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(Family Features) While you're making this year's spring cleaning chore list, remember that a true deep clean means decluttering your kitchen from inside the cabinets out. "The idea of spring cleaning is especially relevant to the spice rack," said Mark Garcia, chef at McCormick Kitchens. "Many people keep the same herbs and spices in their cabinet for years, not realizing that flavor and aroma tend to fade over time."
He offers the following tips for ensuring your herbs and spices are at their freshest and ready to complement the season's signature flavors:
Sight: Check that the colors of your spices and herbs are bright and vibrant. If the color has faded, so has the flavor.Aroma: Rub or crush the spice or herb in your hand. If the aroma is weak, it is time to replace it.Taste: Give the herb or spice a taste test. If it lacks flavor, it is past its prime.
To ensure you're cooking with the freshest flavor, check your spice's "best by" date and keep these shelf life guidelines in mind:
Ground spices: 2-3 yearsWhole spices: 3-4 yearsSeasoning blends: 1-2 yearsHerbs: 1-3 years
When you shop to replace discarded spices, keep these storage tips in mind:
Keep spices and herbs away from heat, moisture and direct sunlight.Avoid storing spices and herbs over the stove, dishwasher or sink, or near a window.Members of the red pepper family, including paprika and chili powder, will retain their color and remain fresher when stored in the refrigerator.
While putting your spices to use, follow these simple guidelines:
Try not to sprinkle spices and herbs directly from the bottle into a steaming pot. Repeated exposure to heat and moisture can hasten flavor loss and could result in caking. Instead, measure them into a cup, measuring spoon or bowl and then add them.Be sure to use a completely dry measuring spoon when dipping it into a spice or herb.Replace bottle lids tightly immediately after use.
While cleaning out the cupboards, you may encounter forgotten spices or those that are approaching their "best by" dates and need to be used. That's the perfect excuse to experiment with new recipes or to reward your hard work with a sweet treat.
Find more recipes and tips for keeping your spice rack in tip-top shape at McCormick.com or look for McCormick Spice on Facebook and Pinterest.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images