Creating your own spice blends is something you want to have on hand as the possibilities are endless.
I say this because, just about every cuisine has its own set of spices that is used frequently in dishes.
For example, popular in Indian cuisine you will notice flavors of ginger,turmeric and cardamom.
In Asian cuisine, warm spices are used sometimes in certain blends such as cinnamon, five spice powder and ginger.
In Middle Eastern cuisine you'll taste flavors of cumin and sumac( a spice derived from deep red berries that are ground with the tartness and flavor profile of lemon.) and coriander.
These are just examples, but you can get the general idea of how exciting the world of spices can be!
When creating your own spice blends think of how you would like to use them.
Will you use them strictly for meat or do you want it universal where you are adding your spice blend to jazz up your vegetables and side dishes?
For instance, I like to keep spice rubs and blends on hand that I make with a flavor profile for a cuisine.
Spice rubs generally have a little sugar added and are mostly used for coating protein so that when it is cooked, you end up with a nice crust that is filled with loads of flavor without much effort.
With spice blends, the idea is the same, except minus the sugar. In reality you can create some really cool blends to fit YOUR taste buds.
Some key things to remember when creating your own blends.
1. Don't overthink it. Keep it simple. A laundry list of spices and herbs are not necessarily better.
2. Think of a cuisine that you like and mimic those flavors in a rub or spice blend.
3. Make small batches. This is essential to getting the freshest taste possible, where you will use in a reasonable amount of time.
Also keep a small notebook with measurements of your blend for later reference.
4. Use quality spices the most you can afford. Shop at international food stores, which will have the best pricing and variety. I shop at my local Indian, Asian & Caribbean stores in my neighborhood. If that's not an option for you, there are plenty of online resources.
5. Use "natural" quality salts such as sea salt, Himalayan pink salt or kosher salt. Adjust and taste as you create your special spice blend.
6. Keep your spice blends in glass jars with a tight lid to keep them fresh and away from direct light.
7. Looking for inspiration? Try my Star Arnise Spice Rubbed Chicken Recipe.
You may be thinking, should I buy whole or ground spices?
When it comes to optimal flavor, whole spices that you grind will give you the best results. But, don't let that deter you from making a unique blend to call your own using ground spices.
If you are using whole spices, such as peppercorns or cinnamon sticks the flavor can't be beat. If you want to go down this road for preparation, use something simple as a coffee grinder and dedicate this for making your spice blends.
You'll notice in Indian cuisine, whole spices are used a lot and are often toasted first before grinding. Like nuts, toasting your whole spices will also give you optimal flavor.
The key thing to remember with making your own spice blends is to just start cooking with them. Use them to your hearts desire using them on meat, seafood, veggies and soups.
Lastly, if you make a special blend that you think is awesome, post a comment to share!
Eat Good, Look Good, Feel Good!
Vanessa LaBranche/Chef Instructor-Culinary Educator