We’ve all been there. You buy a ton of exotic spices in preparation to make the perfect recipe. You gaze at pictures of that Indonesian-Italian-Japanese-Chilean fusion pasta dish that calls for ten pages of obscure ingredients—and, yes, you want to make it yourself! So, you order pricey herbs and spices you’ve never used before or venture to a little-known specialty market to get the right stuff.
Then you wait.
You then throw a frozen pizza into the oven and decide tomorrow would be a better day to cook instead.
Don’t worry — here are some ways to make sure your expensive spices don’t spoil or lose their punch before you’re really ready to make that perfect recipe.
Probably the best method for preserving spices is to simply seal them in a glass container.
If you’re buying exotic herbs and spices from a specialty market, they often come fresh and loosely-packed. In that case, invest in some glass containers and store them there if they are already dried. Don’t store fresh, undried herbs in a glass container; you need to dry them out first before using this storage method.
Label the containers and add a date and name, so you know how old they are and remember what spice you are looking at once the package is gone.
Freezing only works well for particular herbs and spices. You don’t want to freeze things like curry leaves or green leafy herbs, which have a lot of moisture content; when you warm them up, the condensation will make the leaves soggy. Definitely not an Ina Garten move.
Basil, mint, and oregano do okay in the freezer because they have a lower moisture content. If you’re harvesting from your garden in bulk, you can freeze them. Try to only thaw out the amount you need each time.
There are a few ways you can dehydrate herbs. With herbs like rosemary, you can simply bundle them up with a string and air dry. They can even make a lovely decorative accent, plus they smell great. With other herbs, you could dry them out in the microwave or oven but check the right times and temperatures for that particular herb or spice. You can also use a home dehydration machine for this. Just remember, many herbs are two or three times stronger in taste and smell when dehydrated than when fresh.