Friday, September 12, 2008
Spicy, not messy
However, my own spice-buying habits are much more erratic, and the way I've had them stored reflects that. A few baggies of bulk-bought herbs here, a couple of store-brand bags with cheap ziploc tops (that don't work half the time), a few jars--and oops, I bought some oregano again for the third time at the bulk store because I kept forgetting to cross off that I'd bought some. Sometimes the bread-bag-type labels from the bulk store also break off, and you have to guess what's in the bags, or write on them somewhere with a marker. I had one overflowing plastic basket of main-dish-type seasonings, in a wide variety of packages, and another one of dessert-types (at least I'd figured out that nice fresh ground cumin doesn't go well with cake spices).
Time for some re-organization. Actually it was pretty easy. Armed with some medium-sized zip-top bags and a permanent marker, I distributed three or four related bags/jars into each bag and labelled each one with the marker. One bag says "Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme," and currently it holds a jar of sage, a sandwich bag of parsley flakes, and a store-brand package of thyme. (I hardly ever have rosemary but it sounded good on the bag.) One bag says "Pepper," and it holds the bulk-store baggies of black pepper, red pepper and so on. One zip-top bag got all the chili powder poured directly into it and labelled accordingly. I stood all the bags up in the plastic herb basket--actually it took two now that things were properly organized (and the oregano was all in one little bag). Now when I want to make Miss Maggie's lentil-rice taco mix, I just pull out the zip-top bag marked "Onion and Garlic" and the one marked "Pepper." (Correction: actually not the "Pepper" bag; I have to go downstairs and get the cumin, see below. But you get the idea.)
I did the same for the dessert spices, although I didn't have as many of those.
I've also been doing one other thing that's helped with the overall mixed-aromas problem in the cupboard: I store curry powder and cumin in the downstairs pantry, still in their sandwich bags, in unused canning jars, just to keep their strong smells away from the other seasonings and other foods (have you ever tasted Cream of Wheat that was stored too close to the chili seasonings?). It keeps them fresher, too. I have some powdered vanilla and a couple of other things that I store there too, just to keep them from pulling in other unwanted flavours.
This also helps when other people are cooking. I remember which faded-out package holds the thyme, but when nobody else knows, it helps to be a bit more organized.
Works for me.