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Unlike the supermarket you aren’t buying one kind of chili powder, you can choose between mild, medium or hot
Tuesday was the first day of vacation and I used it to run around and do some food related errands and shopping. I stocked up on some bulk spices at Penzy’s. Originally I was going to start in with entries about Wednesday’s cooks, but spices play an important part in what we make so I will start off with the trip to Penzy’s, which I could look at as the pre-game warmup. Earlier this year I’d mentioned in a blog entry entitled Get Fresh how I’d made a big improvement to my cooking by using fresh ingredients instead of jar spices. There are still many times when you still need to use jar spices, and it is important to use good quality jar spices. The other thing I have found as I am getting more into cooking, I am also running into spices I don’t find at the local supermarket or Whole Foods.
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You often have choices of multiple regions that the spice comes from
Enter Penzy’s. Originally an online herb & spice retailer, they started opening brick and mortar retail stores around the country and I am lucky enough to have one in Arlington, MA. Even if they don’t have a retail store in your area you should go visit their web site. There is lots of information about spices and seasonings. You can sign up for their catalogue or download it in PDF form. The catalogues are a wealth of information. I started buying spices online from them several years ago and they always have great customer service. They contact you to confirm your order and again when it ships. They also usually include a little sampler of some spice with the order. For some time I never saw the need to visit the retail store.
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The labels list the ingredients, but also tell you about the spice & how to use it
When I finally made it to the store last year I saw the benefits immediately. Or more accurately I smelled the benefits. The 250 spices are displayed in the various sized jars and bulk bags you can purchase. There is also a large glass jar that you can open to smell each of the spices. One of the other advantage to their large selection is variety. You don’t just get paprika, you get Hungarian paprika or Spanish paprika. You also get choices like Mild, Medium & Hot in your chili powder. The labels tell you a bit about the various spices and what they are used for. They also sell blends of various seasonings.
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The use of bulk bags of spices plus reusable glass spice jars allows you to save a lot of money. Or better yet buy a bigger variety of spices.
What made this trip to Penzy’s different is the new way I will be getting my spices. Upon the advice of a friend whose knowledge of cooking far exceeds mine, I started getting the re-sealable bulk bags of spices and empty jars. You pour off some of the spice from the bulk bag into the jar for your day to day use. You pay for a jar every time you buy the spice and this way you do it only once. The bags of bulk spice are far cheaper than the jar spice version. The bags are re-sealable so the spices should stay fresh. Now before you start worrying about having far more than you need, let me point out the bulk bags come in several sizes. The smallest size isn’t that much bigger than the normal sized spice jar. You get more spice for about the same money because you aren’t paying for that glass jar. As an example a 4 oz. bag (113 g) of Hungarian sweet paprika was $4.45. An empty 4 oz. (113 g) jar is $1.25. Total cost $5.75. A 2.4 oz. (68 g) jar of the same Hungarian sweet paprika is $4.75. Buying just 2 jars of the pre-filled paprika cost you $9.50 for 4.8 oz. (136 g) of paprika. Buying bulk a second bag brings you to a total of $10.20 and you have bought 8 oz. (227 g) . Nearly 3x as much spice. I came home with far more spices than I would have buying the jars. I am looking forward to saving money on my spices.
In Pt. 2 of this entry I will be back to grilling, but in many ways the activity I did this day is every bit as important as your work in the Kitchen or out at the grill. Below are the links to Penzy’s web site and to download their catalogue in PDF form. Even if you don’t plant to buy, there is a wealth of information about herbs and spices in these quarterly catalogues.