Food & Drink

Spices don’t spoil but can lose their power

Early Saturday morning, I headed up to The Feathered Nest, a beautiful store in Belleville, Kan., that had scheduled me for a cooking demonstration, book review and signing of “Cooking With Bonnie: Farm to France.”

My friends Rosemary and Bev accompanied me. Bev, the cautious one, was concerned about deer venturing onto the highway as we would be traveling at dawn and dusk, and insisted on driving. She felt we would all be safer in her big blue truck than in my sedan. She probably was right, so I happily assented to her being behind the wheel. Besides, when Bev drives, we take the scenic route. I knew we were off for an adventure, which will be material for a later column.

I had heard great things about The Feathered Nest, and it is a lovely, eclectic store with beautiful decorating accessories, culinary gadgets and foods, gifts and some furniture. I was not disappointed. It is truly a jewel in a small town.

After the demonstration, I entertained questions from the group. One of the questions related to spices, and I will share it with you, as well as the ones our readers have asked this week.

How long do spices last? Do they go bad, and if so, how do you know?

Spices do not spoil, but they can lose their pungency. Usually spices that are kept in a dark, cool place will be good for a year or two. When they are no longer fragrant, they have lost much of their seasoning power. One of the handiest places to store spices is near the range so they are in easy reach when cooking, but it is also the place where they will deteriorate the quickest because of the heat and steam. A cabinet away from the range is a better place to store them.

My pumpkin pie recipe calls for cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. I do not bake very much and am wondering if I can substitute pumpkin pie spice for those three spices. If so, how much shall I put in?

Absolutely, you can substitute pumpkin pie spice. Add up the measurements in the recipe for the spices, and you would use that much pumpkin pie spice. If your recipe called for 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon cloves; you would use 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice. If you don’t bake much, it would be less expensive to purchase a container of pumpkin pie spice than the three separate spices.

I have seen ground nutmeg in the store and also whole nutmeg. I always buy the ground nutmeg but am wondering what you do with the whole nutmeg.

The whole nutmeg can be grated and used in any recipe. Actually, it has a fresher and more pungent flavor. I prefer whole nutmeg. Since it is a solid and not ground, air does not permeate it, therefore it keeps indefinitely.

Bonnie Aeschliman is a certified culinary professional who owns Cooking at Bonnie’s Place in Wichita. For more information, call 316-425-5224 or go to To submit a question to Bonnie, e-mail her at