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Whole Spices

 
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OscarTehGrouch



Joined: 01 Feb 2007
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 6:06 am    Post subject: Whole Spices Reply with quote

Very simple... I would like to have a list of (reply or point me to a link/information) with...

What spices should you keep whole and grind on the spot...

What spices it doesn't matter...
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DrBiggles



Joined: 12 May 2005
Posts: 355
Location: Richmond, CA

PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:32 pm    Post subject: Re: Whole Spices Reply with quote

OscarTehGrouch wrote:
Very simple... I would like to have a list of (reply or point me to a link/information) with...

What spices should you keep whole and grind on the spot...

What spices it doesn't matter...


Keep them all whole. Once you grind them up, there's more surface area of the spice where oxygen gets to and causes them to deteriorate in flavor/potency.

That being said, sometimes getting things whole is tough or grinding them up properly is tedious. I say, do what you can. And generally speaking, buying such things whole and in larger quantites will cost you a bit less.

Biggles
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1635
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 9:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The only thing to watch out for when grinding your spices is that using volume (for example, one teaspoon) will often result in too much or too little (by as much as a factor of 2 or 3) of the particular spice due to how finely you can grind the spice. Unfortunately, spices are often added in such small quantities that measuring with a scale is nearly impossible unless you own one specifically designed to measure to perhaps the 1/2 gram (1/10 gram would be bettter). Barring that, you'll probably want to do some trial and error experiments first to get a feel for how much freshly ground spice is actually going into a recipe (vs. using preground).
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Thor



Joined: 24 Jul 2006
Posts: 112
Location: Camp Hill, PA

PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 7:52 pm    Post subject: Whole Spices Reply with quote

I donít think there is a simple, definitive list of spices that should be kept whole. I agree with the norm that dictates freshly ground lends better flavor than those spices purchased already ground. I do not think the choices should be made based on a global list some other chef has developed, but should be a list you develop based on your tastes and cooking habits.

Iím too lazy to get out a spice grinder every time I reach for some flavor. And some items, like cinnamon are a pain in the butt to grind. And others, like nutmeg or mace mean that youíre going to be playing with your nuts before baking. Not for me.

I only keep whole spices that I regularly use whole, like mustard seeds, cumin, cardamom, bay leaves, or cinnamon. Or ones that need toasted before grinding, like cumin and coriander. Or ones use cracked, like coriander. And of course, black pepper should be purchased whole for on the spot grinding.

Or if Iím going to make batches of spice mixtures that serve their own specific purposes, I will buy whole spices to grind together. For instance, for batches of garam masala, chile powder, or rub for pork butt/bbq I will mix whole spices right in my grinder and blend till powdered.
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IndyRob



Joined: 17 Dec 2006
Posts: 77

PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 11:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm in total agreement that fresh/whole is always better. But let's face it, convenience does matter. After using fresh ground black pepper exclusively for several years, I just bought a small jar of coarse ground pepper. I use enough that it won't be around for long and I've found the feeling of a quick shake quite liberating.

It's also nice if you're doing a spice rub and you need a tablespoon or more of ground pepper. Hand grinding that much is a real pain unless you resort to a Alton Brown electric drill contraption. Although on some days it is nice to take your time and craft something.

I feel similarly about garlic powder. It does have its place. It can even suit some dishes better than fresh. So, I guess I'm agreeing with Thor in that you have to take the whole picture into account. It's probably more important to try all the various forms of an ingredient so you'll know what to use when you know what you're looking for.
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watt
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 03, 2007 11:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would certainly agree that spices stored whole then ground just prior to use is the way to go. And don't forget that spices should be kept in sealed (glass) jars, in the cool, out of direct sunlight. Many ground spices need ditching after 6 months or so, on the other hand whole pepper (properly stored) can last for years.

If making spice blends, don't roast unless told to do so (from a good book/site), it is not necessary for most spices (only coriander cumin and fenugreek change significantly) and all you are liable to do is lose flavour.

If making garam masala use only cardamom, cloves cassia and mace/nutmeg. Finely grind together and store in an air tight jar with rubber/silicone seal. The smell (and therefore flavour) is very intense, much more so than shop bought masala, which usually contains cheaper coriander cumin and other spices.
HTH
watt
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2007 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

you don't store your spices in a nitrogen atmosphere, with UV-absorbing dye in the glass jar?!?

Girlie boys!
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Watt
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2007 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know its tongue in cheek, but intelligent storage will lengthen shelf life. And it's not only UV light that will cause problems with coloured spices, any colour may (though the glass would stop most of the UV anyways).

Watt
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cloud_swift



Joined: 13 Apr 2007
Posts: 10
Location: Northern California

PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2007 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regular glass only stops about half the UV. It gets most of the UVB and lets most of the UVA get through. There are UV-filtering glass and plastic products that filter almost all the UV (98%) that I've seen for conservation framing, but I don't know where you would get bottles made of them. I just keep my spices in a drawer.

When grinding cardamom, do you grind just the seeds or the whole pod? I've seen conflicting recommendations on that.
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Watt
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2007 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

cloud_swift wrote:
Regular glass only stops about half the UV. It gets most of the UVB and lets most of the UVA get through. There are UV-filtering glass and plastic products that filter almost all the UV (98%) that I've seen for conservation framing, but I don't know where you would get bottles made of them. I just keep my spices in a drawer.

When grinding cardamom, do you grind just the seeds or the whole pod? I've seen conflicting recommendations on that.


I thought there would be discussion about UV and glass, but as you say, it depends on glass type and wavelengths, but my point was about coloured (visible) light, and how important to keep away from. I store my spices on shelves in a dark kitchen.

As for cardamoms, the green variety has a very fibrous casing, and does not grind well, (either manual or mechanical). Best to just grind the seeds. For black, although larger and thicker skinned, they do grind down surprisingly well, though this may depend on age. Always grind on demand.
hth
Watt
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