Who threw the spices out? Who? Who? Who-oo?

No, not an owl nor the Baha men. I did, all part of the cleaning trend and motivation (read lit a fire) in the Kitchen Counter Cooking School. Once again, the author reminded me of things I know and treasure. This time it is don’t keep around old spices (Old Spice, is ok) and buying from bulk bins is by far the most economical way to go about stocking the spice pantry.

The mission: clean out and organize my spices.

The situation: spices live in several locations, baking drawer, three spice drawers (narrow, European things – read, not that useful), side of fridge and pantries.

The plan: document the current situation, sort spices by groupings that make sense to me in my kitchen, tidy up the space around them, replace those that are less than fresh but have potential applications

The tools: time, smell, taste, touch, visual inspection


After you locate all your spices, spread them out so you can take a full inventory.

Now sort, wipe of jars, jot down notes: what is missing, what is musty and needs to be replaced etc

Extracts, Essential oils (The liquids)

Although I don’t cook with it, the tea tree, lemon grass and spearmint are used with my beeking. Almond is as well, but I also use it baking every once in a while. I use lemon grass for scenting the sugar syrup the bees feed on in spring (mimics pheromone created by the honeybee’s nasonov gland) and late fall (will post syrup about this soon), almond extract works a bit like some of the chemical bee repellents (for clearing out a box for harvest) but didn’t work too well for me, so I might have the wrong kind of almond (oh, well). Tea tree oil has lots of applications but for bees can help with mite repellant, I have yet to encounter this plague. Spearmint helps masks your human smell when working with bees, and is calming to them, decreasing the amount of smoke you may need, which in turn is better for the bees too. The meat tenderize (not in this photo) is for the bees too, when they sting. Although I noticed on inspection it comes “with spices”, so who knows how THAT will feel on a sting.

I tossed the maple extract old, not much left, can wait until a clear indication. Combined my two dark/medium vanillas.

Peppery stuff

Montreal steak – hands down the best thing to flavor a steak with, but not lose its own beauty. Good on lamb too. More people need to use this stuff. We actually buy this at Costco and just keep refilling the little container. Lavendar pepper – keeper, low use but fun to use. I last used it to top off some homemade pate. Full peppercorns. Old! Don’t really use. Toss

Curries, chili’s and Oriental spices (yes, oriental is ok to use for things, just not people)

Red pepper powder (big in Korean cuisine, but don’t need a kilo of it), three curries (kept two – 1 is MIL fave and other is Madras, different flavor profile), chili powder (replace), indian red chili (use responsibly!) and Japanese shichimi (yummy on edamame and rice.)

Indian Specific Spices (dot not feather) The good stuff in ziploc is from my dear friend Mo’s Mom! Legit stuff.

Why bother keeping the World Market Tandori. You can make it up with stuff you already have on hand ( I snapped a shot of ingredients for proof). I also had two coriander and two turmeric, so tossed the commercial/old ones and keep the fresh ones.

The Savories (Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Oregeno etc) and The
Leafies (parsley, tarragon, dill etc). I really am not sure what the purpose of dried parsley is…. No flavor, not really a pretty green and they sell it in huge jars. I just decided that I don’t need it, no point and I will get real stuff or use something else.

Dippers (including ranch dressing mix powder – just mix it with yogurt, sour cream or cottage for tasty dip). Was able to combine some of the olive oil seasons, since they were the same (e.g. Parmesan blend) or darn close enough.

Baking Lot, including sprinkles. Just a few needing refreshing, like cinnamon sticks (key to my pears in red wine sauce), ginger, nutmeg and cream of tartar (important for making baking powder)

Others (although 5 spice snuck in here and belongs in the oriental pile, and then the garbage. Not my fave). I tossed from here some that have chemicals or MSG, like seasoning salt and this particular onion powder. One should worry when the back of a spice bottle looks more like a prescription pill bottle… The Fruit Fresh is “titrated to effect” so no too worried and my favorite spice was in this group too, Smoked Paprika. Get some. Poppy seeds were a bit weird and fluffy looking. Hmmm. No flavor either.

The results!

Nice and tidy. Was able to move into my Indian spice set (love!) and save big bucks by buying bulk (an alliteration!). I replaced 12 spices from bulk bins and one commercial package (whole cloves, they just didn’t have them in the bins.) all for $18.88 minus the cost of a bag of Whethers.

Everything is so much more aromatic and I was able to purchase meaningful quantities of herbs versus the size of the container. I also added in some whole cardamons, that I can grind and add in to so many different things – this was missing from the lot before. I got rid of the containers on  the side of the fridge (they were always spilling their contents, centralized most into the drawers and committed to the kitchen goddess to do this again next year, or so.

What is your favorite spice? Mine is a tie with sage and smoked paprika…..

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