…of McCormick’s or Durkee’s or whatever tiny tin or jar of spices you’re overpaying for at the market. If you’re using certain spices quite a bit – and I have too many to count that fall into that category – then buy them in bulk.
There are a few natural foods groceries that will allow you to dispense your own spices by the ounce, but it’s become too messy a business for most. Full disclosure – I had the good fortune to work for several years as the media strategist for Frontier Natural Products, one of the finest natural and organic spice purveyors in the country. But I’d also been a customer of their products for years before that.
On my first trip to visit them at company headquarters in Iowa I was forewarned by the Director of Marketing that my senses would be assaulted by the combined aroma of thousands of herbs and spices when we entered their warehouse, and that it would cling to me on the flight home to Boston. I couldn’t have been more excited. Take that aroma I mentioned in an earlier post that wafted through the air at Homsy’s, and consider that just one planetary system compared to the galaxy of almost everything that grows on the planet for both culinary and medicinal purposes.
It was there that I discovered the wisdom of buying my herbs and spices by the pound – not simply because I was benefiting from a friend-of-the-family discount, but also because of the inherent value and freshness to be found in that practice for any avid home cook. The bulk spices come in hermetically sealed foil bags (witness my shelf that looks somewhat suspicious should the DEA pay a visit).Once opened to fill the jars on your spice rack, just squeeze out any air, seal them up again with a clip, and they will stay as fresh as the day you first opened that bag. For about three years. I especially enjoy this when I’m filling my jars of spearmint or oregano – an aroma much more pronounced than you’d find from any jar of off-the-rack spices. A pound of leafy herbs such as those is quite a lot; much denser by the ounce are the spices such as Hungarian and smoked paprika, ground cumin and cinnamon for example.
I keep my 48 most-used items on this carousel, and there are far more tucked away in the cabinet for occasional use.
A bit of spice trivia – there are more herbs and spices beginning with the letter c (not a Jeopardy category) than any other:
caraway, cardamom, cayenne, coriander, cinnamon, curry, cumin, cilantro, celery seed, clove, chervil, chili, chipotle, Chinese five spice (okay, that’s really 5 spices).
I have on occasion puchased items in bulk from other spice vendors online Penzy’s, Spice Sage, etc), but always find my way back to my favorites from Frontier. The quality and freshness cannot be beat. But if you’re not inclined to buy in bulk, keep this in mind – they are the private label providers to Whole Foods. There, the secret is out!
One thought on “Another “step away from that bottle…””
Could not agree with you more. I am a devotee of Penzey’s only because it’s right down the street from where my son lives in Arlington. I also use their mail-order service and things get here in a jiffy, We are also fortunate (maybe) to have a store locally which sells not only herbs and spices in bulk, but flours, sugars (both decorative and otherwise) grains and on and on and on. I will go there in a pinch, but generally find that their spices and herbs are not as pungent as I feel they ought to be. I have a rack on the back of my pantry door that is loaded with everything. Should post a photo of it on Epi- I couldn’t imagine paying the price for all that stuff in those little McCormick jars and tins. Most of what I have now in jars is stuff I’ve replaced from Penzey’s or the store here in town.
Wegman’s also has an assortment of bulk herbs/spices but not a great variety.
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