It’s a new year, and a great time to peek into your pantry and evaluate which herbs and spices need replacing. Seasonings in jars and bags appear fresh for many years, but unfortunately, looks are deceiving. If you are not sure how long to keep seasonings, just remember that ground spices and herbs generally last about two years, while whole spices can last up to four years. Your spices are likely too old if the following applies... Did you inherit a collection of seasonings from a great grandmother, who toted her cache across the Ukraine by donkey, and shipped them across the Atlantic in 1897?
Do you still have peppercorns from that grinder you purchased in 1996 from a garage sale?
Do you distinguish between spices based on colour only because they all smell vaguely like the 1970's tupperware containers you store them in?
You get the picture!
Once you have carbon dated the spices and herbs in your cupboard, it’s time to decide which make the most sense to replace first. Some seasonings are more commonly used than others. After a year in business selling seasonings to a variety of customers, we have learned which herbs and spices are most popular, allowing us to comprise a list of pantry staples.
Pennyweight Market’s 20 Essential Spices & Herbs
1. Bay Leaves Bay leaves are best used whole. They are not overwhelming in flavour, yet they enhance various cuisines. Bay leaves are generally simmered in a sauce or soup and removed before serving. They are also wonderful in stuffing.
2. Black Peppercorns Black Peppercorns are best used whole, so invest in a pepper grinder or use your grinder from 1989 sans retro peppercorns…
3. Coriander Seed This whole spice has an earthy and mellow flavor with a slight sweetness. It works best with other spices as a background flavour.
4. Red Pepper Flakes An essential in your spice rack! Red pepper flakes heat up tomato sauces, chili, and pizza, and take bland soups up a notch. Great when infused with local canola oil for frying, or added to a salad dressing.
5. Smoked Paprika This spice is the spanish relative of your basic Hungarian sweet paprika. With smoked paprika, a little goes a long way. Paprika adds a depth of flavour to anything it is added to. Forget the tired old paprika you remember from past egg salads. Smoked paprika is the fun auntie of the paprika family!
6. Oregano A popular herb used in Italian and Greek cuisine. Use in tomato sauces, meats and vegetables.
7. Nutmeg Powder Although nutmeg is commonly associated with baking, there are other opportunities to pull it from your cupboard. It brings out flavours in vegetables and tastes delicious in savory foods.
8. Ground Cumin Cumin has a unique aromatic and nutty flavor, and is a staple in curry powders and many spice blends. It is a great spice for beans, breads, stews, meat and fish.
9. Basil Basil is an essential pantry herb for Italian and French cuisine.
10. Thyme Thyme is good to have on hand for savory soups and cheesy dishes. Lemon and thyme is a wonderful pairing for chicken and beef.
11. Garlic Powder Garlic powder is a must have staple for savory dishes.
12. Onion Powder Just like its culinary partner in crime, garlic powder-onion powder can be added to almost all savory dishes. It is a great addition to soups, and spice blends. 13. Rosemary Rosemary is unlike most other spices, because it retains flavor as it cooks. It is great tossed in a roasted vegetable mix.
14. Cayenne Pepper An excellent spice for Cajun or Southern inspired dishes. Cayenne pepper gives a nice spiciness that is hot without being overwhelming.
15. Ground Cloves Sweet and spicy cloves are the main ingredient in Chinese Five Spice. It is excellent with beef and pork. It is also tastes great with apples (think pie!), fruit cakes, salads, sweet potatoes, and is a staple in holiday baking. Also delicious in marinades, mulling spice and chai teas.
16. Turmeric This electric yellow spice is found in a lot of different curry powders and has anti-inflammatory properties.
17. Allspice Powder Warm and sweetly aromatic, allspice tastes like nutmeg, clove, ginger and cinnamon rolled into one, with an added peppery overtone. It is great for baking and meats, mulling spice and chai tea.
18. Ginger Root Powder Present in a lot of Asian cuisines, ginger powder provides heat and zest to stir fries, beverages, marinades and more. Ginger is extremely beneficial for health, often paired with turmeric in wellness teas.
19. Sage A popular herb for stuffing’s, and fattier meats like veal, or lamb. 20. Cinnamon Cinnamon is a common spice used in baking. It is great on toast with brown sugar and butter (yum!) or sprinkled in coffee or tea. It even helps control blood sugar as an added bonus. This list is just a small sample of the over one hundred herbs and spices we carry here at Pennyweight Market. Depending on the time of year, this list might change. Pickling spices are popular in August and September, Pumpkin Pie spice blend flies off the shelves in October, and Saffron is a staple around Easter. Other popular herbs are dill, fennel seed and anise. Really, the list can be as long as you need. Regardless of what spices and herbs make your top twenty list, we can help you refill your own containers. Just pop in to pick out the seasonings you love.