Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Life of spice

Gone are the days when our grandmothers used to get urns full of hand-pounded masalas to be stored in the kitchen. Gone are the sunning spells of pickles and spices in the courtyards. Gone is the fragrance and texture of authentic, whole spices.

What we have is our express packs of masalas that we store in our urban kitchens and replenish as and when required.

Here is your guide to storing these in the right conditions to maximise on the taste and treats when used:

Buy right

It begins by tickling your nostrils with the freshness of ground pepper and garam masala in the market. “Always buy spices in small quantities as the humidity often causes them to turn,” advises Deepalekha Bhattacharjee, consultant nutritionist and dietitian. “Check for fresh aroma. The spices must be free-flowing, without any lumps in them. Clumped masalas indicate presence of moisture.”

Store right

A cool, dry location is preferred for longevity. “The ideal temperature is below 20 degree Celsius,” she advises. “Storing spices in the refrigerator is not recommended as then they lose their aroma and taste. The environment in the refrigerator brings in high humidity,” she explains. “Even if you store them in an air-tight container, there is a high chance of a loss in natural taste and aroma.”

Arrange the boxes in the pantry in the kitchen in air-tight containers and with minimal exposure to light.

Whole stuff

What about whole spices including cardamom, cinnamon sticks and black pepper pearls? “The idea is to put them away for use in air-tight containers away from heat and water, with a minimal exposure to sunlight. You can dry roast these before storing in dark coloured glass containers,” suggests Deepalekha.

It is best to keep the spices away from shelves near your stove and burners to avoid unnecessary exposure to heat. Remember, ground spices turn bad quicker than their whole counterparts.

Sign of times

Watch out for the formation of clumps in the masalas, or the formation of a net like structure on top of the powered ingredient. “These are indicators that the spices are unfit for consumption. If they are soggy and clumped, there could be hidden fungal growth. Keep an eye out for any signs of discoloration, and radical change in aroma,” she says.

The flavour of spices can be altered by exposure to light, temperature and humidity. Make sure you stack the seasonings in a cool, dark area bereft of moisture.

(Published 20 October 2023, 19:26 IST)

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