It isn't surprising you can find lots of spice blends at your local market. From pickling spice to pumpkin spice to blends that work well with, say, shellfish (like Old Bay), seasonings add savor to food.
They do it the easy way, too. Granny used to put a nice chicken or beef stock on to simmer in a process that sometimes took 24 hours and a dozen different steps. Today we might have 24 minutes to get a whole meal on the table. Flavorful, wholesome herb and spice blends help us do that.
Over the years, I've perfected some herb and spice recipes for my own use, including flavored salts and sugars. I whip them up as needed throughout the year. I like preparing them in small batches because that way I control the ingredients -- and, well, it's fun. It's cost effective, too. I grow many (most) of the herbs, and buy the spices in bulk.
I also prepare blends as special gifts. They make nice hostess and holiday gifts. It's easy to experiment, too. Here's an example: Say you decide to make stew. You add thyme, rosemary, a bay leaf, black pepper and a little marjoram. It turns out great. Remember the proportions, increase the quantities and create a blend of your own.
Take Control of Your Herb Rack
I also have better control over what's in an herb blend if I make it myself. There are a number of issues to consider, from how much sodium and filler may be in a product, to how long it's been sitting in a warehouse somewhere. I can also grow herb varieties I know are flavorful when used in cooking, like Italian oregano or flat leaf parsley.
If I grow an herb in the garden, then I'm not relying on an imported product, or a product picked wild in conditions that are a big question mark to me. I'm sure most herb wholesalers do fine work. I've purchased from many of them over the years and still do. I like maintaining start to finish oversight if I can, though.
Herb Blend Recipes
For my Odds and Ends post today, here are a few past blogs that contain herb blend recipes. The ingredient lists may give you an idea of what you'll want to grow yourself or buy from a trusted retailer in larger volumes than you would otherwise:
Cajun Spice Blend
Herbes de Provence
Old Bay Seasoning
Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend
Sloppy Joe Seasoning
If you like having a homey looking kitchen, full jars of individual herbs and blends look wonderful on an open shelf or lined up on a counter, and having lots of culinary options at your fingertips is a powerful -- and powerfully good -- feeling.
Photo 1 - courtesy of Zsuzsanna Kilian at Stock.Xchng
Photo 2 - courtesy of Sarka Sevcikova at Stock Xchng