Since many of us give our jars of spices and herbs a workout during the holiday season, it is a good time to check and see just how fresh your herbs and spices are. I don’t know about you, but can you remember how long ago you bought that jar of parsley or thyme? Here are some tricks o the trade to help you figure out whether that jar is fresh enough or whether you should toss it and buy a replacement.
Does the color look fairly close to what it was when you bought it? If your parsley was once a vibrant green but it’s now a dull grey or brown, it definitely needs replacing. If you aren’t exactly sure what color it should look, make a note of the spices and herbs you need to check and have a look at them next time you are at the grocery store. Then you can see just how true to the color that jar at home really is!
Take a pinch of the herb or spice from the jar and rub it between your fingers. Is the scent still strong or is it a barely lingering scent? You should be able to smell it well. If not, it needs replacing. For example, when you crush basil, you should really smell the basil. The intensity you smell when you crush it will relate to the intensity of the herb or spice in your dish. If you can barely smell it, then you will barely taste it either!
Many herbs and spices need to be replaced every 6-12 months. When you buy a spice, write the date you opened each one on the label, or put a small sticker on the top or bottom with the date. That way you can wait until you notice when spices and herbs are on sale at grocery stores and replace what you know needs replacing, rather than having to pay full price because your rosemary doesn’t smell like anything when it is time to do your holiday cooking.
When you purchase herbs and spices next, you can vacuum seal excess to make it last longer. Then when you hit the 6-12 month mark, you can get rid of the old herb or spice, and open up the vacuum sealed package to replace it with fresh.