Friday, November 19, 2010

Tis' The Season To Season

Port Orange, FL (PrBuzz) November 19th, 2010 - The holidays are around the corner folks and whether it's spaghetti sauce, parsley potatoes, or your best apple pie being served up, the spices and seasoning you choose for your recipes can be the difference between a culinary masterpiece or a flop. The art of seasoning foods is one that develops with time and experience but even the most novice cook can still achieve greatness using the following golden guidelines for adding spices to any dish. After some time and experimenting you too will be able to season your foods to the "perfect taste" with your eyes closed. Remember even the most prominent chefs make mistakes, big ones too! Don't let this discourage you though. Luckily through the years, through trial and error, a standard set of culinary guidelines has been written to help any chef put the 'just perfect" taste into any recipe.

The first thing that any good cook will understand with spices is the broad differences in strength between fresh and dried herbs. Freshly picked herbs still have their full compliment of aromatic oils within the leaves. This makes them very strong in flavor. When that same leaf is dried though some of those flavoring oils will be lost during the drying process. This will happen to any herb/spice being dried. To help minimize these losses, some companies and spice importers are opting to "freeze dry" their herbs and spices or dry them under very low heat. Freeze drying is a process where a pressure chamber is used to remove moisture. Using precisely controlled temperatures and pressures, over 95% of moisture can be eliminated. The moisture content is removed through "sublimation" (a process where a solid transforms direct into a gas and skips the liquid stage - (i.e., ice turns into vapor)). So remember fresh herbs have more flavor than dried herbs BUT there is a catch to this as we will learn in the next paragraph.

So we know that dried herbs/spices lose some of their flavor and freeze drying is by far the best way to minimize losses during drying right? So what's the catch? Well although a freshly picked leaf will contain more aromatic flavoring oils then the same dried leaf what must be remembered is that during the drying the process moisture is removed. With the removal of moisture also lost is total weight. So less weight will mean it will take say 10 dried basil leaves to equal the same weight of 1 fresh basil leaf. It could very well take 50 pounds of fresh basil to produce only about 5-10 pounds of fresh dried basil. From this we can easily conclude that the dried herb/spice will be much more potent than the fresh one even though the fresh one is stronger. What??? Huh??? Okay you are maybe a little confused but maybe not. Just remember that you will always use considerably less dried spices than fresh spices in all of your culinary creations.

With that said now we can apply some simple guidelines when adding spices and seasoning. For hot foods it is wise to add your spices towards the end of the cooking time. Many spice flavors are destroyed when exposed to high heat. For cold recipes you can safely add the spices before preparing. If you ever add too much salt to a dish use a teaspoon of sugar to mask the extra salt. For dishes that come out to spice rich add a raw peeled potato to it. The potato will help soak up some flavor and hopefully save your recipe. If that does not work you can always whip up a second batch with no spices and then simply add that to the first batch. Now for adding the spices and seasoning there are some basic rules. For recipes that serve 1-2 people use no more than 1/8th teaspoon of any dried powders and 1/4th teaspoon for chopped spices, seeds, or granules. If you are adding fresh herbs/spices then 2 teaspoons should be the maximum amount added. For larger recipes that serve 4-5 people these measurements obviously are raised. For these size recipes use no more than 1/4 teaspoon dried powders and 1/2 teaspoon chopped, seeds, or granules. For fresh herbs/spices 4 teaspoons should suffice. Remember these tips and your next recipe should be a success! We would like to take a moment to give special thanks to everyone over at Florida Herb House in Daytona Beach, Florida. They were kind enough to lend their time and contribute to this article. You can visit them online at or or call them toll free (888) 476-9414 with your questions regarding herbs, spices, and seasoning.

Green People United
Florida Herb House
Port Orange, Florida 32128

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