For some, the spice rack is the graveyard of the kitchen. It’s where dried herbs and spices wither and grey– the only jars not covered in dust from infrequent use are pizza spice and garlic salt. Stocking spices can seem a daunting task– and an expensive one, at that. It certainly doesn’t have to be expensive or tedious to turn your spice graveyard into a shrine.
The Spice Rack
1. Buy only what you need. The easiest way to know which herbs and spices to keep in stock is simple: buy for whatever recipes you make as you make them. It’s easy to simply buy a pre-made spice rack with standard spices already in it, but chances are you’ll be overpaying. There’s no reason to go on a spice shopping spree and buy everything you see– the most important spices to stock are what you actually use regularly, whether it be 5 or 15.
2. See it all. Everyone has old spices lying around– it’s almost cute, finding a bottle of dried marjoram from 2002 way at the back of the cabinet. It’s not cute when you realize you have three containers of cinnamon, of three different vintages. To prevent things from getting lost at the back of a cabinet, keep them somewhere that you can keep them in a shallow cabinet or drawer where it’s easy to view them all at once. I keep my spices on an old, inherited shelf mounted on the wall.
My New York kitchen has only three small cabinets and no drawers, so it was necessary to be innovative! I love having everything in plain sight and it helps me be more creative in the kitchen– a quick perusal of the shelf and I get inspired to be more adventurous with seasoning. Seeing everything at a quick glance also makes it much easier to tell when you’re out of stock on a preferred herb– I just ran out of both dried thyme and rosemary this week!3. Make it beautiful. There’s no reason that the spice rack, which is used often, should be neglected when it comes to decor.
Try displaying little doo-dads and tchotchkes among the spices to make it more personalized. You can even use your electric pasta machine to do that in your kitchen. I have a few little antique salt + pepper shakers, an old tea box from the Old Country, a feather brush my great-grandmother brought from Europe, a little vial each of edible gold and silver leaf, and a New Jersey-shaped cookie cutter among a few other curious objects. If everything is in plain-view, don’t neglect this opportunity to use it to its full design potential!
4. Think outside the jar. Some people are very brand-loyal or appreciate a more cohesive look, I prefer a more natural approach. If you have a lot of little jars from different companies, consider using old jam and mustard jars to hold your spices and herbs. I prefer the wide rim of a jam jar to a small, standard spice jar– it’s easier to fit a whole measuring spoon in. Despite the pleasingly hodge-podge look of different jar sizes, the look is more cohesive because of the handwritten labels on each one. If you do use old jam or mustard jars, thoroughly wash out the lid and the jar and allow to get bone dry before filling. You could also consider buying glass or plastic jars in bulk and handwriting out labels, if you want a truly cohesive look.