There is a rich history in your spice rack. All the original spices traded during the Middle Ages like black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg are still in use today.
Ancient Egyptians preserved their mummies with herbs and spices. They also fed garlic to pyramid workers to increase production. Olympic athletes in Greece used garlic to increase their strength.
The laurel tree gives us bay leaves that we use in long-cooking dishes like soups and stews. These are the same laurel leaves that were made into decorative wreaths to honor scholars and poets and crown winners in ancient Greece.
Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean and known as the herb of remembrance. Flavorful in our food, Rosemary also enhances memory and brain function.
Since at least 500 B.C. spices have been traded around the world. Empires were built and wars fought because of the spice trade.
Modern Day Spice Trade
Chances are you have a jar of McCormick spices in your kitchen. Willoughby McCormick started his business in 1889 selling root beer, flavoring extracts, fruit syrups and juices. He didn’t get into the spice industry until seven years later when he bought the F.G. Emmett Spice Company.
Now the largest spice maker in the world, McCormick & Co. offers 75 different spices and spice blends.
Make Your Own Spice Blends
Store bought spice blends are convenient, but they can also contain unwanted additives. Many have added salt, a problem for those that need to control their sodium intake.
The good news is that making your own spice blends is fun and healthy! You can make the standards or create your own unique blends.
Here are some tips:
- Make sure all the spices in your blend are the same consistency. If some of the spices have large leaves and others are powder, the powder will fall to the bottom of the blend.
- Sift your powders to avoid having clumps.
- Stir before using.
- Always label your spices.
There is no end to the creations you can come up with. Here are a few recipes to get you started.
All Purpose Seasoning
This blend is perfect for grilling meats and for a variety of savory main or side dishes.
- 2 parts oregano
- 1 part rosemary
- 1 part fennel
- 1 part thyme
- 1/2 part garlic granules
As you might imagine, this pumpkin spice blend goes well in pumpkin pie. But don’t let the name of the spice limit its use. It can be used on top of ice cream, in eggnog, in oatmeal, in hot chocolate, in cookies and many more sweet treats.
- 4 parts cinnamon powder
- 2 parts ginger powder
- 1 part cloves powder
- 1/2 part nutmeg powder
This traditional Indian spiced blend works well in curries and on meats and veggies.
- 2 parts cumin powder
- 2 parts coriander powder
- 1 part turmeric powder
- 1/2 part cinnamon powder
- 1/4 part ground cloves
- 1/4 part ground cardamom
Celery salt is commonly used in coleslaw and on popcorn. When I first had homemade celery salt I was amazed at the delicious taste. It’s way better than the store-bought stuff!
- 2 parts ground celery seed
- 1 part sea salt
Used on tacos, fajitas, meats and chili, this spiced blend enlivens meat dishes and bean dishes. The optional cayenne powder can be increased or decreased depending on the amount of heat you want.
- 2 parts chipotle powder
- 1 part paprika powder
- 1 part cumin powder
- 1/2 part onion powder
- 1/2 part garlic powder
- 1/4 part cayenne powder (optional)
Homemade spice blends also make great gifts. Put them in a decorated mason jar and pair it with a small wooden spoon for a beautiful presentation.
Remember food is medicine.
Do you have a favorite spice blend? Share yours in the comments below!