23 June 2009

How to Buy Spices?

How to Buy Spices?


The first step in getting the best out of your spices, herbs, salt and sugar is like in everything to buy well.


This can best be summed up as:


(i)                  Buy the best you can afford – price is generally a pretty good indication of quality as long as the packaging is not too fancy.  We are often told that Steenbergs spices are expensive, but quality will out and that’s what we are about and not purely price – however, Steenbergs spices & herbs a good value product.  But even then, you do not need much spice or dried herb in each meal – may be a pinch or two – and you are going to get a lot of use out of a 50g (2oz) pack of spices and its going to cost you less and last a lot longer than a bottle of wine or a smoothie or a bar of chocolate.


(ii)                Buy little and often – bulk buying of spices and herbs is rarely worth it in the end.  How many of us have had to clear out those old packs of spices & herbs that lurk in the corners of your cupboards, or bought that extra pack of dill seed because we could not find it hidden in the back of a cupboard or did not know whether we had some back home.  So you should buy as much (or as little) as you think you are going to use in a 12 month period, or the smallest pack size that you can find.


(iii)               Buy a good brand from a reputable retailer – it’s no different from buying good quality vegetables, fish, meat or wine.  Unless you really know what you are doing and have the time & energy, few of us are going to start a small-holding and prepare all our foods ourselves, and like all foods, quality comes down to good stocking. 


Only the specialists and larger outlets are going to be able to source the good quality products and get the stock turn right.  So chose a well-known specialist brand and buy online or find a decent local stockist, whether it’s a large delicatessen or a multiple grocer. 


Next you should check that the packaging can look after the aroma and flavour of the spices and herbs.  Don’t fall for the romantic notion of buying spices and herbs from the exotic bazaar in Cairo or Istanbul or for scooping out your spices from bulk bins, as most of the best quality spices & herbs are bought and sold in Europe and North America.