Thursday, August 27, 2015

Keeping Kitchen Staples Fresher Longer: - Part 5


Shelf Life - long lasting

Do keep vanilla in a tightly sealed container away from light and heat.

Don't get rid of old vanilla.  Vanilla's high alcohol content makes it extremely self-stable.  Tests found that even 10 year old vanilla is indistinguishable from fresh.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Keeping Kitchen Staples Fresher Longer: - Part 4

Soy Sauce

Shelf Life 1 year

Do store pasteurized soy sauce (most common type) in the pantry.

Don't store unpasteurized soy sauce in the pantry: put it in the fridge.  Though the high levels of salt, sugar, and acid in this fermented soybean liquid protect against rapid spoilage,  tests showed it took on a fishy flavor after a few months in the cupboard.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Keeping Kitchen Staples Fresher Longer: - Part 3


Shelf Life - long lasting

Do ignore any sediment in your vinegar.  The sediment is a harmless cellulose that has been shown to not affect taste.  It can be easily strained out if you want.

Don't toss old vinegar.  Most vinegars contain about 5% acetic acid, which (along with pasteurization) prevents the growth of harmful bacteria, and will last indefinitely.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Keeping Kitchen Staples Fresher Longer: - Part 2

Olive Oil 

Shelf Life - unopened 1 year; opened 3 months

Do check the harvest date printed on the label and high-end oils to ensure the freshest bottle possible (some labels cite an expiration date, which producers typically calculate as 18 months from harvesting, but unopened olive oil can go rancid 1 year after the harvest date.

Do move olive oil from the countertop or windowsill to a dark pantry or cupboard.  Strong sunlight will oxidize the chlorophyll in the oil, producing stale, harsh flavors.

Don't buy olive oil in bulk.  Once opened, it has a very short shelf life.
Checking for freshness - heat a little olive oil in a skillet.  If it smells rancid, throw out the bottle.  This test works for all vegetable oils.

Other Oils

For optimal flavor, replace these oils 6 months after opening:

Store in the pantry:

Store in the fridge:

Friday, August 14, 2015

Keeping Kitchen Staples Fresher Longer - Part 1

Spices and Dried Herbs

Shelf Life:  Whole spices 2 years; Ground spices and dried herbs 1 year.

Do buy spices whole, versus ground, whenever possible and grind them just before using.  Grinding releases the volatile compounds that give a spice its flavor and aroma.  The longer the spice sits around (or is stored) the more compounds disappear.

Don't store spices and herbs on the counter close to the stove.  Heat, light, and moisture shorten their life. 

Checking for freshness - crumble a small amount of the dried herb between your fingers and take a whif.  If it releases a lively aroma, it's still good to go.  If the aroma and color of the spice have faded, it's time to restock.

Info from Cooking Illustrated Magazine

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

I Didn't Know That - Worcestershire Sauce

Worcestershire Sauce

If you can't think of Worcestershire sauce without thinking of Lea & Perrins, blame it on more than just branding. In the early 1800s, chemists John Lea and William Perrins tried to duplicate an Indian sauce recipe for Worcester nobleman Lord Sandys. The chemists found the result of their attempt "unpalatable" and moved on to other projects while the jars of sauce gathered dust in the cellar. Years later, they tasted the aged sauce and found it delicious and savory. The men bottled the sauce and sold it throughout Europe. In 1839, New York entrepreneur John Duncan imported the sauce to the states where it became the oldest commercially bottled condiment in the U.S.

Just in case you were wondering, you can properly pronounce the sauce a number of ways: "WUST-ter-shire," "WOOS-ter-sheer," or "WOOS-ter-sher" sauce, according to manufacturers. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

I Didn't Know That - Icee


Contrary to popular belief, 7-Eleven did not invent its well-known slushy frozen drink. The slurpee was a happy accident of Omar Knedlik, a Dairy Queen owner in Kansas City during the 1950s. When Knedlik's soda fountain broke down, he improvised by putting some soda bottles in the freezer to stay cool. He served the not-fully-frozen bottles to customers who ended up loving the consistency of the cool treat. 

Knedlik then created his own machine that added carbon dioxide to make the drink fizz then held a naming contest. The drink became known as ICEE. In 1965, 7-Eleven licensed Knedlik's machine and their ad agency director named the drink Slurpee® after the sound made while drinking it through a straw. To date, 6.5 billion Slurpee® beverages have been sold through the store alone and approximately 13 million people sip Slurpees each month, according to 7-Eleven

Slurp on that!

Info from

Saturday, August 1, 2015

I Didn't Know That - Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookie

Chocolate lovers everywhere bow to the greatness that is Ruth Wakefield's accidental creation — the chocolate chip cookie. Wakefield was the owner and occasional cook of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts. One day Wakefield was making a batch of chocolate cookies when she ran out of baker's chocolate. Improvising, she used broken pieces from a Nestlé semi-sweet chocolate bar thinking the dough would absorb the melted pieces. Instead, she accidentally created chocolate chip cookies

Wakefield called the cookies "Toll House Crunch Cookies" and the recipe was eventually published in a Boston newspaper. This got the attention of Andrew Nestlé, the chocolate provider whose chocolate was used in Wakefield's fruitful mishap. In exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate, Wakefield agreed to let Nestlé print her cookie recipe on their chocolate packaging. You can still find the Toll House cookie recipe on Nestlé packaging today! 

Info from