What Spice Jar labels can tell you about quality
When purchasing spice how can tell it if it is a quality product? You cant open the jar to test the ingredients or aroma of the spice and without some knowledge on where spices are grown and how they are processed, how do you know what you’re getting?
In an effort to provide accurate and detailed information to customers there are those companies such as Natureland that go to a great deal of effort to confirm the quality of their product. As a general rule a spice that contains very little information on the spice, it’s origins etc. is unlikely to be one of the better quality products. Here’s what a label can tell you about the quality of a spice:
Certain regions provide the ideal growing conditions for certain spices. Most often the best climates are where the spices originated from. With all the trade that has happened through the centuries many spices are grown all over the world very successfully. However, the origin of the spices provides not only the ideal climatic conditions but the root stock or seeds are more closely linked to the original heritage of the spice. Most labelling laws require that the origin of the contents is clearly stated on the label. Looking at the origin and doing some minor research, you can decide for yourself if it is indeed a quality spice.
Some spice distributors claim that seeing you use such a little spice when cooking that ensuring it is organic is not really necessary. However, those distributors that believe organic is the only way, do not agree. Even when used in small quantities they believe that an organic certification ensures a higher quality product. Therefore when you see an organic certification stamp or seal of approval you can purchase with a peace of mind that it is a top quality product.
For spices more is not necessarily better. As only small quantities of spice are needed to flavour food, buying spices in large quantities is not a good idea. The reason for this is that once ground, spices loose their aroma as they are exposed to air. Bulk quantities of spices therefore often go stale. Smaller quantities such as 30 grams are the ideal quantities to purchase spices in.
Grinding or processing:
It is not always a requirement for label to include information on how the spice has been processed. Most commercial spice distributors use large grinders to process bulk quantities. Most spices contain oils that contribute to the flavour, aroma and nutritive value of the spice. With bulk grinding the friction causes temperatures to rise exponentially and often the oils within the spices are destroyed in the process. An alternative way to grind spices is to do so using a method called cryogenic grinding. The spices are frozen with nitrogen. This ensures that very little heat enters the grinding process and as a result almost all of the flavour, aroma, and nutritional value are retained. This is a more expensive process as smaller quantities are processed but ensures a higher quality end product. If you see on the label ‘cold processing’ or ‘cold ground’ then this is an indication that the cryogenic process has been used resulting in a superior quality ground spice.
Type of container:
Plastic packets or bottles are not the ideal type of storage for spices. Plastic is seldom airtight and bottles often don’t seal properly. In addition plastic has absorptive qualities and the aroma of spice can be more easily lost when stored in plastic. Glass is the ideal type of storage bottle for spices. Dark coloured glass is even better as it prevents sunlight from affecting the spices in the container. When there is an option select spices that are packaged in small dark glass jars as these help to maintain the quality of the spices.
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