How and Why to Grind Your Own Spices
Here at Spice Jungle, we pride ourselves on offering nothing but the highest-quality, freshest spices available, whether they are whole or ground. And while it's hard to beat the convenience of pre-ground spices, it's hard to deny that there's just something appealing about keeping whole spices around to grind yourself. In this post, we'll look at some of the best spices to buy in their whole form, as well as how to grind them.
Why Grind Your Own Spices?
The main reason people choose to grind their own spices is freshness. While even ground spices should keep quite well for a year or more if stored properly, they do tend to lose their flavor and aroma more quickly than whole spices. This is due to the fact that after spices are ground, more of their surface area is exposed to light and air, which allows their oils to evaporate. Keeping spices whole until you're ready to use them will minimize this effect.
Another great reason to keep whole spices around is that they're more versatile. Many spices can be used in their whole form in a variety of applications such as soups, brines, potpourri, and more. Keeping spices whole allows you to use them in those scenarios, or to grind them, so you get the best of both worlds. Of course, one of our favorite reasons for grinding our own spices is that it just feels a little fancier!
How to Grind Spices
So we've convinced you to give this a try, but you're wondering what the right tool is for the job. Let's look at a few different options you may want to explore, starting with the easiest:
- Coffee or Spice Grinder - There are some devices marketed specifically as "spice grinders," but the truth is most electric coffee grinders will do the job just as well. This is going to be the easiest and most practical option for most people, as it requires no more effort than throwing your spices in and pressing a button. We do strongly recommend NOT using the same grinder for both coffee and spices, however, as the oils are hard to remove completely, so you will likely end up with some crossover flavors.
- Mortar and Pestle - These tools have been used for thousands of years to grind not only spices and herbs, but a whole host of ingredients. They require a bit more work on your part, but the crushing motion of mortars and pestles is actually better at releasing the spices' essential oils than an electric grinder's cutting blades, so you may find your effort a bit more rewarding.
- Graters and Zesters - These are going to be best for spices that come in larger pieces, like nutmeg or cinnamon sticks. If you really want to impress your guests (or yourself), grate some nutmeg directly over a cup of coffee or hot cocoa.
Best Spices to Grind At Home
Now that you know why you should consider grinding your own spices and how to do it, you may be wondering what spices to start with. Never fear! We've got you covered on that, too. Not all spices are necessarily worth the effort of keeping whole and grinding yourself, but below you will find some of our favorites.
One of the most widely used spices around the world. There's a good chance you already own a pepper mill, but if not, you can use one of the methods outlined above to unlock the potent taste of fresh ground pepper at home!
Especially when freshly ground, nutmeg is warm, rich, and intensely aromatic. Given the size of individual nutmegs, it is best to use a grater or zester directly over your favorite sauce, baked good, or beverage.
The clove is used in nearly all world cuisines. While Asian, African, and Middle Eastern countries tend to lean toward its use in savory foods, in Europe and the Americas it’s often used in breads and sweets.
If you've never used freshly-ground cumin, you've barely even tasted cumin at all. You can grind these seeds right out of the bag, or consider toasting them for a nuttier flavor.
Cardamom is complex, fierce, piney, citric, and a bit peppery. Incredibly versatile, it is used in everything form Indian curries and teas to Scandinavian breads and cakes.
The flavor of fennel seed certainly falls into the anise-licorice family of herbs. Yet, fennel also boasts a vegetal undertone, which offsets all the licorice sweetness and makes it one of the most preferred spices in the world.