Around my house, I use the New Year as a reminder to replace the batteries in my smoke and CO2 alarms, and to check my spice cabinet to replace any jars and tins that may be losing freshness.
Spices and seasonings don’t go bad the way some other foods do, but they can lose flavor over time, particularly if exposed to light or heat. At our office, we have a display of our entire product line in the main reception area. Because the window tins and glass jars are exposed to light, we find we have to replace the product display every six months, because the color of the blends will have faded (We have to be sure the display seasonings look picture-perfect and consistent at all times!)
At home, the best way to check freshness of seasonings is to give them the sniff test. If the spice or seasoning smells fresh and distinctive, the way it should, it is probably fine. But if it seems faint or “off,” it’s time to replace it. If you do this now, you won’t face tired seasonings when you want to make your favorite onion dip at your next gathering.
If you are in the midst of making a recipe and suspect your spices may be old, you can add a bit more to compensate, but you’ll get the best and most consistent results by using fresh seasonings.
Some sources recommend keeping spices no longer than a year. That’s a general guideline, but it’s best to use your own eyes and nose to make the final determination. Another good idea is to keep a permanent marker (Sharpies are great) right in your spice drawer and mark the date you open each jar or tin.
Happy New Year!