Nothing lasts forever, least of all the contents of your pantry and refrigerator. But while a carton of milk or flat of eggs have built-in alarms to let you know when they are no longer fit for consumption, the jars on your spice rack offer up no such red flags.
Using herbs and spices past their prime may not make you sick the way a pot of mussels past their prime, but the potency of your jar’s flavor can degrade to the point where they hardly taste like anything at all. Life is too short to cook with dull, expired herbs and spices, so try these simple kitchen hacks to to get more life from your spice.
The Ice Cube Hack
Dried herbs can last anywhere from one to three years if they are stored properly in a cool, dry, dark place. If they’re exposed on a kitchen countertop in close proximity to a stovetop, however, they’ll lose their efficacy and depth of flavor much, much quicker than that.
Fresh herbs, on the other hand, will usually last just a week tops from the time they have been picked. Rather than toss the dried husks of half a plastic carton of sage, cilantro or thyme, try freezing your leftover herbs. Strip the leaves from the hardier stems, and toss a tablespoon into each individual ice tray. For larger leaves like basil, parsley and cilantro, run a knife through your herbs a few times before dividing them.
Once your herbs are divvied up, fill the trays with vegetable broth, chicken stock, olive oil, or even white wine. Pop them into the freezer for a few hours, and then crack your cubes into a freezer bag or airtight storage container. Simply bust a cube out when making soups or sautéeing for an instant herbal kick. Your frozen flavor bombs will keep their bright, fresh flavor for a solid year.
The Stealth Spice Hack
You could get lost for hours on Pinterest gawking at spice porn, but the truth is that the glass bottles and jars that so beautifully show off the vivid colors within are a death sentence for your spices. Enter Infinity Jars. The secret weapon of many professional chefs to combat spice decay, Infinity Jars are sleek and sexy beauties that can add serious mileage to your expiration dates.
The unique surface of the jars prevent rays from the visible light spectrum from entering, only allowing infrared and UV-A light to pass through. The manufacturer claims that a tomato sealed in an infinity jar can reemerge seven months later still fresh and fit to be eaten, so you can imagine what these bad boys can do for both dried and fresh herbs and spices.
They don’t come cheap though. A three-pack of 8 oz. spice jars will set you back about $40, and a ten-pack of the 3.3 oz size sells for more than $100. But Infinity Jars have more than 1,000 five-star reviews across the line on Amazon, so it’s probably worth the high price tag.
Just Grow Your Own
Herbs are among the easiest plants to successfully grow. More importantly, they are surprisingly difficult to kill once planted. Whether you have access to a backyard or just a window above your kitchen sink, the internet is rife with instruction on how to convert nearly anything into an herb garden. Whether you use teacups, mason jars or recycled soda bottles, instructions are out there.
Herbs thrive once planted. They want to live. They yearn to be plucked and picked at, snipped and tossed into your meal. You can even grow multiple herbs from the same pot. It’s nearly impossible to do this incorrectly.
So stop dropping $4 on an ounce or two of cilantro every time you want to make guacamole, and just grow your own. There’s never a need to worry about whether your herbs have expired when you’re plucking them from your own plant.
*This article was originally published in January, 2018.