Feb 23

What is in your spice rack?

Spice CupbairdWhat is in your spice rack?

Too much? Too little? Too old? Not enough? When have I ever used this spice or herb? For what recipe did I need this ingredient? Is this spice even good any more?

I admit when I took an inventory of the spices and herbs that I have in my spice cupboard, I was a little taken back as to how many containers I had collected. This meant that I had made a purchase at one time in the past. There were some containers that were not even opened and others that I could not remember when I last used them in a recipe. Granted, there are specific spices and herbs that have been purchased for the purpose of making homemade sausage or roasting whole chickens, but not every ingredient in this cupboard has a purpose in which I can identify. Sadly, I know that some of the herbs and spices are probably pushing 10 years since they were purchased.

The scope of this post took form when I was considering a few months ago what are the basic essential herbs and spices needed for an individual who enjoys cooking or at a minimum interested in exploring the possibilities of experimenting with flavors and aromas with their creations. Combined with this idea, if a new university graduate was setting up their first kitchen, what would be the spices and herbs that I would recommend as the bare essential requirements?

This is what is in my spice rack:

In order to create some sense of critical need, prioritization and in the end the justification of whether to keep a certain spice or herb, those listed below will have one of the following codes applied: F (Frequent Use), S (Specialty, i.e. Sausage Making) or I (I just have to have it!). If there is not a code applied, then I cannot remember in recent memory having used the specific ingredient.

  • Allspice (ground) (S)
  • Asian Spice Rub
  • Bay Leaves (F)
  • Black Pepper (ground) (F)
  • Black Pepper (whole) (F)
  • Bread Crumbs, Italian (F)
  • Bread Crumbs, Plain (S)
  • Caraway Seed (whole) (S)
  • Cinnamon (sticks) (S)
  • Coriander Seed
  • Curry Powder
  • Fennel Seed (ground)
  • Fennel Seed (whole) (S)
  • Garlic (powder)
  • Ginger (ground)
  • Herbs De Provence
  • Italian Seasoning (F)
  • Marjoram (ground)
  • Montreal Steak Rub (F)
  • Mustard (ground)
  • Nutmeg (ground) (S)
  • Onion (minced) (F)
  • Oregano (leaves)
  • Pickling Spice (S)
  • Poultry Seasoning
  • Red Pepper (crushed) (F)
  • Rosemary (crushed) (S)
  • Sage (rubbed)
  • Salt, Kosher (F)
  • Salt, Sea (F)
  • Salt, Table (F)
  • Seafood Seasoning Rub
  • Southwest Rub
  • Stewie’s Grub Rub (I)
  • Sugar, Brown (F)
  • Sugar, Powdered (I)
  • Sugar, White (F)
  • Thyme (S)

Of the 38 spices and herbs listed above, 13 (34%) are considered to be used Frequently, 9 (24%) are for Specialty / Specific foods that are prepared, and 2 (5%) are ingredients that I just know I will be using. This means that there are 15 (37%) herbs and spices for which I have no idea why they are in the spice rack and no clue when if ever they have been used.

I am not sure how I will progress forward, but I am thinking that some analysis of use for the next 6 months to a year needs to be recorded to provide me the quantitative reasoning that certain elements to my spice rack need to be discarded. Whether the rule of thumb is 6 months or a year for the shelf life of dried herbs and spices I am unsure, but I am confident that a significant minority of what is in the cupboard will be discarded in 6 months time.

What is in your spice rack?

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  1. Eric

    Bill great points! I would feel remiss if I did not share a great spice that did not make it to your list. The second most popular spice in the world behind black pepper (according to Wiki) is great in beefy Tex/Mex dishes. I add ground cumin to my taco meat and chilli. It is originally from Iranian and Medeterranean reagion it is also popularly used in Indian, North African, Cuban and even Western Chinese dishes.

  2. Bill

    Good catch on Cumin not being mentioned and interesting facts. Point of clarification. This list does not include any of the spices and herbs that Marah uses in her Middle Eastern cooking. Aside from not being able to read the writing on many of the packages, even when the ingredient is listed in English it is not always obvious was is the spice or herb.

  3. Stuart

    It looks like you tidied up your spice cupboard since the last time I saw it. I don’t think I will post a photo of mine though.

  4. Bill

    There may have been a few liberties taken to frame the composite of the picture in the best light possible.

  5. Stuart

    I’ve just finished an inventory of my own spice cupboard. I’ve added another category NI (No Idea) since I have some spices at the back of the cupboard that I have forgotten why I have them. I’ve also added some notes on some of the more unusual ones as to their purpose, mostly the curry ones.

    • Bay Leaves Whole (F) – Soups, Stews
    • British Sausage Seasoning (S) – Sausagemeat
    • Bromelain Tenderiser (F) – Grub Rub Ingredient
    • Caraway Seeds – Bread
    • Celery Salt (F) – Rubs
    • Chervil (NI)
    • Chili Powder – Cayenne (F) – Chilli, Curry
    • Chili Powder – Hot (F) – Chilli, Curry
    • Chili Powder – Mild (NI) –
    • Chili Powder – Red Hot Syrian (F) – Chilli, Curry, Everything
    • Chili Powder – Chipotle (F) – Chilli, Curry
    • Chinese Five Spice (F) – BBQ Marinades
    • Coriander Seeds (NI)
    • Crushed Ancho Chilli (F) – BBQ Marinades
    • Crushed Bay Leaves
    • Crushed Oregano Leaves (F)
    • Cumin Seeds (NI)
    • Curry Leaves (F) – Thai
    • Curry Powder (NI)
    • Dried Basil (NI)
    • Dried Hatch Chilli peppers (F)
    • Dried Onions (NI)
    • Dried Rosemary
    • Fennel Seeds
    • Garam Masala (F) – Curry
    • Garlic Powder (F)
    • Ground Allspice – Probably for Ems baking
    • Ground Asafetida (F) – Curry
    • Ground Cinnamon (F)
    • Ground Coriander (F)
    • Ground Cumin (F)
    • Ground Ginger (F)
    • Ground Nutmeg (S)
    • Ground Turmeric (F) – Curry
    • Hot Curry Powder (NI)
    • Italian Seasoning (NI)
    • Juniper Berries (S)
    • Kalonji (Nigella Seeds) – (F) – Curry
    • Kasuri Methi (F) – Curry
    • Mint Leaves (NI)
    • Mixed Spice – Probably for Ems baking
    • Montreal Steak Seasoning (NI)
    • Mustard Seeds (NI)
    • Onion Powder (F)
    • Organic Curry Powder (NI)
    • Hungarian Paprika (F)
    • Red Chilli Seeds (F)
    • Saffron Strands (S)
    • Sage Leaves
    • Salt (F)
    • Sea Salt (F)
    • Stewie’s Grub Rub (F) – Everything
    • Tandoori Curry Powder (NI)
    • Tarragon Leaves
    • Thyme Leaves (F)
    • Whole Star Anise (NI)
    • Whole Black Peppers (F)
    • Whole Cardamom Pods (F) – Curry
    • Whole Cinnamon (F) – Curry
    • Whole Cloves (F) – Curry
    • Zorab’s Mid East Olive Oil Dipping Mix

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