I’m going to do something quite out of character for me – I’m going to do a short post, at least I’ll try. My motivation is triggered by an experience I had yesterday at the grocery store – and I find it impossible not to share it with you.
I decided a few days ago to make some Jewish rye -the Jewish rye bread of my youth in the New York metropolitan area (OK, New Jersey, so!). Now, for those of you who care, this is ‘anti Jeffery Hamelman’ rye bread! In his book, Bread, Hamelman goes on an overly long rant against American Jewish rye bread, mostly because (I think) it’s made with white rye flour, and apparently Jeffery will only abide dark rye in his breads. Whatever – this is a bread I love, as do millions of others.
Hamelman also objects to the use of caraway seed in his ryes, and Jewish rye uses a lot of caraway. But when I pulled my jar of caraway from its hiding place, I discovered I did not have enough to continue the bread – so, off to the store I went.
Now, I generally know better than to buy spices at the local grocery store. I don’t know why, but the cost ratio of spices purchased at the local grocery, and those purchased, say, online is simply absurd – so I knew I was going to spend way more than if I was getting it in bulk.
But I was not prepared for the shock which awaited me on the spice isle of our local Wal-Mart – a small jar (1.2 oz) of caraway could be had for only $6.85! And my bread needed 3 Tbs, which would be easily more than half of that jar. On to the next store. In the end, I found a 1.6 oz jar for 4.60, which I bought – but not happily.
Today, while my sourdough Jewish rye loaves baked, I did a quick check of my current favorite website for spices, San Francisco Herb Company, just to see how much caraway should really be. Once again I received a shocking surprise – although I expected to see a huge difference in price, I wasn’t ready for the discrepancy before me – here I could get a pound of caraway for $3.75!!!
Wow. I must admit that as I sit here, my emotion is first anger, followed by personal embarrassment for being caught in emergency need. And my third emotion is the desire to share with you this experience so that if you are not yet aware of the opportunity to be securing your spices online, or shopping in an environment with many choices for bulk buying, you might add that option to your next spice/herb refreshment.
In closing -I did say I’d do a short post- allow me to also share my current thoughts on how best to replenish your spices – we all know that all those spices lose their effectiveness over time, and if you find yourself using a 3 year old oregano in a sauce that has no character, you’re really a victim of faulty reasoning. First off, recognize that for most spices, buying a pound will often cost less than buying an ounce at the grocery store – so if you buy a pound, give half to a friend, use an ounce or two during the following year, and then pitch the rest, you’re still ahead of the game in every way!
Think about it – do some quick math – and I think you’ll agree. And if you replenish more often than once a year, rethink that too – those spices and herbs are on a yearly growth cycle themselves, so if you’re replenishing every six months, you’re simply trading your six month old stock for the merchant’s six month old stock – save 50% and restock once a year.
How often do you replenish your herbs and spices? And where do you buy your new stock?
Top photo courtesy, getrichslowly.org