We all have that handful of spices and herbs in the back of our cupboard that has moved with us from house to house. Try as we might, we can’t even remember when or where we got them. For years, I had a jar labeled “Stop ‘n Shop Cinnamon” from my years living in Boston as a grad student that survived a trip halfway across the country. It barely had any scent left to it by the time I gave it up many moves later. Typically, jarred, dried seasonings stay fresh and flavorful for a year. While they don’t necessarily go “bad,” they do lose flavor and can possibly go rancid with time.
With the holiday season coming up, I highly recommend refreshing your spice rack before the season is in full swing. This month, each time you shop for groceries, pick up one or two jars of your favorite single and blended seasonings, making sure to toss the old jar once you get home. The more light the dried seasonings are exposed to, the faster they’ll lose their potency, so store them in a cool, dry cupboard.
One of my favorite blends to use during the holidays is quatre épices, a French four-spice blend with two tablespoons of ground pepper (white or black), and one tablespoon each of cloves, nutmeg, and ginger. Add it to soups, beef stews and venison dishes. This blend is integral to a French meat pie. For a sweet-food version, remove the pepper and add in cinnamon.
Amy Goetz is a FoodE Expert for Lunds & Byerlys Woodbury. She helps customers with recipe ideas, teaches cooking classes and plans events. She writes about food and recipes.