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What are your absolute must-have spices?

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I asked in the Bittman thread, and someone observed that it deserves a whole new topic. I agree.

I just cleared out a ton of old spices, some of which I've been hauling around for years. Now I have space and several nice empty glass spice jars, and I want to restock. I bought turmeric, cream of tartar, lemon pepper, ground cloves and allspice from Whole Foods bulk jars.

What spices can you absolutely not do without, that you will rush out and buy when you run out? In addition to staples like cinnamon, sage, thyme, paprika, nutmeg, cumin and bay leaves, how about the more "exotic" ones, like lemon grass, cardamom, and turmeric (I have all three of these).

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  1. For me personally, aleppo pepper flakes, allspice (whole and ground), bay leaves, cardamom (whole), cloves (whole), coriander, cumin (whole and ground), curry powder, nutmeg (whole), paprika (sweet, smoked and half-sharp), peppercorns (whole), saffron. But it really depends what you cook. I have no sweet tooth so no baking spices. And I hate dried herbs so buying fresh is one of my luxuries. Lots of people feel otherwise. I think this is really a matter of taste -- bet you don't find any two people whose spice cupboards are the same!

    7 Replies
    1. re: GretchenS

      I know, that's why I'm curious. Maybe I'll find a new way to use spices.

      There are lots of staples missing from my spice cabinet because I grow my own in summer and dry them for winter. I leave them hanging in the mudroom and use as needed.

      Another thing I wonder about, which may merit yet another new thread: why does no one make a spice rack that a serious cook would actually use? My idea of the perfect spice rack would be a lazy susan with 8 oz, 4 oz and 2 oz glass jars. At least 40 of them. The jars would be empty and the set would include blank labels.

      1. re: avgolemona

        There are several spice racks on the market that offer empty bottles with blank labels, but I don't know of any that have more than about a dozen containers in each set. IMHO there are too many of us who purchase a spice on a whim or for a "one time" recipe and end up tossing the spice out after they've lost their punch over time. If I'm trying a new recipe I make an effort to find the spices in full seed form, rather than ground, to avoid spending money on something I might never again use. I'm trying Alton Brown's method for storing herbs and spices using those lidded small metal cans that attach with magnets to a plate inside the cupboard door. Easier for me than spinning a lazy susan around trying to find what I need. Although my daughter uses a lazy susan arrangement rather successfully with all the spices in alphabetical order; I'm not that organized. My spice collection includes all those on GretchenS's list along with carraway, dill seed, fennel seed, varieties of cinnamon and salts and I wouldn't be without my selection of mustard seeds.

        1. re: todao

          I would not recommend any of the spice racks. Spices shoud be in a dark place and not in racks on the cupboard. I have three cupboards with spices, herbs, etc. and use rotating trays so I can find them. I order from Penzy's and love the spices I get.

          My must have spices is a very long list:

          pepper (tellecherrry extra-bold) - order 1 lb (or more) at a time
          ancho chili powder
          cumin (whole and ground)
          red pepper flakes
          thyme
          tarragon
          cayanne pepper
          allepo pepper
          bay leaves
          tumeric
          coriander
          cardomon pods
          basil
          asoepheda
          anise
          szechuan pepper corns

          and If went into my spice cupboards, there would be many more.

          1. re: pepperqueen

            RE: Storing spices: When I re-did my kitchen I put in two wide (27") drawers and got an insert for storing spices (for example: http://www.stacksandstacks.com/drawer...). This is excellent--they are all laid out in plain view--easy to keep them alphabetized. I have quite a collection of spices--they are enough of a curiosity that guests have even asked: "Can I see your spices?"

            1. re: zamorski

              Yours is a system that seems to work for me. I do the same.

              I use small jars, like the wide mouthed glass jars from Penzeys or emply French Jam Jars... the Bon Maman ones with the Gingham tops. I put the label on the TOP, and have them in a deep kitchen draw on slanted step like things.

              1. re: Fleur

                I also have the trays in drawers, and yet I still have an overflow in a cabinet. I keep the tray ones alphabetized (really, only a pain to do the first time, so upkeep is easy). Love the trays. I tend to buy whole spices to grind fresh for each recipe. I also refill my old "tins" from as far back as the 70s/80s. I have all of Peppercorn's, plus a slew of other Indian spices. Not counting extracts, herbs, or the peppers that I grow and dry.

        2. re: avgolemona

          http://www.specialtybottle.com/salvej...

          There's your glass jars Avgolemona!

      2. Because my main interest lately has been Chinese cooking, my spices are limited. I have the usual...cardamom, pepper, sea salt, cumin, etc., but two I could not live without are star anise and szechuan peppercorn.
        Hector Blumenthal taught me the wonders of star anise and carmalized onions...Magic

        13 Replies
        1. re: billieboy

          BB, care to share the "wonders" with those of us who also love star anise? How is it prepared with the onions?

          1. re: Val

            You carmalize the two together and then cover meat (any kind) and braise.

          2. re: billieboy

            I bought star anise for a recipe a while back and have not used it since. Any suggestions for some common uses?

            1. re: lynnlato

              Star anise, I don't think is "common". I use it in a lot of things because I like it. Don't use too much, though, it's a strong flavour and will take over if you are not careful.

              1. re: billieboy

                I wasn't saying that star anise is common, but rather asking whether you knew of some common uses for it.

                1. re: billieboy

                  I toss one or two into my stock for pho. It goes well with beef. Also, a little in your spicy baking.

                2. re: lynnlato

                  I really like it in this star anise and sweet potato soup from Chowhound:
                  http://www.chow.com/recipes/10832

                  I've made the soup several times, and once as a part of a five-spice themed dinner which was chronicled here:
                  http://www.phoo-d.com/2008/10/five-sp...

                  Phoo-D

                  1. re: Phoo_d

                    Oooh, that's a great recipe. Thanks! It also makes me wonder how star anise would work in sweet potato pie. Hmmm....

                  2. re: lynnlato

                    Of course there is a site for star anise recipes.
                    http://www.recipes4us.co.uk/Star%20An...

                    1. re: wolfe

                      Thank you, Wolfe, for that site. Lovely sounding recipes.

                      Bill

                    2. re: lynnlato

                      Steep star anise in the milk prior to preparing rice pudding. The anise imparts a lovely flavor to the finished recipe.

                      1. re: lynnlato

                        I accidentally ran out of cinnamon sticks during this last Fall. In a pinch, I used star anise, as a substitute for cinnamon sticks in hot spiced cider. WOW! Taste buds were very happy, indeed! :) Don't go overboard, just use one or two stars for 2-4 servings with all the other spices you would normally put in apple cider.

                        1. re: lynnlato

                          I always put a piece when I make my Plum Jam. A little goes a long way. One Star Anise for 10 lbs of Italian Purple Plums.I also use lLemon Slices and Stick Cinnamon.

                      2. Sumaq, Korean red pepper flakes, turkish red pepper flakes (if I can find as it's more rare)
                        Not a spice but mushroom stock cubes, put them in everything and they're in my spice cupboard.
                        Granulated garlic and then everything else you mentioned above. along with cloves, whole and ground.
                        Peppercorns too, I love them whole in rice and soup.

                        1. Perhaps due to OCD I need a beginning and an end. Presently I have allspice and my rack used to extend to zatar but my newest addition is zhug.
                          GretchenS, peppers are individually alphabetized as are oreganos. (Greek/Mexican)

                          1. I moved a few months ago, and took the opportunity to chuck any spice I didn't remember buying recently. I've actually been surprised at how few I've repurchased. I think all I have is:

                            Cinnamon Sticks
                            Whole nutmeg
                            Saffron
                            Cumin
                            Coriander
                            Dried chiles
                            Chipotle power
                            5 spice powder
                            Bay leaves
                            Salts and peppers

                            1. All of them. Were you kidding?

                              1. This is what I got in my pantry, I forgot to mention fenugreek earlier and some other things..

                                Herbs and Spices:

                                Basil
                                Oregano
                                Italian spice
                                mint

                                granulated Garlic

                                Cumin
                                cumin seeds
                                corriander
                                corriander seeds
                                Turmeric
                                Curry (indian and west indian)

                                saffron

                                Cloves
                                ground cloves
                                Allspice
                                cinnamon
                                cinnamon sticks
                                nutmeg
                                ginger
                                fenugreek
                                cardamom
                                five spice

                                mustard

                                crushed chili
                                sweet chili flakes
                                paprika
                                chili powder
                                cayenne
                                Korean chili flakes
                                Turkish chili flakes

                                black pepper
                                Pepper corns
                                salt
                                lemon (citric acid)
                                sumaq

                                Bayleaf

                                Veggie stock cubes
                                Celery seeds/Celery salt

                                Za'tar
                                sage ( for cooking and tea)

                                Baking powder
                                baking soda

                                Sesame seeds
                                vanilla
                                almond extract
                                mahlab
                                white sugar
                                brown sugar
                                powder sugar
                                vanilla sugar
                                cocoa powder
                                chocolate
                                yeast

                                ** I don't really use rosemary so I don't buy it, some herbs I prefer fresh so I don't keep dry ones on hand.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: BamiaWruz

                                  You are missing epazote and the indispensable wattle seed.

                                  1. re: wolfe

                                    Honestly I have not heard of them, lol. But I'll look into it :)
                                    I mainly cook middle eastern, some asian (mostly korean), some indian, some german and then other recipes from around.

                                    1. re: BamiaWruz

                                      How do you like that flavor profile?
                                      http://scentofgreenbananas.blogspot.c...

                                2. I simply can't live without my Hungarian sweet paprika from The Spice House. It's the best I've found in the US. I will break out in hives if I come too close to the end of my stash and haven't got a new order on the way.

                                  Others I always have on hand and use more than anything else:
                                  Hungarian hot paprika
                                  Spanish smoked paprika
                                  Caraway
                                  Turkish bay leaves
                                  Tellicherry peppercorns
                                  Dried dill - usually I can't stand dried herbs but for some reason I love dried dill almost but not quite as much as fresh. It definitely has it's place.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: PumpkinHead

                                    Dill, yeah that's good stuff, if I can't get my hands on the fresh I go for dry but it's not regularly stocked in my pantry.
                                    Same for caraway.

                                  2. These are all great replies. Now I want to buy some star anise, sumaq, fenugreek, and five spice and start using them. In the past I've just avoided recipes that included them.

                                    I am so guilty of buying spices and using them once. Years ago I made a recipe that called for juniper berries. I bought them and stored the remaining tablespoon or so in a miniature jelly jar - the kind you get with room service breakfasts - and moved that jar along with the rest of my kitchen for years. Why? Because it reminded me of that dinner and the friends who ate it with me. Last night I threw them out, but not before calculating how long I'd had them - 20 years.

                                    Tempus fugit.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: avgolemona

                                      They will probably join my 30+ year old nutmeg in spice heaven.

                                      1. re: wolfe

                                        Well, if we're going for embarrassing examples of how long we've held on to old spices-

                                        When I moved away from home my mom gave me spices from her stash. One of them was a small metal canister of cream of tartar, Kroger brand. I know it was one of Mom's because I haven't lived near or shopped at a Kroger store since I moved away from home. That was one of the things I threw out yesterday.

                                        She gave me the spices in (are you ready?) 1974. So - at <i>least</i> 35 years, because it wasn't new when she gave it to me.

                                        I should have kept it just for the novelty of owning antique cream of tartar.

                                        Stop me from digging in the trash to get it, please.

                                        (Edit) Never mind.

                                    2. What I can remember right now:

                                      Basil, Oregano, Spearmint, Sage, Thyme - dried (from the garden)
                                      Garlic Powder, Onion Powder
                                      Ground Cumin, Cumin seeds
                                      Corriander, Corriander seeds
                                      Turmeric, Garam Masala, Maharaja Curry Powder, Saffron
                                      Whole Cloves, Ground Cloves
                                      Allspice, Cassia Cinnamon Chunks, Cinnamon Sticks, Ground Nutmeg
                                      Ground Ginger (fresh ginger in the fridge)
                                      Fenugreek, Fennel Seeds, Dill Seed, Herbes De Provence
                                      Whole Cardamom, Five Spice Powder
                                      Mustard seeds, Mustard Powder
                                      Whole Ancho Chili Peppers , Whole Arbol Chili Peppers, Whole Guajillo Peppers
                                      Smoked Spanish Paprika, Hungarian Paprika
                                      Medium Hot Chili Powder, Cayenne, Chinese blend black pepper, Aleppo Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes
                                      White Pepper Fine,Whole Tellicherry Indian Black Peppercorns
                                      Penzey's Sandwich Sprinkle, Kosher salt, Sea Salt
                                      Bayleaf,Epazote, Juniper Berries
                                      Vanilla Extract, Vanilla Beans

                                      1. Does miso count?

                                        1. Now... may I be excused? I have to go throw out some expensive, formerly flavoured dust... LOL.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: linengirl

                                            Maybe there should be a thread for old spices we've thrown away recently. And the stories connected to them.

                                            1. re: avgolemona

                                              That would be smart. you should tell admin

                                          2. I'm finding myself becoming something of a Penzey's addict. As a result I have a giant assortment of spices all alphabetized and in a very handy tall and skinny cabinet drawer that I would want to figure out how to take with me if I ever moved. The ones I find myself reaching for on a weekly basis would include:
                                            Vietnamese cassia cinnamon
                                            bay leaves
                                            Ancho
                                            Chipolte
                                            Adobo
                                            French thyme
                                            Turkish oregano
                                            India extra bold peppercorns
                                            Herbes de Provance
                                            garlic powder
                                            shallot salt
                                            double strength vanilla

                                            Phoo-D
                                            http://www.phoo-d.com

                                            1. I recently bought dried lemongrass because I rarely have fresh lemongrass on hand except I didn't have a particular recipe in mind. Anyone want to make a suggestion?
                                              I was surprised dillweed wasn't mentioned more. It is essential in my favorite turkey soup (along with bay and thyme). I have maple pepper which I like on salmon. I have Picnic Blend from a local garlic farm which is great instead of salt and pepper. I put Zatarain's Creole blend on my scrambled egg sandwich. I use Tony Cachero's blend to spice up recipes that contain tomatoes.
                                              I kept my old spice tins dating back to 1970 and refill them. It appears they are now collectors items. When we remodeled our kitchen, a spice cabinet was a high priority. There is a plexiglass rack on the back of the cabinet door so the shelves inside the cabinet aren't as deep as normal. I put baking spices together underneath the shelf that holds liquid flavorings. Favorite things are on the bottom shelf.
                                              Now I have to look up aleppo pepper flakes. I've never used them and obviously I'm missing out.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: dfrostnh

                                                Wait, what? 1970s spice tins are collector's items?

                                                (digging in the trash again)

                                              2. I think this is very personal to the kind of cooking you do. I cook a lot of Indian, caribbean, middle eastern, chinese and other world cuisines - a traditional american or eurocentric cupboard would need much less.

                                                Without doing an inventory of a full cabinet (and partial closet) of spices, this is what I have . Ive bracketed items I could do without in a pinch.

                                                NECESSARY, USED FREQUENTLY:
                                                Black pepper, whole
                                                whole and ground cloves
                                                cinnamon - ground vietnamese and sticks, cassia and [true (which I will grind for some uses)]
                                                bay leaves
                                                [cassia leaves (so called indian bay, for indian cooking)}
                                                allspice, whole and ground
                                                whole nutmegs (grate my own)
                                                [whole mace pieces (grind my own)]
                                                black mustard seeds
                                                mustard, ground
                                                turmeric, ground
                                                ginger, ground
                                                cardamon, whole green - [sometimes buy decortinated seeds for grinding, never ground it loses its fragrance too fast]
                                                cardamon, whole black
                                                cumin, whole and ground [I also keep a bottle of homemade roasted ground cumin]
                                                coriander seed, whole and ground
                                                fennel seed, whole
                                                kalonji (black onion seed or nigella), whole
                                                fenugreek seed, whole [and ground]
                                                unroasted sesame seeds
                                                whole chiles, chinese and italian
                                                cayenne pepper,ground
                                                hungarian sweet [and spanish] paprika, [ground ancho pepper, ground kashmiri pepper, for color in indian dishes]
                                                mideast (syrian or turkish) pepper - lives in the refrigerator)
                                                caraway seed
                                                [poppy seed, white (for indian cooking) and blue]
                                                madras curry powder (mainly for WI cooking)
                                                garam masala - storebought and homemade
                                                five spice (most recently homemade)
                                                [sambhar spice blend - most recently homemade and in freezer]
                                                asafoetida ground
                                                star anise
                                                szechuan peppercorn
                                                black salt
                                                [saffron]
                                                [chaat masala]

                                                baking powder, soda, cream of tarter and fine grained salt in jar, for baking
                                                extracts - various vanillas [vanilla powder, vanilla beans], almond [various other]

                                                dried herbs (in addition to bay) - rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano (branches, from italian or greek store), summer savory, turkish mint,[dominican oregano, roman mint][sage - but normally picked from garden]
                                                celery seeds [and celery salt ]
                                                adobo (Goya or other)

                                                in the closet but rarely or ever used:
                                                grains of paradise - a big desire but what to use this for???
                                                long pepper
                                                gum arabic and mahlab
                                                dill seed, two bottles
                                                dried tarragon (why, when fresh is so much nicer??)
                                                cassia buds (to make "black" maharastrian curry powder)
                                                alum, baker's ammonia, citric acid, Eno's fruit salt
                                                daun salaam leaves
                                                anise seeds
                                                yellow mustard seed, pickling spice mix (in the McCormick tin)
                                                white and green peppercorns
                                                ground dried lemons (for middle east cooking
                                                many others, im sure

                                                IN ADDITION, AWAY FROM SPICE CABINET
                                                ground sumac, lemon grass, galangal and "rhizome" in the freezer
                                                herbs in frig - parsley and cilantro, always, dill most weeks, basil, tarragon or thyme, frequently
                                                herbs grown all year - rosemary, bay and kaffir lime

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: jen kalb

                                                  Cool--I love having odd spices...

                                                  Some other oddities in my collection:

                                                  White and black cardamom
                                                  Laos (powdered galangal)
                                                  Ascorbic acid
                                                  Pink peppercorns
                                                  Szechuan pepper
                                                  Ajwain
                                                  Kolonji
                                                  Black sesame seeds
                                                  White poppy seeds
                                                  Screwpine flower extract
                                                  Various powdered chilis (chipotle, ancho, guajillo)
                                                  Both cassia and true cinnamon sticks
                                                  Mexican oregano
                                                  Epazote
                                                  Avocado leaves
                                                  Black mustard seeds
                                                  Dill seed
                                                  Etc.

                                                  Anyone else have some interesting oddities to share?

                                                  1. re: jen kalb

                                                    Alton Brown has an Apple pie that uses Grains of Paradise and it is awesome. Took a lot of work but I made it 3 times in one week and then every week for get togethers as it was requested for a whole season. I have been trying to find other uses but not much luck yet so when I am bored with my norma seasoning method for meats I try it. The attempts are ok but I know I am missing its true flavor profile so I must do more research

                                                    Edit -Oops meant to reply to jen kalb

                                                  2. All the basics plus some curry powder from Malaysia that is amazing and I'm almost out of it. A friend gave me some of her mother's who was in the states visiting.

                                                    Aside from the basics, I have corriander powder, star anise, mace powder and extra hot chili powder from the local Indian market. My favorite spice is probably garam masala. It's so exotic to me and great in both savory and sweet dishes. Just try it sprinkled on some sweet potato pie - oh ma gawd.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: lynnlato

                                                      Really? I love both, never would of thought to do that!

                                                      1. re: chef chicklet

                                                        Yes! It's sooo good. I need to try making a pie w/ the the garam masala mixed into either the filling or the crust... I haven't gotten around to it yet though.

                                                        1. re: lynnlato

                                                          Stop it! LL, I have sweet pototatoes frozen in the freezer....and I'm on a diet!

                                                          But you know, I do think it would be pretty good to put a little gm in the filling...just throwing that out there... you know, in case you wanted my opinion....

                                                    2. Must have Old Bay in the pantry at all times. Not my fav, but too many friends and family from Baltimore who eat at my house to go without it for long.

                                                      1. My must haves for the spice cabinet.
                                                        Dried mustard, cumin, white pepper, summer savory, herbes de provence, dried basil (love fresh but use it Italian sauces) sesame seed oil, whole nutmeg, sweet and hot paprkia, California red chili powder,garam masala, fenugreek, dried shitakes, 5 spice powder, of course kosher salt, and cracked black pepper, red pepper flakes..... oh and garlic powder, just to name a few. I could manage with those.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                                          I forgot to add, Mexican Oregano, the flowering kind. I don't buy any other. Oregano is one of those not used as much as it should be spices. Oregano on veggies is to die for! Like with butter and white wine on zucchini -yumyum!

                                                        2. I am one of the many spice persons. I think if I had to list my most essential spices (not herbs, salt of pepper) they would be cumin, ancho chili powder ... and coriander, mustard, cinnamon, nutmeg, spanish paprika. Lately I have been using these the most. The Indian spices are essentialy for authentic cooking. Other things that I think of as essential are more herbs--the ones I will use dry (although I try to grow the fresh) oregano, thyme, rosemary.

                                                          1. The very best spice is salt pork!

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Potomac Bob

                                                              the sodium nitrite?

                                                            2. Lemon Pepper, Garlic Salt, Cayenne Pepper, Sesame Salt, Korean Crushed Red Pepper, and White Pepper

                                                              6 Replies
                                                              1. re: soypower

                                                                Sesame salt, what's that? I have the sesame's in the container that are found at the sushi counter, the toasted ones, I find them essential in my spice cabinet because I can crush a handful in my hand and add to asian food, esp. korean as I was taught by my neighbour.

                                                                1. re: BamiaWruz

                                                                  Sesame salt is basically toasted sesame seeds and salt ground together...Imparts a nutty, salty flavor to a lot of korean vegetable dishes.

                                                                  1. re: soypower

                                                                    Ohh sounds wonderful! I will look for that.

                                                                    1. re: BamiaWruz

                                                                      It is easy to make and better if you make your own since roasted sesame gets rancid fast - just roast some raw sesame seeds - white or black- with some kosher salt until they smell good and darken a bit - crush (dont grind finely) using a mortar and pestle, spice grinder or other means and you are there.

                                                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                                                        Ohh simple enough! Thanks. :)

                                                                        1. re: BamiaWruz

                                                                          it is also called gomasio, and is in health food stores, if you don't want to make your own, but I agree making your own it pretty easy and very tasty. I also have umeboshi vinegar ( not a spice, I know) and use it on many, many things.

                                                              2. So you're counting herbs in there, too? OK, when I stocked my kitchen for the first time, I bought (on top of the stables mentioned above, and salt/pepper):

                                                                Cumin seeds, as opposed to the powder
                                                                Coriander seeds
                                                                Cardamom pods (all three are required for one of my fave recipes)
                                                                Mustard seeds
                                                                Hot pepper flakes
                                                                Garlic powder (helps in a pinch)
                                                                Ginger (for baking)
                                                                Basil
                                                                Oregano
                                                                Rosemary

                                                                I did, however, skip the nutmeg, which I find completely non-essential for my purposes.

                                                                1. At a friend's now and not at home with my spices so I can't give the full list -- but immediately I will cast a vote for Aleppo chile for something unusual and cool (and new to me about a year ago, discovered through chowhound). I go to a cool Middle Eastern shop just for Aleppo :)

                                                                  I keep all of my Indian spices (cardamom, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek, turmeric, cloves, coriander, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, asofoteida) in a crate with my mini spice-grinder. I FAR prefer to toast, grind, and mix my own spices for garam masala and any curry dish.

                                                                  I really like paprika :) as well.

                                                                  1. How much can you save by buying spices in the Mexican food aisle rather than the spice aisle? Here's an illustration: in the Mexican food aisle, a one-oz. cello package of coriander seeds for $1.19. In the spice aisle, a glass jar with under one oz. of coriander seeds for $8.99.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: avgolemona

                                                                      Ditto with prices at any Indian grocer--they're cheap as chips!

                                                                      1. re: avgolemona

                                                                        As with most everything, you get what you pay for. Buying from a realr Spice purveyor like Kalyustan or even Penzeys guarantees higher quality and freshness. There are many, many, different grades of spices, and purveyors who sell a lot have a stock that is a lot fresher than any market, where stuff can lie on the shelves for years.

                                                                      2. I store my spices in dark glass jars and keep them in a drawer in the cooler part of the kitchen.

                                                                        As for indespensable, I woulkd say
                                                                        Whole Black Peppercorns.
                                                                        Herbes de Provence w. Lavender
                                                                        Cinnamon
                                                                        Peperoncini
                                                                        Bay Leaves
                                                                        I buy Spices, preferably whole from Kalyustan and Sahandi's. I am likeing Penzey less and less. Their blends are awful. I don't buy large quantities, and don't buy stuff I will not really use.

                                                                        I go through and throw out unused dry spices every six months. The whole ones like Peppercorns, Allspice, cloves. etc keep for much much longer.

                                                                        I use a little electric coffee grinder, that I reserve just for this purpose, to grind spices.


                                                                        I use fresh herbs whenever available, except for dried Oregano which is always better.

                                                                        1. In my spice cupboard, I have Fennel, Cumin, Fenugreek, Aniseed, Mustard Seeds, Clove, Nutmeg, Corriander Seeds (& Ground Corriander), Bay Leaves, Curry Leaves, Kaffir Lime leaves. Not sure, if you would count stuff like Poppy Seeds, Onion Seeds etc

                                                                          1. My basic set

                                                                            Basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, dill, sage, bay leaves, tumeric, garam masala, saffron, ginger, paprika, granulated garlic, cayenne pepper, chilli powder, five spice powder,

                                                                            The following in both powdered and whole form: Cumin, coriander, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, mustard, black pepper,

                                                                            Plus dried chiles of several types, chili flakes, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves (the previous two are impossible to find fresh), sesame seeds.

                                                                            On the second pass, I add stuff that I don't use as often but like to have around; nutmeg, allspice, celery seed, fennel seed, caraway seed, pepper salt, Japanese 7 spice mix, Chinese 5 spice powder, star anise, white peppercorns

                                                                            Four I never buy dried are parsley, cilantro, mint and tarragon, because the dry versions are so tasteless - I use fresh or substitute. This is a major sacrifice, while I can get cilantro fresh, parsely, mint and tarragon are impossible to find fresh, and the former two die from the heat when I try to grow them.

                                                                            My top favourites, all round, are basil, oregano, dill, thyme, and cumin.

                                                                            I store them on a closed shelf in the kitchen, in big plastic tubs - one for herbs, one for spices, and one for peppers and spice mixes.

                                                                            1. Have posted this before? Hot peppers, chiles, peperoncini, and whatever other name one has for incendiary heat emitting capsicums...