Thursday, December 11, 2008

A note on herbs and spices:

In my first recipe, ginger snaps, I noted that I use ginger paste that comes in a tube. Since not everyone has seen or used it before, I figure its worth doing an information post about.


Its not the only brand available, but Gourmet Garden is the one I use and have seen most. Generally you can find these near the other fresh packaged herbs in your local grocery's produce section. They're not that cheap compared to fresh, running around $4-5 each in OH, but they have one major advantage that fresh herbs don't. You can store these in the freezer and keep them for at least three months (they say on the tube that you can extend the usable life that long past the use-by date, although I'd reckon you can easily push that longer).

So aside from longevity why else would you want to use these? Well, for one, there's no need to thaw them as they still squeeze right out of the freezer as you can see.



That may not seem like much of a trick, as dried herbs are just as convenient (if not more so). But the flavor difference is definitely in favor of the tube. There's also an ease of use factor that's hard to quantify. Making an asian stir-fry? Well, you can certainly use fresh chili's but that means keeping some around and makes spontaneous stir-frys less likely (never know when tofu is on manager's special). Suddenly remember that you said you'd bring the ginger glazed carrots to your mother-in-laws family dinner? Ground ginger in a tube to the rescue!

Now, these won't always replace either fresh or dried herbs/spices. I personally prefer using fresh parsley, basil, cilantro, etc than the tube variety because the large pieces add a visual component. Dried spices also have their own virtues, notable dry rubs and certain baked goods. The tube versions also carry more sugar than I would like (although I have nothing against the emulsifiers as I work with a number of food scientists).

Bottom line: try them out. You'll probably find that the convenience of having "fresh" herbs and spices around leads you to use them more in your everyday cooking than if you had to find a bunch of uses for all that wilting parsley you bought.

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