DIY Spice Mixes

| 11/25/2014 9:47:00 AM

Tags: chili, spices, Maryland, Ilene White Freedman,

Making your own chili powder or other spice mix is a quick DIY project. It takes five minutes, using ingredients you probably already have in your spice drawer. The price benefit is significant, proportionally — one blogger calculated that his homemade taco mix cost 18 cents to make instead of the $2.39 it would cost him to buy a ready-made packet. Neither of those is big bucks, but the mix is twelve times the price of mixing your own. And the wellness benefits are significant: you get to skip the preservatives and fillers, ensure freshness and adjust the recipe to your tastebuds.

I started making my own spice mixes because I grow and preserve some of the ingredients and I wanted to utilize them. I want to blend my oregano, ancho pepper powder and garlic powder into homemade chili powder; add my rosemary, thyme and oregano into an Italian mix; dry my own parsley and include it in a green salad dressing mix.

Use With Chicken

These are all reason enough for me, but when I got started, I quickly realized the benefits are deeper for me. I am gaining valuable education in the kitchen.  I now know what makes chili taste good. It is garlic and cumin and paprika and cayenne and oregano. I am learning more about spices, their individual fragrances, how they combine with other spices, and the magic they offer to culinary dishes. Once I become more familiar with spices, I will learn how to use them better.  Making my own spice mixes will teach me more about how to cook with them.

Making my own is teaching me more than buying a spice mix ever could. A mix that says “use with chicken” offers some good information, but that can only get me so far. I’m going to end up with even more understanding when I know its component spices and how they work. I will de-mystify the “chili powder” or “taco seasoning”. I can start to identify the nuances of the ingredients and tinker with the proportions, to make an even better chili.

Here’s a story of how this simple DIY project went array. But as in many cases, that is when the learning begins.

First I grew and dried and dehydrated and powdered ancho chilis, straight from the garden. A very satisfied gardener gone spice maven, I labeled my jar “Ancho Chili Powder” and I added it to the spice cabinet.

2/26/2015 9:43:59 PM

Thanks Ilene, for an excellent article. This is something I have thought about for several years now, and your shared thoughts and experience were just the nudge I needed to finally act on what I already knew to be right and true. Perhaps I'll come back to post some of my triumphs (and/or failures). I have a lovely small kitchen garden with many herbs and peppers which will give me a perfect supply of trial-and-error material.

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