SURVIVAL KITCHEN

Spices, Herbs, Seasonings – Long Term Storage – How to…

We keep a decent amount of spices in our long term storage. Why? Two reasons. One, it’s WAY CHEAPER to buy spices and herbs in bulk quantities. Two, it’s the prepper in me – keeping some extra for just-in-case.

The price markup on the grocery store spice rack is insane. How do I know? Well, once you’ve bought spices in bulk, you’ll know why! Those little spice jars (actually they’re mostly plastic) can cost as much as a big ‘ol bag of spices…

So you might reason, “I don’t buy spices in bulk because I’m afraid they’ll go bad before I get a chance to use them”. That’s a logical thought. However in many cases, the price you save will make up for it pretty quickly – even if you don’t use it all.

Therefore, a few questions…

  • How long will spices last?
  • What’s the best way to store spices for long term storage?

First, this:

Spices may consist of dried seeds, fruit, roots, or bark of plants.

Herbs are considered leafy parts of plants used for the same purpose.

Most spices and herbs contain essential oils which are responsible for their flavors and aromas.

Spices and herbs come in several forms — fresh, whole dried, or dried and ground.

Why do spices go bad?

Most of the active ingredients in spices and herbs are plant oils.

Oils will eventually oxidize, resulting in a loss of flavor or even spoilage.

Because of this, and to minimize oxidation, spices and herbs should be stored in air tight containers for best results long term.

Long Term Spice Storage

First of all, let me say that I have stored various dry spices in their original packaging without issue. This will depend on the packaging (have you already opened it?). We keep some of our our extra and bulk spices in a plastic storage bin. Actually a few of them (medium sized). Stored cool-and-dry.

We have spices that are many years old, and they taste fine. Not sure how old our oldest is, but we might be looking at about 5 years.

Remember to rotate! Consume, rotate. First in, first out. Store what you eat and eat what you store…

Use a Vacuum Sealer Machine For Spices – Bags or Jar Sealer

There are two ways to use a vacuum sealer on spices for long term storage. Ordinary vacuum seal bags, and/or home canning jars with the jar seal attachment and hose.

We have a ‘FoodSaver’ model that we’ve had for years. It also has the accessory hose port to be used with a jar sealer attachment (which we later purchased).

However if you’re looking for a current economical and well-reviewed sealer, it would be the following…

>> Vacuum Sealer By NutriChef
(view on amzn)

Most vacuum sealers with an accessory port can handle the Food Saver hose. Additionally, you would need to purchase the regular mouth jar sealer and/or the wide mouth jar sealer to seal jars.

>> Jar Sealer 

Spices or herbs stored in the freezer will last considerably longer provided they are packaged to prevent moisture from entering.

Storing spices or herbs in a hot environment will significantly shorten their quality shelf life, perhaps by as much as half…

How long will spices last?

There’s no clear answer. Spices will lose their potency (and aroma) over time. If they’re already ground, shelf life will be less than whole. Although if they’re well packaged, you could be fine for a considerable time. Better yet, vacuum-sealed will certainly add years more.

You tell me, how long have your spices remained potent? What methods of storage have you used?

Whole spices store the best. Why? Ground-up spices (and herbs) have a much shorter shelf life because they are exposed to air and will lose their quality much faster than the whole spice prior to being ground.

For best results, whole seasoning should be purchased and only crushed just prior to using. This is easily done with a mortar and pestle or everyday coffee grinder.

Once a year, it’s a good idea to check ground spices and herbs for freshness. If there is no apparent aroma then you might consider replacing the seasoning.

If stored for long periods, some of the potency will diminish – so just add more of that spice to compensate!

News Flash: You can grow some of your own too!

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31 Comments

  1. Great read! Is it true bulk salt is ok lose in a food grade bucket with gamma lid and no bag? Salt and sugar seems to clump up in a brick when I vacuum seal them.

    1. There are no oils in salt or sugar and clumps can be hit and broken up. I would think a gamma sealed bucket would work real well. I just store salt in their containers. I have put sugar in the large plastic container that pretzel type snacks come in. Seal with gorilla tape and throw in some desiccants. Keeping moisture out of salt and sugar helps, of course. In the old days sugar came in the form of a cone and was put in a special wooden sugar chest that had a key.

    2. I keep salt and sugar in the original bags, no special treatment. Salt will last forever (it’s a crystalline matrix, not organic) and sugar probably decades if it lasts that long.

  2. While on the subject of spices, would like to mention the salt and pepper sets you can buy from Sam’s or Amazon or elsewhere. They would be really good for trade. Small and compact even a person in an apartment could put these sets back to trade with. Salt used to be worth more than gold and could be again. Wars were fought over spices.

  3. I got a housewarming gift of a large box of McCormick spices back in 1990 when I moved to my finished log home in Pennsylvania, and I still use them today, has never lost flavor in seeds, spiced salts, peppers, or powders. Still have some unopened because I got 4 to 5 of everything. That’s a long time preserved…. back in Biblical days spice was traded like coin, it held its value for a long time.

  4. I have lots of cinnamon, cloves, exotics in general, in the refrigerator downstairs. Still sealed in the large bottles, so they should last for a while.

    My oregano overwintered. I also have some seedlings! Yay!

    Thyme also overwinters. Most mints will, although some will require special treatment.

    In regards to culinary seasonings, I grow oregano, rosemary, thyme, marjoram (in the greenhouse), dill, garlic, and basil (annual).I also have saffron crocuses, but mostly because I like them.

    I will be growing cumin this year to add to my list.

    If it is something that will grow in your area (even with a little protection) fresh is usually far better.

    I tried growing pepper–it got below 50 degrees and croaked. And of course salt doesn’t grow well here. : )

    1. Classic gardening blunder!
      salt trees need to be planted near money trees for cross pollination!
      remember that salt was so valuable during Roman times it was used to pay the soldiers thus the origin of the word SALARY

      but yes fresh herbs are tastier
      I have dried my own rosemary and thyme from garden and packaged in small containers (vacuum seal preferred)

  5. The story of spices and obtaining them is the story of world trade and, I shudder to say the word on this site: globalization. Spices are expensive in the grocery store for good reason. Many of them still come from far away and herbs grown commercially are treated special so they look pristine in the store. ( ie. small cloth sacks placed over the ends of sprigs to eliminate dust and white flies).

    Part of learning to cook good food is learning to work with spices and herbs. For me, the biggest waste can come from over-use or too much of some spices in a dish. I use spices sparingly in most dishes and I store my spices indoors where the temperature and humidity is very consistent. I remember in some climates like southern Florida and coastal SOCAL that humidity can be a problem leading to mold and mildew. I hate to throw food away and having to throw away spices just breaks my heart. I never went to culinary school so I am not averse to using ketchup and hot sauce.

  6. Then there’s vanilla. In the bottle, I’ve found the alcohol keeps it tasty forever. I purchased a container of vanilla bean pods 16 years ago when I was in pastry school. They’re still as fresh (well, fermented and dried) as ever – wrapped in plastic and kept in refrigerator.

    1. Kulafarmer, Here (zone 8b) sage grows as a shrub and gets bigger every year. You’d only have to save enough to get through the winter. Wonder how it would grow where you are.

      1. sage? ya’ want sage? Tons of the stuff here. Well, sagebrush and tons of juniper too. Come and get it! I’m allergic to at least one of them.

        1. aka, 🤣🤣🤣 . . . . From Applied Ecology “Culinary sage, or Salvia officinalis, is an herb native to the Mediterranean region, and is used as a spice and for its medicinal properties. Sage is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae, to botanists). But sagebrush, Artemisia tridentata, is in another family altogether, the sunflower family (Asteraceae). But of course sagebrush flowers look nothing like sunflowers, and in fact they are wind pollinated instead of insect pollinated.” . . . .
          A few years back we had ferocious brush fires in E WA. Got a quart of honey from a friend who had hives in the same area. Had a wonderful, unique flavor of smoke and sage. Sage-smoked honey was absolutely delicious.

          1. Anony Mee:
            WHAT!!??!!??
            Well no wonder my cooking with a little Wild Sage taste like the North end of a South bound skunk….
            What am I to do with 5 gallons of that stuff I dehydrated???
            Ahhhh man 🤪🤪🤪🤪

          2. Thanks NRP & Blue. Needed a good laugh. Honestly though, until beloved offspring started a perennial herb garden I didn’t know the difference. To me sage was either the bush in the desert or the herb in the jar.

          3. As far as I can tell sagebrush has no use except to pile up in corners from blowing wind. Juniper tree that sits inches from and overhangs the deck drops multiple thousands of berries everyday. : / Bah!

          4. I’m told sagebrush can be used as an aromatic smudge that is an effective mosquito repellent. Or crush the leaves and rub them directly on your skin. I don’t know how well it works but I n a pinch I would try it (I don’t like mosquitoes).
            I have never seen it blowing into a corner though. In our area that honor is given to the tumbleweeds (Russian Thistle). Now they have a lot more uses, some I have actually practiced. They burn quick and hot so make great fire starters. The young tender plants are edible but caution should be used. The last use I’ve seen for this plant is to clean the soil of toxins. And that makes them potentially a problem if eaten.
            I hope I haven’t rambled on about this, but I do love the desert.

          5. Isn’t sagebrush the live plant and tumbleweeds the dead ones? More than one kind of tumbleweed though.

          6. NO not even close ,,,,sage brush is good cattle feed in a pinch ,only thing tumble weed is good for is starting range fires

          7. Aka,
            Sahebrush is a woody bush that can get very old (and is protected in some cases because of it). It sometimes smells like the herb sage, but is not the same.
            Tumble weeds grow each year and break off at ground level after drying out. They then get blown around into corners and such. They are stickery after drying too. And the tips (that are stickery) have the concentrated minerals and or toxins in them. They leave behind a very long tap root to grow a new tumbleweed the next year.
            Again sorry if that’s to much but I love the desert.

          8. I new that sagebrush was not the sage that was being discussed. : )
            I just figured that the tumble weeds were sagebushes that came loose but they are actually different bushes?….. learn something new everyday! There seem to be 2 different ones and one the whole plant seems to be a whole sticker ball. Anyway there are lots of them that blow in and get stuck along the back of the house.

  7. Spice Islands Ground Oregano, $4.16 per ounce
    Starwest Botanicals Organic Oregano $1.17 per ounce. In Mylar

    Simply Organic Turmeric Root Ground Certified Organic $4.19 per ounce
    Frontier Organic Turmeric Root Powder, 1 Pound Bulk $o.42 per ounce In Mylar

    Keep it Vac Sealed and/or frozen, stuff will last for years and years.

  8. Many kitchen spices and herbs serve double-duty as powerful medicinals. Some examples are turmeric, ginger, cayenne, thyme, oregano and peppermint. I use thyme in my lung decongestant formula (medicinal tea), so I store lots of it. Something to consider if you’re concerned about having too much stored. Extra can also be used for barter, as people might appreciate a little spice to combat food fatigue.

  9. I grow lots of herbs and spices up here at 7600 ft and some winter over. But what I would like to know is how to get the jar sealer off the jar without taking back up the lid?

    1. You could try putting 2 lids on. We had that problem with it pulling the lids off. Then just stacked 2 lids on, then sucked it down, pulled it off and the bottom lid stayed sealed.

  10. Is it safe to vacuum seal spices with oil content? Would that be considered moisture when sealing in an environment with no air? My understanding is that no moisture should be in a jar that is vacuum sealed as it’s at risk for botulism. Help me out here cause I purchased spices with an oil content and want to store long term. I want to vacuum seal in my jars…safely. Thanks.

    1. Kate, yes it’s safe. Anything you buy from a store that is “dry” should be fine. Anything fresh should be dehydrated prior to vacuum sealing. A good rule of thumb is that if you grind (either in a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle) the herb or spice and it turns into a powder, it’s dry enough for vacuum sealing. If it turns into a paste, there is too much moisture for long term storage.

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