How long will my spices last?
Herbs and spices don't "go bad" in the usual sense, they just gradually lose their flavoring power--or as we say, their "oomph". The simplest way to assess freshness is with your nose. If the aroma is gone, it is time to throw them away. If the aroma is not as strong as when you purchased them, add an extra pinch or two to taste and think of creative ways to use the remainder up quickly (e.g. garnishes, grilling, beverage toppers). Herbs lose their flavor more rapidly, you will notice a decrease after about a year. Ground spices will begin to lose potency in 1-2 years. Whole spices retain their potency for 3-4 years.
Heat, residual heat, moisture and light all shorten the life of dried herbs and spices. The best way to store herbs and spices is in an airtight glass bottle in a dark cupboard or drawer in the coolest part of the kitchen. Avoid placing spices directly over an oven or cooktop.
Oxygen is the biggest threat to extra virgin olive oil quality. Contact with oxygen is the leading cause of oxidation followed by contact with light and heat. Olive oil should be kept airtight and stored in a cool, dark place. A cupboard, cool pantry or wine cellar is ideal.
Do not store olive oil on top of the stove or in direct sunlight for an extended period of time. Storing EVOO in the dark guarantees a duration that is almost three times longer than storing it in the light. More specifically, extra virgin olive oil's healthy properties are easily preserved in the dark and can still fully express themselves in terms of flavor and health benefits even after prolonged storage.
Once a container of olive oil has been opened for daily use, the can or bottle should always be properly closed after each use. Ideally, olive oil should be used within 2 years of bottling or 12-18 months after opening. Olive oil should not be refrigerated. Some experts believe refrigeration "breaks" the flavor of the oil, while others believe olive oil will suffer from the conditions that often cause water to mix with the oil.
Why has my honey turned solid?
Because it's real honey! Did you know that real honey crystallizes? Raw and unfiltered honey made by real buzzing bees, tends to take on a white or tan, solid appearance over time - sometimes a very short time. The natural sugars in honey bind together to form little crystals. The pollen in honey also contributes to the binding process. It may turn completely solid and look hard and crunchy. or it may be a mix of solid and liquid. Not to worry, it's still good and lets you know you're buying a real natural honey product, not honey flavored fructose.
Crystallized honey is still honey. It's perfectly safe to eat in crystal form and doesn't mean your honey has gone bad. It means your honey is natural and oh so good. You can still eat and cook with crystallized honey exactly as you would with liquid honey. You can spread it on toast or biscuits, it will still melt into your hot drinks and baked dishes.
If you want to return to drizzling honey, simply give it a bath. Fill a large heatproof bowl or measuring cup with very warm water, if you don't want the label to slip off, place your honey jar in a zipper style plastic bag, and let your honey sit in the warm water until the crystals melt away.
Note: No honey should be fed to infants 12 months or younger. Consult your child's pediatrician with any questions.