Maybe you’re like most people who have a cabinet full of assorted McCormick jars that fall out on your head whenever you open the spice cabinet. Or maybe you have a fancy countertop spice rack taking up space and exposing your fragile herbs and spices to harmful sunlight that breaks down flavors.
If you’re looking for a neat and economical way to organize your herbs and spices, a simple turntable (Lazy Susan) and a set of spice shaker jars will do the trick quite nicely. You should be buying your dried herbs and spices in bulk anyway, so you’ll need a container for them besides whatever bag or tub they came. This way you can shake them out onto your foods if you’re not scooping and measuring them for marinades or rubs. Just label the spice jar with a permanent marker or use a label maker if you want something fancier.
I also have a set of magnetic spice tins that can be stuck to the side of the fridge, or better yet, to a magnetic strip mounted to the inside of a cabinet to avoid that light issue I mentioned earlier. These are good for things that you wouldn’t shake anyway like bay leaves or whole nutmegs.
You’ll have to measure your cabinet’s width and depth to determine the diameter of the Lazy Susan (also called turntables) you should buy. Double-decker models are also available.
The Lowdown on Herbs and Spices
Fresh herbs are almost always preferable to dried. Dried oregano is still pretty useful however. I also usually keep dried thyme and rosemary on hand if fresh isn’t an option. Dried parsley and cilantro are pretty much tasteless, so I never buy those.
Try to buy whole spices such as cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and even mustard seeds. For the best flavor, toast these briefly in a dry skillet, and then grind them in a mortar and pestle or a dedicated coffee grinder/spice grinder. Do not grind your coffee beans and spices in the same grinder. Also, ground spices tend to lose their flavor after 6 months, so toss those spice jars that have been sitting around your kitchen since the Clinton administration.
Lastly, try to avoid keeping your spices in a cabinet above the oven/range. Frequent exposure to heat will diminish their flavor just like light does.