika or red chili pepper; the redder the color, the sharper the flavor.

Herbs like cilantro and chervil, however, are never good dried to begin with; their flavor is too delicate, and when dried, they fade. They are best bought fresh.

Only peppers can really be stored for many years without loss of quality. The length of time that spices stay potent depends on their form. In general, whole peppercorns can be stored for five years or longer, whole spices for two years, and ground spices and blends six months to a year.

If you have an herb garden, it is possible to dry your own herbs. Hang them in bunches in warm, dry room. Be sure to cover loosely with paper to prevent dust from settling. Or dry on trays in oven. Set oven to, 150 degrees, turning it on and off until drying is complete. With gas stove, just pilot light is often enough to dry.

Some people prefer to freeze fresh herbs rather than to dry them. Remove leaves from stalks and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or pack tightly in small jar and place in freezer. They will keep up to year.

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