The best way to store herbs and spices

The Best Way to Store Herbs and Spices

Gavin Wren Food Techniques, Writing

It’s the little things in life, isn’t it?

I never thought I’d post about the best way to store herbs and spices, because it’s such a minuscule thing in the world of food, yet here I am. This small thing has actually made an enormous difference to my life in the kitchen, because it’s often the small changes to my way of work that have an unreasonably large effect on my overall happiness, especially when compared to the big changes, the big things I dream of.

The best way to store herbs and spices

Dream Big.

In the kitchen it’s easy to lust after that expensive stand mixer which will be a culinary revolution, transforming my kitchen into a chic, efficient and successful place that will turn out even more fabulous baked goods. When this revolutionary piece of equipment finally arrives, finally satisfying dreams of material lust and possessive fulfilment, it gets used a few times in quick succession then becomes slightly more ornamental. It takes a position of substitute, sitting on the sidelines and only being pulled off the bench when the team is in trouble and needs a big hitter to wind up the match. The excitement of a new toy long gone, it’s just another ‘thing’ that sits on the shelf and watches me cook most of the time.

Then there are the little changes, the small things which make a huge difference to how I work. Like putting a pourer into a fancy shaped vodka bottle and using it as my olive oil dispenser, permanently kept by the side of the stove, within arms reach. This cost me £0.00, because the bottle was about to be thrown away and the pourer was found in the bottom of a draw. I use it almost daily, not only does it look great, but it also works like a dream, a reliable, stable, constant stream of olive oil poured out wherever I want. I get pleasure from using it, every single day. In terms of value for money, this represents an infinitely greater return than the stand mixer, it makes me happy every time I use it.

This tells me a simple fact. It’s not how expensive, cool, flash or chic the new ‘thing’ is, but how regularly I’ll use and how well it does it’s job. On that level, it’s the basics that really count, knives, chopping boards and pans, because good ones can do little wrong. Beyond that, what other interactions occur in the kitchen on a daily basis which can be made more joyous for very little money?

The best way to store herbs and spices

The Best Way to Store Herbs and Spices.

I’ve tried it all. I’ve tried so many different ways of storing these and failed to find any that work, until now. I’ve had cupboards full of jars whose labels I can’t read, which tumble out when searching for the nutmeg at the back. I’ve had plastic tupperware containers full of bags which I rummage through when desperate for some aniseed, only to find the turmeric has sprung open and deposited itself all over the box and now my t-shirt. I’ve colour coded boxes with seeds, ground spices, herbs but still end up with a box full of random jars. I’ve had spice racks which run out of space, not to mention exposing all my precious herbs and spices to a daily dose of bright light which is anathema to them, it’s fatal.

Any of these sound familiar?

Finally, I have the answer. Draws and jars. I recently had a breakfast bar added to my minuscule kitchen, including a few extra draws underneath it. Next, I purchased a load of little jars from Ampulla. I transferred all of my herbs and spices to these jars, labelled their lids, placed them in my draws and finally, I have all of my herbs and spices visible in one quick glance. I can select sumac at a glance, grab ground ginger in seconds and take tarragon by my hand in the blink of an eye.

The best way to store herbs and spices

Life is a Joy.

If there’s one thing in life I could work on, it’s being grateful and happy. Seriously, I’m a grumpy git most of the time. But I can’t tell you how utterly liberating and joyous this process has been. Seriously. It’s one of the most fantastic things I’ve done in the kitchen since making Raymond Blanc’s simple chocolate mousse and accidentally making too much. It easily surpasses the joy of completing my fantastic set of Sage Appliances (toaster, kettle, blender, stand mixer, food processor, microwave – no they don’t sponsor me, but they should).

The best way to store herbs and spices

I use herbs and spices every single week. They’re vital to cooking. In fact, the more accessible they are, the more I use them. This has made cooking easier and more joyous on an almost daily basis. Taking a quick pinch of any spice can be done in seconds, making it more likely that I will just add a ‘pinch of this’ to my next dish. Most importantly, it’s removed the frustration. Even if I only used spices once a month, this would still be worth it.

The irritating search for spices is over. No more will I have to scurry through boxes and cupboards looking for turmeric while a recipe sits, patiently waiting for my lack of mise en place. No more searching for sage, never again will I pursue paprika or chase cumin seeds through the shady areas of my cupboard spaces.

Welcome to the revolution.

My unique perspective on food, once a month.

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