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Grinding spices

scuzzo Apr 21, 2008 11:43 AM

I have the urge to try to make some interesting spice blends. I have star anise...is it ok to grind up and use? Use the whole star, or just grind up the seeds.

What about bay leaves? Usually they are cooked whole and discarded. Is it ok to grind up fine and use?

Any fun ideas for spice blends?

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  1. Dmnkly RE: scuzzo Apr 21, 2008 12:14 PM

    Star Anise -- yup, grind up the whole thing.

    Bay Leaves -- absolutely.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Dmnkly
      paulj RE: Dmnkly Apr 21, 2008 12:19 PM

      I use star anise whole, primarily in Chinese stews (red-cook etc). If I were to grind it, I'd just use the seeds, not the hard pod. But that is based on just the impression that the real flavor is in the seed, not the pod. I may be wrong about that. Also the pod seems to hard to grind well, but I haven't tried doing so. Do you have enough star anise to experiment?


      1. re: paulj
        sarah galvin RE: paulj Apr 21, 2008 12:21 PM

        I just ground some star anise in a mortar and pestle. The hard pod is very difficult to grind but I wanted the flavour so used it all. Was making black beans.

        1. re: paulj
          Dmnkly RE: paulj Apr 21, 2008 12:27 PM

          In my experience, Paul, the seed tends to have a stronger flavor than the pod, but only on a relative scale. The pods of the star anise in my cabinet right now are quite potent. Especially since it's mostly pod anyway, I see no need to waste all that anise-y goodness :-)

          As far as grinding, I can see how it might be tricky with a mortar and pestle. I toast lightly in a pan and then toss them in a spice (coffee) grinder.

          1. re: Dmnkly
            Querencia RE: Dmnkly Mar 25, 2013 12:56 PM

            I have a dedicated coffee grinder that I use only for spices. Does a more efficient job than mortar & pestle.

        2. re: Dmnkly
          scuzzo RE: Dmnkly Apr 21, 2008 03:11 PM


        3. r
          renz RE: scuzzo Apr 21, 2008 12:15 PM

          I know that start anise gets ground into 5-spice powder. Bay probably gets ground into other spice blends. But they are both sort of unusual choices because using them whole and discarding is just so easy. It's not like peppercorns or cumin seeds that are virtually impossible to dig out of a finished dish.

          You might try spending some time going through the Penzey's site for inspiration.

          3 Replies
          1. re: renz
            Dmnkly RE: renz Apr 21, 2008 12:28 PM

            "But they are both sort of unusual choices because using them whole and discarding is just so easy."

            If you're cooking them into something wet and stewey, sure. If you're dry-rubbing, not so much :-)

            1. re: Dmnkly
              renz RE: Dmnkly Apr 21, 2008 02:13 PM

              Oh, touche. I must not dry-rub very often.

              1. re: renz
                scuzzo RE: renz Apr 21, 2008 03:13 PM

                And I'm looking to experiment with dry rubs, plus spice mixes to season slaws and salad dressings. And marinades. You probably wouldn't get the flavor out of a bay leaf whole, in a cold marinade.

                Plus I bought some different salt shakers and want to try to have some different spice mixes for the table.

          2. FoodFuser RE: scuzzo Apr 21, 2008 12:37 PM

            Spice lovers Note Bene:

            Star anise: when you use it whole, there's no need to remove the seeds, but if you are going to grind it, do NOT use ONLY the seeds, use the Whole pod (pericarp), even discarding the unnecessary seeds.

            see: http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/I...

            All spice lovers should bookmark the full page of this guy. It's astounding.

            Bay leaf, yes okay to grind, but use less. Make sure you are not using "California Bay", a different species that has extractable toxins:


            The pericarp often holds the aromatic compounds. Katzer's page is a real gift to the spice junkie's fuller understanding of the field.

            5 Replies
            1. re: FoodFuser
              Dmnkly RE: FoodFuser Apr 21, 2008 12:58 PM

              "use the Whole pod (pericarp), even discarding the unnecessary seeds."

              This is a great page, FF, but I think you misstate what's written there, and this is -- in any case -- demonstrably false. The seeds can pack quite a whallop of flavor. I haven't taken the time to taste the difference between seeds and pods in different batches of star anise, but speaking at least for the tub currently in my cabinet, both have great flavor, and the seeds are actually stronger.

              1. re: Dmnkly
                FoodFuser RE: Dmnkly Apr 21, 2008 01:18 PM

                Sorry. Sometimes its seeds, sometimes seed coat, sometimes pericarp/pod, sometimes the peduncle. The nutmeg/mace dual offering is a great illustrator.

                Methinks we're all here just to seek and share advice, which often seems contradictory, but finally We all will Cook as we choose.

              2. re: FoodFuser
                scuzzo RE: FoodFuser Apr 21, 2008 03:16 PM

                Awesome link. I'll be spending a lot of time there.

                1. re: FoodFuser
                  alkapal RE: FoodFuser Apr 22, 2008 03:53 AM

                  foodfuser: superb link. thanks for the tip!

                  1. re: FoodFuser
                    kirchwey RE: FoodFuser Mar 25, 2013 09:28 AM

                    The excellent star anise page you linked to is now at


                    and the bay leaf page is at


                    BTW I agree with Dmnkly; the seeds seem to have considerable clout.


                  2. treestonerivershrub RE: scuzzo Mar 25, 2013 12:26 PM

                    If you are going to the trouble of grinding whole spices, and you want to make some unique spice blends, I suggest reading up a bit on Indian cooking--there are lots of suggestions about which spices are good toasted, roasted, and then fresh ground. The flavored are really unique!

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