Monday, March 2, 2009
A spice jar over the stove might be handy, but because herbs and spices deteriorate when exposed to heat, light, and moisture, it’s not a good place to keep them.
- The best storage temperature for herbs and spices is one that is fairly constant and below 70° F. This means you need to stock them away from the furnace, stove, and the heat of the sun.
- Temperature fluctuations can cause condensation, and eventually mold, so if you store spices in the freezer or refrigerator, return them promptly after use.
- A good storage system keeps herbs and spices dry and in the dark, too. Amber glass jars with airtight lids are ideal. You might also keep them in a cupboard or drawer, cover the jars with large opaque labels, or use a curtain to cover them when not in use.
- In a nutshell, store your herbs and spices in clean, airtight containers, away from heat and light, and handle them thoughtfully.
How can you tell if your seasoning is past its prime? The shelf life of each herb and spice is different, and all age, even under the best conditions.
- Check your herbs and spices—and those you consider purchasing—to see that they look fresh, not faded, and are distinctly aromatic. Replace them as soon as you detect deterioration.
- The shelf life of herbs and spices will vary according to the form and plant part, too. (Those that have been cut or powdered have more surface area exposed to the air and so lose their flavor more rapidly than whole herbs and spices, for example.)
Here are some guidelines:
Whole Spices and Herbs:
- Leaves and flowers 1 to 2 years
- Seeds and barks 2 to 3 yearsRoots
- Roots 3 years
Ground Spices and Herbs:
- Leaves 1 year
- Seeds and barks 1 year
- Roots 2 years
OK, you have stuff that used to belong that used to belong to your great, great grandparents. As long as you store it some more, you will be blessed, right? WRONG!
So, you have stuff that came from your parents and it's old so just toss it and don't waste the space, right? WRONG again!
It depends on:
- What the food is.
- How it was processed in the first place.
- How it has been stored.
First let's talk about what the food is.
- 1. Is this a food that your family would normally eat? Being hungry won't necessarily get it down children or even us. We are a pretty pampered people and don't want to give up our yummies. Our bodies can not adjust to strange foods overnight. When we sent powdered milk to Ethiopia, their bodies couldn't tolerate.
- 2. When you get around old timers and say Sam Andy, you always get giggles. These foods were low moisture most of the time. If you have any, open one can of each product and check them. I have found that the fruit with sugars in them are black, knarly, and sometimes a little fermented (:-0 On the other hand, some of the dried veggies could be salvaged and the I made cream cheese out of the nonfat, non-instant milk that turned out OK.
- If you have flour that has picked up the yucky metalic smell, that is all it is, a smell. Open, put in a 13 X 9 pan, stir it a few times over the next couple of days and it will be aired out.
So the moral of the story is check it out! Open your minds and get adventurous! If you live in Tucson, give me a call and I will be happy to experiment with what you have that is questionable.
3. The next generation of food was most commonly Rainy Day Foods. It was still dehydrated, as Sam Andy was, but they had progressed to the point that the foods were much dryer and stored longer. Fruits and those with sugar and some moisture were still suseptible to the same problems, but not as quickly. This name has resurfaced from Walton Feed, in Idaho.
The foods that I have bought over the last couple of years have been improved a lot and we are now cooking with them often. I have dehydrated potato slices, dices and flakes. The slices and dices have turned brown after 20 years and have a funny smell. I soak them in hot tap water, rinse, several times, usually starting the afternoon before. If done until they are white again, they cook up just fine. I made potato soup and served it after RS one Sunday. Everyone loved it. They were a little surprised when I told them everything in it was 20 years old, even the powdered milk.
The flakes are still white, but couldn't be soaked to get rid of smell, so I haven't been able to find a way to use them. the dried peas and corn are still OK.
4. If you can afford freeze dried, you're lucky. That is the "cadillac" of dehydrated foods. So far I have found the few that we have managed have held up well. They did cost so much that we were more careful about where they were stored, so that may be part of the reason.
5. Home dried foods seldom last as long as the commecially dried foods. When I make jerky, I keep it cold, even freezing if I plan to store it very long. Commercial plants are able to keep mold spores and other creepies out of the foods better than we can at home.