June 16, 2008

More on Expiration Dates

"Do you know the signs of aging?"
No, this post isn't about botox or cosmetic surgery. It's about spices.

I thought this 2007 advertisement from McCormick was both clever and informative. If I'm not mistaken, I tore it out of one of those pesky cooking magazine subscription solicitations that all-too-frequently used to arrive in my mailbox. (While I truly appreciated the gift subscription that I received, I loathed the avalanche of junk mail that was generated by being on their subscription list. However, I will say that a call to Customer Service asking to be removed from their list did successfully result in stopping the unwanted mail.)

I'm quite aware of the usual, and often vague, advice directing one to use only fresh herbs and spices and discarding those that are past their prime. To be honest, I'm not very diligent about that. But this ad, with its suspiciously familiar spice bottles and red and white tins, sent me straight to the pantry to investigate.

The ad says that McCormick spices in the rectangular tins and glass bottles with labels that say "Baltimore, MD" are at least 15 years old. Fifteen years. That would be 1993. Or before.

Sure enough, I found four offenders in the McCormick brand alone. The ancient (in spice years) bottles contain Cream of Tartar, Anise Seed, Curry Powder and Thyme. Pretty sloppy for someone who obsesses about food expiration dates like I do.

I can't remember what I used the Anise Seed for, but it must have been only once, because there's only a teaspoon or so missing. I used the Curry Powder in a spiced fruit dish on a couple of Thanksgivings a long time ago. I don't care much for the flavor of curry powder and that's the only recipe I've ever used it in. The Cream of Tartar and Thyme have long since been replaced by a succession of newer bottles.

There's also a partially filled bottle of Arrowroot from Durkee Famous Foods. I vaguely remember buying this to use as a thickening agent in a recipe a long time ago. I don't remember what the recipe was. The price tag showing $1.69 is still on the bottle. There's a nagging suspicion that this purchase was made while I was still married. If so, this has really been on the shelf for a while--I've been divorced for over twenty years.

The plastic bottle of Food Club Rubbed Sage? Who knows how long it's been there. It must have gotten lost because I know I've purchased several bottles of sage since this one.

To give myself credit, I do recall throwing away numerous rectangular spice tins from various brands eight or nine years ago. Somehow these strays just missed the cut.

In case you're wondering, I don't have any more antique spices in my pantry. The rest of them are fairly new and fresh. The food companies put expiration dates on everything else. Why not spices?


At 11:44 AM CDT, Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I found a lot of antique spices when I decluttered recently. Some actually belonged to my Mother and I think she may have some from her days as a newlywed! The Ann Page brand is a classic! By comparison I recenly used some dried mint, probably 20 years old, that had never been open. It was completely fresh and smelled great!

At 7:17 AM CDT, Blogger Kathy said...

T.W. - Glad to hear I'm not the only one. I neglected to mention my box of McCormick food coloring that I bought in 1978. It still works fine although the box is getting a little worn.


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