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Jan 4, 2011 06:59 PM

What whole spices do you keep on hand?

I got a Kuhn Rikon vase spice grinder for Christmas, and imagined myself having a drawer full of those little insert containers loaded with a multitude of exotic spices available for grinding fresh whenever the mood or the recipe would strike. But, now that I am thinking about what I want, I'm a little lost. Besides pepper, what are the best spices to keep on hand whole, and can be ground for use in what is essentially a pepper mill? I know I can use it for sea salt and thought of coriander seeds.

What would you keep on hand? Cloves? Cardamom? Aleppo pepper?

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  1. Cardamom loses it's perfume very quickly once ground. So does fennel seed. I usually grind those two fresh in tiny quantities to season a dish.

    Fairly often, I also grind fresh garam masala (so I have the whole spice ingredients for that on hand), dried red chile, cumin seeds, and white poppy seeds. With all of these I dry roast them and allow to cool before grinding.

    1. yes to all the ones you mentioned, plus juniper berries, allspice, star anise, annatto seeds, celery seed, fennel, cumin, caraway, mustard seed, grains of paradise...

      3 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        GHG, I have always used juniper berry, star anise, celery seed, fennel and mustard seed whole . . . okay, not the mustard seed, I do keep Coleman's mustard around. Do you find yourself grinding those others often? Just curious as to how you use them, thanks.

        1. re: centralpadiner

          - ground juniper berry: marinades or spice rubs for meat, or in meat-based stews.
          - star anise: homemade five-spice powder, rubs, or any baked goods where i want the anise flavor
          - celery seed: i always grind before using in *anything* because they get stuck in my teeth, which i hate!
          - ground fennel seed: tomato sauce, seafood dishes or soups (e.g. bouillabaisse), pork rubs, and anywhere else that i want the flavor without [again] getting seeds stuck in my teeth.

        2. re: goodhealthgourmet

          +1 and mahleb, kala jeera, ajwain, sumac berries, cubeb peppers, long peppers, chicory root, fenugreek, spice cupboards are full but I buy in small amounts to keep fresh. I also grind cacao beans sometimes for dry rubs.

          And don't forget to grind, usually after dry roasting, all kinds of dried chiles! And dried zest of lime, orange, lemon. I frequently grind dried mushrooms for many uses.

        3. i especially like to grind cumin, coriander, mustard seeds (especially brown), grains of paradise and some cloves from time to time as well. I also agree with luckyfatima that you should only grind fennel and cardamom in smaller batches.

          i also find heating in a skillet for a couple minutes before grinding to really brings out the flavor. enjoy your new grinder.

              1. re: smartie

                i always use a grater or microplane for cinnamon & nutmeg...i know it's silly but i'm paranoid that they'll damage the blade in my grinder!

                  1. re: smartie

                    ah, okay. since the OP was talking about spices for their new vase grinder, i thought you meant you use a grinder for yours :)

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      LOL! I have to admit, my first thought was, " how will that work in my grinder?" but you beat me to it, GHG. :)

                      Love all the suggestions, everyone! I'm drooling!

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        ghg, I took your advice and got some cardamom pods last week. Actually as I'm typing I realized I'd forgotten to open the bottle for the scent. There should be a difference from an older bottle of ground, no? Will do so now as I pour myself another cup of coffee.

                        1. re: lilgi

                          yes ma'am! you should notice less of a floral element, more citrus & mint...

                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            On my ground cardamom I only get strong lemon/citrus scent flavor. But the pods are like a fantastic, exotic bouquet! Love, love, love...and can't wait to try ;)

                            1. re: lilgi

                              interesting - to me, ground cardamom usually has an overpowering floral scent. anyway, i suspected you might be pleased with the pods ;) enjoy!

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                Hi ghg,

                                I found your comment really interesting wrt "an overpowering floral scent". That is now my reaction to it. Quite disappointing as I just can't be near the aroma of anything with cardamon including 5 spice and garam masala. I find that my tolerance is down to 1/8 of a teaspoon when the recipe says 1½ tsp. I'm now not including it any spice mix.

                                I have no idea what caused this but it's damned annoying. Not aware of any other problems associated with it..

                                Wondering if you know of similar situations? Thanks for your time.

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  Weird ghg, I tried to look for the post where you told me about the pods, and can't remember where it came up. It looks like I only posted on the cardamom/coriander one (not there), but anyway I mentioned the strong citrus on that thread and later on to you, only because I was only one of a few people describing my ground cardamom this way. Not for any other reason than this was nagging me (I know you mentioned the black ones too, but I bought the green ones).

                                  In any case, I bought the pods because of something you told me. Not important at all, but I'd be curious if you happen to find that post.

                                  Now this is completely ot but you're good with spices and I'm looking for a real strong floral vanilla. I picked one up by Frontier (Tahitian vanilla) that was meh. If you know of any please let me know even if I must special order. Or let me know if I should open a thread. Thanks so much!

                                  1. re: lilgi

                                    our cardamom discussion began here:

                                    re: vanilla, Tahitian is the most floral variety, but you said you want strong, and it's also the most fleeting. extract is tricky, sometimes it's better to buy the whole beans and either use the "caviar" (seeds) or make your own extract. as far as sources go, several CHers have highly recommended this site over the years:

                                    and Arizona Vanilla Company is another good one:

                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      Thanks ghg. yep confused because I know I was saying that the ground cardamom is citrusy and it's the only one I had (no floral notes at all). So opening the bottle of pods was a nice bouquet of citrus and some floral. The scent that dropped from the ground in my bottle was floral and not citrus. Either way, I'm glad you made me buy the pods, can't wait to try them.

                                      I'm not sure about making my own vanilla yet, but I'll look into it. Meantime I'll look at the two sites you mentioned. Thanks again wonderful ghg!

                                      1. re: lilgi

                                        making your own vanilla extract is *absurdly* easy - the hardest part is waiting for it to be ready!

                                        here's a great how-to:

                                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                          Makes sense since I'm looking for extra boost from my vanilla. Thanks, I'll give it a whirl.

                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                              I can't remember the last time I had rice pudding, I might be talking eons here. That looks good, ty!

                                              Just wondering, (now that I have a bottle of pods), are there any savory recipes with Cardamom that you can recommend? There are a number of spices/condiments in Indian cooking that I have to stay away from, so as a general rule it's the only cuisine I can't enjoy. Anything else is okay ;)

                                              Edit: Ghg nvm, I was able to do a quick search and came up with a few (don't know why I didn't think of it sooner).

                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                1/2 teaspoon fresh/crushed took my pear tarte tatin to a whole different level. Very potent stuff, I love it!

                      2. re: smartie

                        The two you selected are so spot on. Nutmeg freshly ground is so wonderful compared to the stuff in a ready ground can, feh

                      3. Cloves, cardamon, nutmeg & coriander usually.