Two or more generations ago, home cooks would slave for hours experimenting with a dash of this and a pinch of that to achieve the perfect taste. In those days, there were fewer spices to work with.
In today’s global, fast society, we have so many more meal types and recipes to work with since the days of our grandparents. Today, consumers are looking for quick and easy solutions to help them achieve new flavor profiles. What does this mean for the traditional spice cabinet?
The shift toward a global palate is fairly new to American culture. Within the past 50 years, the flavor profile within the average home kitchen quadrupled in size. Today, according to Nielsen, 42% of consumers report that they love trying new things.
As our world has become more globalized, our access to new flavors and products has changed the way we cook. People are looking for ways to get various cultural and ethnic meals just right. Basic salt and pepper only go so far.
The next great barbecue sauce, marinade or rub is being developed in a kitchen somewhere in America. However, unless the right steps are followed, that product will not be successful. As CEO of Compass Blending, Angie Ruff has built a contract manufacturing business by helping clients, especially entrepreneurs, translate their passion for their product into a successful business plan and product launch. Read her Food Processing feature on entrepreneurial and co-Manufacturing success: Cooperation and Communication Spell Success for Entrepreneurs and Co-Manufacturers
An important way to get those meals just right is to update your spice cabinet. Here are 10 spices that have become common for today’s expanded, multicultural meals. Just as home cooks are stocking their spice cabinets with these flavors, food product developers should get familiar with and even experiment with them.
Turmeric: High in essential oils and curcumin, turmeric has several health benefits. With much of it originating in a region in Sri Lanka, this spice gives a complex, rich, woody flavor to Indian curries, vegetables, lentil stews, rice, onions and tomatoes. Turmeric is quickly becoming a staple.
Ginger: Ginger shouldn't be sequestered to holiday baking, gingerbread house-making and gingersnap crusts. Ground ginger is used in both sweet and savory dishes and adds depth to cookies, bread, South Asian curries and more. Today, it is used in a variety of meals such as those with Chinese, Japanese and Indian origins.
Hibiscus: Florals are becoming more and more popular in drink concoctions, and hibiscus is leading the way. In fact, this flavor has grown more than 55% among U.S. menus over the past five years and was the Firmenich 2019 flavor of the year. Top hibiscus applications include yogurt, beer, tea and chocolates.
Cumin: Whether a recipe calls for the dried seeds or the ground variety, cumin gives an aromatic and nutty flavor to foods. Popular in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian cooking, this spice, too, has health benefits. It has great savory applications like chili, stews, meat, fish and vegetables. Cumin is often preferred more for its health benefits as an anti-inflammatory and less for its savory flavor.
Mushroom Powder: Another savory flavor, mushroom powder is a great way to mimic meat in vegetarian meals such as vegetarian chili and stew. It also complements items like meatballs, pizza crust and even oatmeal. This a great one to let your imagination and creativity run.
Vietnamese Cinnamon: Although slightly different from traditional cinnamon, this variety has a slightly spicier flavor, but it, too, is perfect for baked goods like pies, cakes, muffins and cinnamon rolls. Because of its spicy nature, Vietnamese cinnamon is great paired with chiles, infused in your morning coffee or added to roasted pumpkin and squash soup. Oh, and it is not bad in whiskey either.
Sriracha: For those with a more spicy palate, this sauce is popular on Asian menus, but it’s usage has broadened. Originating in Thailand, this blended paste has exploded in popularity. It’s great in spicing up an omelet for your breakfast or to mix in your ground beef to give hamburgers an extra kick.
Aleppo Pepper: Grown in Syria and Turkey, these peppers are dried and ground to give food a fruity yet earthy flavor that is compared to a cross between cayenne and cumin. It’s great on grilled meats like chicken breast, steak, chops or kebabs. Surprise your guests when sprinkling it in potato salad, egg salad or tuna salad.
Orange Peel Powder: Sometimes a recipe needs that citrus-infused flavor. Orange peel powder is a great baking application in biscotti, scones, cheesecakes, cookies, bread, cakes and pies. Aside from baking, orange peel accents salads and is great in teas, giving them a unique flavor.
Yuzu Powder: Considered the Japanese wonder fruit, yuzu is making waves in the culinary world. It is a sour, tart and fragrant citrus that is guaranteed to make your dish stand out. People are becoming very creative with yuzu in food, applying it in a broad range of ways from fish to vegetables to custards. It is even infused in Japanese teas. Oh, and sprinkle it in your bath to give an excellent aroma and relaxation effect.
As you can see, we’ve come a long way from the days of grandma’s spice cabinet. Unlike in those days, the good news is many of these can be found at your nearest grocery or organic food store. If not, you can likely get them in a few days when ordering online.
Obviously, there are hundreds of spices out there, but hopefully, these will inspire to spark some flavor creativity in your personal menu repertoire.