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How do you organize all your spices?

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How do other people keep all of their spices organized? I seem to have so many jars of spices and dried chilies, etc. that it takes up alot of room.

Does anyone use the traditional spice box? It only holds 7spices doesn't it? Is this practical for anyone? Which spices do you decide to put in it, and which stay on the shelf?

Does anyone have good ideas on how they have organized a small kitchen to contain the evergrowing collection of legumes, flours, spices, etc...

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You are looking for suggestions from US??? We are all messed up and dont know where anything is!

Seriously, keep the spices you use more ( often and in quantity, in larger containers and close at hand) the rest you can put away. In the pull out drawers you cannot read the lables from the top so its less frustrating to mark the contents on the lids with a permanent marker. If you want to be more organized mention also the date of purchase.

Take note of all the suggestions that come in but do what you want to do, afterall it's your kitchen and you are the Chef ( Big Boss).

Good Luck ( you are going to need it)

Bombay Curry Company

3110 Mount Vernon Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305. 703. 836-6363

Delhi Club

Arlington, Virginia

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I took the top of a large box (it has sides that are about 2 1/2 inches high), created channels (strips of cardboard about 4 inches apart running the length) and place the jars in alphabetical order. The box top sits on a shelf at eye level in a cabinet and I can move it with ease with little jostling to the jars.

I have a friend who owns a plastic fabrication company. I've been planning on having one of these made in plastic for years figuring I can wash it. Haven't gotten around to it yet.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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I installed a door length rack inside my pantry with shelves ranging in size from spice bottle size on up to ones big enough to hold bottles of olive oil, vinegar, etc.

Very handy, but I am getting close to running out of space again and needing to add one somewhere else - maybe on the front door?

Bill Russell

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When we renovated the kitchen, I built a spice rack to match my cabinets out of the scraps left over from the installation of the moldings, light rails, etc. It's there, so I keep a few spice jars on it. But 90% of my spice inventory is in small Zip-Loc bags in a big Pyrex rectangular lidded casserole-type tray that sits in a cabinet. Because the bags are clear, it's rather easy to grab whatever I need by sight, but when I need to cook with several spices, I just take the tray, dump its entire contents out onto the dining-room table, use what I want, then gather everything up and put it back in and put the tray away.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I have one of the largest cabinets in my kitchen devoted to spices. I had to eat a lot of pickles and jam to acquite that many empty glass jars. Unfortunately, the guy who remodeled this kitchen was very tall and I need a step stool to reach anything. My anal-retentive alphabatical order is a disaster as the things I use the most are in the very front. Some things I keep in the fridge although I am not sure I should.

9 out of 10 dentists recommend wild Alaska salmon.

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Does anyone use the traditional spice box? It only holds 7spices doesn't it? Is this practical for anyone? Which spices do you decide to put in it, and which stay on the shelf?

Good question, since I just spent much of last evening rearranging my spices!

I don't like the traditional Indian seven spice dabba (box), a fact that lead to some contention between my mother and I when she was visiting a few weeks back. She wanted to know how I could function without one and wanted to buy me one. I said, no way.

One reason I think a traditional dabba doesn't work for me is that they are designed for traditional families who cook mostly only one type of food, so would generally use just 6-7 types of spices depending on that region. But I cook across regions, so I need a wider range more regularly.

Even then I guess there are some spices I use more commonly than others, but I also found myself being quite clumsy with the dabba. I would regularly spill spice from one compartment into another (the turmeric in particular seemed to go everywhere), would jostle about even more when I struggled to open the lid, I'd lose the small spoon that goes inside and so on. Eventually I found I just stopped using it and when I moved to my own place, I left it behind in my old shared apartment.

The way I arrange spices now is dictated in part by the design of my new kitchen. There already was a small rack near the stove when I moved in and there, I've found, my more commonly used spices have come to rest, like turmeric, chilli powder (hot), cumin and coriander powders (separately and mixed, so counts as three) powder, sea and plain salt, whole and powdered pepper, asafoetida and whole mustard grains.

Everything else goes in a shelf in the cabinet, which is what I was rearranging last night. I put the biggest jars at the back - dried bay leaves, whole cinnamon sticks - along with bottles of flavourings like nam pla. Then the spices I use rarely like mace and nutmeg, ajwain (thymol, I think its called), ginger powder, dried manjo powder, pomegranite seeds, caraway, nigella seeds, black cardamom and so on.

Then a row of spice mixtures - chat masala, chole (chickpea masala), sambhar powder, tandoori masala, Surati jiyaralu, dhansak masala and East Indian bottle masala. (No flak for not mixing my own please, life is too short to mix something you're only going to use a pinch of every now and then. I discard and refresh every six months or so).

And then the spices I use reasonably regularly but not everyday, like fenugreek seeds, aniseed, whole coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon powder, poppyseeds, Kashmiri chilli powder, tabasco sauce. Which leaves enough side on the side for extra packets of spices and some pickles.

What I haven't figured out where to do with is the different types of chillies. This is a bit of a passion since I think one of the worst things that is happening with Indian food in India is a standardisation of chilli types due to the increased use of pre packed spices or what's sold in supermarkets. The different local types of chillies are getting harder to find, particularly in large metros like Bombay, with the result that everyone just ends up using those damn Kashmiri chillies, which have colour, but no taste, and just one other variety (usually Begdes here).

So I try and buy dried chillies wherever I can find them, but storing them properly is a problem, since they accumulate and I really can't use all of them that often. But they have to be well stored or even dried ones go bad, especially now in the monsoons. I just found a couple of packets of small chillies from Kerala and some big, parrot's beak shaped ones have all gone mouldy and I had to throw them away. This is a problem a lot of cooks I know face. One of the best chefs I know, Praveen Anand of Dakshin in Madras, has a really huge collection of local South Indian chillies, and has to put serious effort into keeping track of them.

One other problem of keeping spices at least in India, is that the spices one buys from the market are often not cleaned that well. I'm not saying they are that insanitary, but that however well cleaned they seem and however careful you are to keep them from dampness, you often find small bugs crawling in them after a while. Coriander seed is particularly prone to this, and also panchphoron, the Bengali five spice mixture. I know keep panchphoron at least in the fridge.


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