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Run out of a certain spice? Make your own

Sharon Maasdam Newhouse News Service

When a recipe calls for an herb or spice combination — such as fines herbes, herbes de Provence or poultry seasoning — and you don’t have a jar, you can make your own.

The following combinations come from a handy reference book, “Food FAQs: Substitutions, Yields and Equivalents,” by Linda Resnik and Dee Brock (FAQs Press, $12.95).

Seasoning combinations

Chili powder (1 teaspoon): a dash of hot pepper sauce, 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin (add more of each seasoning if needed for taste); or use 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Fines herbes (2 tablespoons): 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried marjoram, 1 teaspoon dried parsley, 1 teaspoon dried chervil, 1/2 teaspoon dried chives, 1/4 teaspoon dried sage and 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon

Herbes de Provence (3 tablespoons): 4 teaspoons dried thyme, 4 teaspoons dried marjoram, 1 1/2 teaspoons dried summer savory, 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon dried mint, 1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds, a pinch of dried sage and a pinch of dried lavender flowers

Italian herb seasoning (2 tablespoons): 3/4 tablespoon dried oregano, 11/2 teaspoons dried basil, 3/4 teaspoon dried marjoram, 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme and 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary

Poultry seasoning (1 teaspoon): 3/4 teaspoon crushed dried sage and 1/4 teaspoon crushed dried thyme or marjoram

Pumpkin pie spice (1 teaspoon): 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg.

Buying spices and herbs

It’s impossible to write about dried spices and herbs without pointing out the advantages of buying them in bulk instead of in jars. The cost is so much less, especially for ones you don’t use often. You purchase only the amount you need so they always have the freshest flavor.

Storing spices and herbs

If you’ve had ground spices and herbs for more than two years, chances are they don’t have much flavor anymore. Some, such as nutmeg, turn bitter.

If possible, buy and store your spices in whole form, grinding them only as needed. Whole spices will keep for two to four years when stored at room temperature. Once ground, they rapidly lose their freshness and flavor.

Storing dried herbs and spices away from heat and moisture will help maintain their quality. Above your sink or stove, or in a spot in direct sunlight, is not a good place.

According to the spice company McCormick’s, spices and herbs should not be stored in the freezer. Freezing does not extend their shelf life. If repeatedly removed for use, the bottles may develop condensation, which can accelerate loss of flavor. The company suggests that members of the red pepper family, such as paprika and chili powder, be refrigerated to help retain color and guard against insect infestation. To test for freshness, rub the herb or spice between your fingers. If it doesn’t smell fresh, or if there is no taste, toss it.

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