That’s a Spicy Meatball!

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I love to cook. And because of that, I feel like I am forever buying spices at the grocery store. So every so often, I find myself in one of those canyon-like aisles at Costco wondering if I should just buy the vats of spices on the pallets or continue to buy the more manageable sizes at the local store.

But as we all know, spices do not have an infinite shelf life…unlike the smells coming from your veggie drawer (see last-week’s blog).

Dried spices don’t go bad, but they do lose strength as they age. Using stale spices will not spoil your dish, but why compromise your creation when the solution is easy? So since February is the month I spring clean my kitchen, I thought I would share how I keep my spice rack organized and my spices fresh.


How to store them:
Keep your spices in a cool, dark, and dry place. Keeping them near a heat source breaks them down faster. So if possible, avoid storing them next to your stove, oven, or refrigerator. I keep mine in a cabinet a foot or so away from my oven.

What not to do:
The freezer is also not a good place to store spices. Every time you take them out of the freezer, you create condensation. Moisture accelerates the loss of strength and taste—and the added moisture will turn any powders into solids when they refreeze.
I decided against buying the Costco vat of onion powder anymore when mine became one big block. I had to take a paring knife to it in order to shave enough for my recipe. Not only was it old, but moisture got into it.
Here’s a tip to minimize the moisture: don’t sprinkle your spices over a steaming pan. Sprinkle them away from the steam into your hand or into a bowl.

How I organize:
Everyone has different ways of organizing their kitchen to fit their needs. Some like to alphabetize their spices. This is a logical approach. You always know where your cinnamon is—between cilantro and cloves. However, I am usually spicing as I go, so I don’t want to sing the entire alphabet song just to find the oregano when what I really need is to get the chicken in the pan. So I organize for convenience. What I use the most is front and center.

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When I bring my spices home from the store, I date them, as you see. Then as they age, I replace them. This ensures that my spices are always fresh.

A general rule of thumb is, leaf-spices such as basil, oregano, or bay, are good for a 1-2 years. Ground spices like cinnamon, cumin, or nutmeg, last around 2-3 years. So keep this in mind when you start cleaning out your spice rack or start walking the Costco spice canyon.

Looking for a hammer and chisel to break up old spices adds to my stress when I’m trying to get dinner ready. So as I spring clean my kitchen this month, I am going to go through my spice rack and check on the health of my spices.

I encourage you to only buy the spices you will use, store them in a cool, dry place, and label and date them to keep track of their age and strength. You won’t regret spicing up your life by choosing to Nest Pretty your spice rack.


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