Trade and foreign economic relations, piercing the globe along and across, enabled the modern man to use products from almost every corner of the world. The most revealing in this regard is the path of spices that over the centuries have overcome the journey from incredibly expensive exotics commensurate with the price of gold to the usual kitchens of houses, cafes and restaurants, bakeries and confectioneries, food shops, store shelves and market areas.
Earlier, for example, the cost of cardamom was equal to the annual earnings of a poor man, for a few handfuls of peppercorns slaves were given, and by selling just a pound of dried nutmeg color it was possible to significantly expand the household farm - to buy three sheep and a cow. Now, fortunately for consumers, you do not need to give a fortune - the price of spices has become quite affordable for everyone.
On this basic changes that have occurred over several centuries in the spice market, in fact, are over, there is only one important and unshakable rule that determines the quality of this product - the spice is cheaper, the less spice it contains. And this should be remembered constantly if you care about the taste of the dishes on your own table or your customers. But on this deal, depends the business reputation, which today is almost more expensive than spices many centuries ago.
How to identify real, quality spices?
The issue gained particular urgency a few years ago when the market was flooded with cheap seasonings of incomprehensible origin and of questionable quality and taste. At the same time, this task is quite feasible and, as a rule, does not require complex laboratory studies.
The main rule, common for all spices, is the smell. It can be specific and even sharp, but it is always pleasant and very persistent.
To buy black pepper, pay attention to the diameter of the peas. It is strictly regulated and should be 3-5 mm. The shell is wrinkled, with a slight brownish tinge. When crushed, fresh black pepper breaks up into fairly large particles and leaves a slightly greasy residue on the paper surface.
Too dry or poor-quality raw materials immediately turn into dust.
Check the quality of pepper can be as follows: in the tank pour alcohol solution, which is covered with a portion of black peas. The liquid is mixed, and after 2 minutes floating specimens are collected from its surface. Their weight (after drying) should not exceed 5% of the whole serving.
Shells of green pepper are loose, color - olive. White pepper does not have shells at all and differs slightly in coffee color - an indicator that it was not subjected to bleaching.
Qualitative fragrant pepper kernels are large (5-9 mm), the shell is dense and undamaged. When immersed in water, it sinks.
You can distinguish between counterfeit and buy real cinnamon in any form.
Iodine should be dropped into the cinnamon, and if the raw material has turned to blue it is cassia, the most common cinnamon analog which however does not have such a strong aroma and attention, with excessive use, can cause food poisoning.
Quality cinnamon sticks have a reddish-brown color; they are thin and folded on both sides. Cassia is coarser and one-side twisted.
When you buy cardamom, its quality is determined by appearance: the size of the boxes should be 2.5 cm, the color - olive or greenish. The bright green color indicates chemical staining, and the yellowish color indicates incorrect drying.
The real nutmeg grown on special plantations is large, elliptical, with many internal grooves. Wild walnut is more elongated in shape and has fewer grooves in section.
To buy fresh ginger of high quality, it is better to choose with a few sprouts. The flesh of this ginger does not have coarse fibers, but when it dissects it gains a delicate lemon-yellowish shade. The dyestuff is often added to pickled ginger, so you should carefully study the labels on the package.
Has a powerful aroma and burning taste. The quality raw material of the cloves looks homogeneous, has a brown color (the buds are lighter than the legs), gives off an oily substance in the case of damage. Fresh cloves, when immersed in water, float «soldier», the old one «lies» on the surface.
Vanilla pods come in several varieties, and the quality of them is much higher than that of vanillin, a synthetic analog of the original spice.
Good vanilla has 15-25 cm of flexible chocolate-colored pods, with hooks at one end. They retain their properties for several years.
Manufacturers of turmeric mainly sell it in the form of powder. The whole is similar to human fingers (type, size, and diameter) bright yellow or orange. To distinguish the powder counterfeit is possible only in the laboratory.
Alas, but most often unscrupulous producers of spices as saffron offer counterfeits in the form of turmeric, safflower or dried beetroot. Identify the authenticity of spice is very easy, and one of the main markers here is not just high, but prohibitive cost.
The look of genuine saffron is homogeneous, without crumbs, and the color is dark red, saturated. Saffron easily rubbed into powder, stains the liquid gradually, for about 15 minutes. At the same time, it acquires a similar shade.
Not every consumer has the opportunity to buy whole raw materials and independently grind it. Besides, sometimes this process can be quite time-consuming and time-consuming. In such cases, you cannot do without ground spices, which, among other things, are easier to dispense and distributed throughout the dish.
Contrary to many concerns, to buy high-quality ground spices is absolutely possible. The guarantor in such cases is the honest name and conscientiousness of the manufacturer and seller. How to find out about this? It is necessary to pay attention to the details, the strict observance of which is prescribed by the technical regulations.
The first and most important sign is that the ground spices should not crumple and smell of mustiness. If this is present, it means that the main thing is not observed - storage conditions and humidity level, the goods lost their properties and are hopelessly corrupted.
Cleanliness and ventilation of premises, environmental friendliness of materials and the integrity of packaging and packaging, tracking shelf life, compliance with the rules of packaging and shipping, and many other - the neglect of at least one item from this list entails irreversible consequences for the quality of any raw material, both ground and solid.