Chef’s log, bottle date unknown. During a routine mission into the cabinet-nebula spices have been found faded, tasteless, as if some force has changed their very nature. Our mission is one of rescue and, if necessary, extermination of expired contents.
I have a confession to make, my spice cabinet had become so crammed full of spice bottles I had to start storing new ones in a second cabinet. Then, regularly used spices bottles were kept on the countertop. It was a horror. In total 104 bottles of spices “littered” my kitchen. With the resolve of a starship captain on an away mission of discovery I bushwhacked my way into the unknown.
I was surprised to find that I had not one, or two, but 4 spice bottles of celery (flake and/or seed), and I hate celery! I was also astonished to uncover not two or four but SIX bottles of allspice (2 whole, 4 ground). One by one, I removed each bottle from its place and lined them all up neatly by spice or herb on the counter. Then, with the help of McCormick’s Support Site I was able to remove 37 expired bottles from my collection. Not all of my bottles were stamped with an expiration so the guidelines that McCormick’s provided was really helpful! However, when all else fails, take a sniff. If it doesn’t smell fresh or “clean”, throw it out. Herbs and spices should delight our senses, from the bold color of curry to the sweet peppery odor of basil.
McCormick’s site recommends the following shelf life of herbs and spices:
• Ground Spices – 3 to 4 years
• Whole Spices – 4 years
• Leafy Herbs – 1 to 3 years
• Bottled Seasoning Blends – 1 to 2 years
• Extracts (Except Pure Vanilla) & Food Colors – 4 years
• Pure Vanilla – indefinitely
• Recipe Mixes (gravy, taco, etc.) – 2 years
• Marinades and Sauces – 12 to 24 months
• Seafood Box Mixes – 18 to 24 months
The greatest recipe known to man will fall flat if the herbs and spices used are outdated and tasteless. Next time you change the batteries on your smoke alarm (that’s every year btw), or for the overachievers – each time your car gets an oil change, do a quick check of your spice cabinet so that every dish you make can be it’s yummiest.