Do you purchas spice mixes? I love the flavor of Montreal Steak Seasoning, and a really good curry mix. Curry spices as you probably know aren’t a single spice, but a mixture of ingredients — as is Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and Mrs. Dash, and Emeril’s special blend.
The thing is that seasoning mixes lose their potency. The longer they sit in the jar on the shelf the more their potency and piquancy fade into nothingness. After not-too-long they are nothing like what they are supposed to taste.
I have been to places where spice mongers did a brisk and thriving business. Here in the U.S. — and in particular in Milwaukee where the company Penzey’s Spice has it’s headquarters we see spices most often in little jars, and not fresh in the bag in which they arrived from their origin.
It doesn’t take much effort to mix your own blends. You’ll find that a lot of blends use the same spices and by mixing your own you can exhaust your supply of each constituent ingredient sooner and replenish it to keep the intensity up to par. You’ll also find that individual spices most frequently end up costing less than the mixed ingredients — after all you’re paying someone to do the mixing! But the biggest benefit is just in getting fresher, more potent flavors that will tingle your tastebuds and delight your palate.
I don’t know if you’re lucky enough to live near a grocery or coop that sells bulk spices. I know our “natural food” coop does. The Outpost Natural Foods has an area of cute little bottles containing dozens and dozens of spices that are all WAY fresher than anything in a prepackaged spice mix jar! And, as a side benefit you get the fun of going to the store and dipping into each of those containers and scooping out however much you want — breathing in the rich aromas of each. In time your nose will thank you simply for the pure delight of the experience.
Another benefit — if you’re lucky enough to live near a spice monger — is that you can make your own blends. I have used Penzey’s blends and they have some very lovely combinations. But they also have some that do nothing for me. And I’d rather be able to mix combinations that I like than to take some combination someone else thinks is good. I don’t know about you, but for example, one of our local malls has a Williams & Sonoma store. They are always exhausting aromas into the mall — presumably from something they are cooking in the store but sometimes I think it’s just a marketing ploy to make you think about stopping. And the thing is that for all the trips I’ve made to that mall I can’t remember a single time that the blend of aromas coming out of that store has smelled appealing to my nose — and I’m a guy who uses a lot of seasoning. I just don’t care for their blend.
So, take this as an encouragement to experiment. Try making your own spice blends. You can find almost any blend broken down into a recipe on the web. Try an easy one and maybe you’ll find yourself going to the spice aisle more often.