My traveling spice box

It’s still challenging here, so thank you for bearing with me!
We lost about a quarter of our home to Hurricane Sandy, and had to move all of the contents of that end to the unaffected end. Construction is happening wonderfully rapidly, all things considered, but it has truly restricted our activities.
I appreciate your willingness to wait while we regroup.

Several weeks from now, I will load the car and head south, to Mississippi. While there, I will camp with some new friends and some old, and will be cooking for myself and others. This brought me to thinking about packing goods to contribute.

It’s been a habit of mine to carry sufficient goods in my pack to turn out a full meal for four or a side dish for eighty for several years. I keep dried fruits, lentils, rice, spices, fish sauce, and so on with me, and pick up meats, sausages, cheeses, and fresh vegetables at need.

In putting together my bags for the upcoming trip, I need to consider lack of refrigeration, balance of minimally used items with heavily used ones, and what types of dishes, therefore seasonings, I may be called upon to create.

In considering the types of dishes I most often make, I will be bringing the following, listed with notes by each.

1 Cinnamon
Cassia and canela are different, not as much in taste but in origin. Some are sensitive to one or the other, so know which you have.

2 Cloves
They are a huge pain to grind properly, but the pre-ground ones lack the  zing. Look for a slight oily sheen, store them out of light and preferably in the freezer, and when they are the star of the show, make certain the little ball-cap (flower bit) is still attached, as it has a lot to do with the balance of the flavor.

3 Coriander
The seed. While the whole plant and the leaves are also commonly used, I travel with the highly portable seed. The dried herb has nothing on fresh, so I do not even bother with it.

4 Black Pepper

It’s not as commonly used as now, but it is a standard ingredient. Conveniently, it is sold in portable grinders.

5 Cubebs

One of the “not pepper, used kind of like pepper” spices, it looks a little like allspice. Be certain of your vendor. It has enough of a floral aromatic flavor that it works very nicely with roasted sweet vegetables and with sauces and marinades with a slightly sweet note.

6 Grains of Paradise
hot and dry with a citrus note, it’s my favorite for a simple roast chicken. I don’t leave home without it.

7 Long Pepper
Similar to black pepper but with a bit more bite, but goes stale quite quickly. Look for glossy whole spikes.  It and black pepper are flavorwise kind of redundant.

8 Cumin
can be used whole or ground, with cheeses and sausages, in breads, and so on. It’s great for quick stewed dinners, for cabbage and sausage types of camp meals, and so on.

9 Galangal

(dried) there are two forms. The modernly common one is likely not to be the one in use in Europe during the Middle Ages. It’s known for being peppery and gingery, while the other is somewhat piney.
To use the dried form, rehydrate it for a time in hot or warm water before adding to your dish.

10 Ginger (dried)
Ginger when used with white pepper is the historical palate equivalent to chilis. Modern palates do not get the same impact from it, so don’t expect a miracle. There is a reason, after all, that the popularity of chilis took off so rapidly.

11 Mustard Seed
12 Mustard powder
At home I mainly use mustard seed, but while on the road I also bring (colemans’) powdered for convenience. I can have a nice, balanced mustard on the table in 15 minutes, by adding a little extra vinegar and applying heat to the basic recipe I am working from.

13 Nutmeg
Just one nut and a small grater ought to last for some time. I keep spare nutmegs in the freezer. They are safe there for a surprisingly long time.

14 Mace
Not as essential to keep as nutmeg, you can expect less of a numbing bite. It also has an appealing reddish tone to it.

15 Saffron
Yes, it is expensive. Yes, some people despise it. I enjoy it, I carry it. The trick is to crumble and allow it to steep in a small amount of tepid water.

16 Salt
My preference is for kosher, sea, or other non-iodized salt with some texture to it. Grey salt and white salt are to be used as they are modernly, both to season foods during preparation and as a finishing.

17 Saunders
I do not like or appreciate the use of this food coloring agent. It is the product of an endangered hardwood, and is related to some hardwoods I find too caustic to recommend to novice woodworkers. However, I do carry an ounce or so with me so as to demonstrate the qualities, and to provide the coloring where it is called for and appropriate.

18 Sugar  used as a balance rather than an overall sweetener,
I use this about as often and in as much quantity as salt.

 

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