Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekend Cooking -How old are YOUR spices?

Yesterday, I realized we were getting dangerously low on one of our favorite seasonings...McCormicks "Seasoned Pepper". It's a blend of black, red and green pepper with a teensy bit of sugar that is, as far as this household is concerned, the perfect topping to help avoid all the unhealthy salt we used to love to sprinkle so liberally. For the past several months, I have not been able to find it anyplace. There are all sorts of blended this, and mixed up that, but please McCormick's ---for the most part I prefer to add my own spices to get just the right blend for whatever I'm cooking. If I want onion and garlic in something, I'll add it. If I want lemon, I'll squeeze it. If I want mesquite, I'll pinch it in.

Before I say too much else, I have to remind you that I grew up in Baltimore, the home of McCormick's Spices. My girlhood memories include smelling the vanilla and the cinnamon, and whatever else they were brewing that day as it wafted across the city. So I figured I'd check their web page, find out what stores had it, and have one of my relatives pick some up for me. After all, it had to be available from the factory right? WRONG. I found the item, only to read that it had been "discontinued as of January 2012." WHAAAAAA......????? What's with this?

There were copious suggestions for replacements, but none fit the bill. In searching around their webpage however, I did find a fun little section how old are your spices?  

Now Tutu has been collecting spices from all over the world for the past 45 years. When hubster was in the Navy, we moved 19 times in 26 years, and I wasn't about to throw away spices every time we moved (they're so expensive!!!) so I'd mark the name of the place where we were living as I unpacked them, and put them into the spice rack, cabinet or drawer until they acquired passport stamps from five locations. By that time, I'd usually used them up, or figured they were pretty stale, so I'd toss them, and start new at the next port of call.

When I found this little tester though, it made me realize that it's been eight years since we settled here in Maine, and many of these spices date back to Navy days. Bob's been retired now for over 20 years (hard to believe) so it may be time to start culling the spice larder. When we designed this kitchen, we built in spice drawers, pull out shelves, and small hanging spots for spices, extracts and herbs.  They've worked really well, but lately, I seem to be outgrowing them, and we've spilled into a cabinet in the laundry room. I think this will be a good project for the next foggy, rainy day....too bad the tester doesn't have the ability to scan in the bar codes, but then again, many of my jars and bottles pre-date that technology which should be a big hint they've outlasted their usefulness. Anybody want some 35 year old cinnamon sticks from Penang?

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  1. I certainly can relate to this post. Some of my spices were my father's and he died in 1998. With some of them, I know how old they are by the grocery store sticker - stores we don't have in this area, stores that have gone out of business, ones that have changed names once or twice since I bought the spice jar. I really should throw out nearly everything and start over, but they're so expensive!

  2. Tina, you are too funny. I love that seasoned pepper blend too. It IS the perfect spice. Pass on the cinnamon, thank you. :)

  3. all those poor old spices..
    I do try to buy little jars..or whole spices I grind myself and stay good much longer, but I have some old one in there, I know.


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