F.1 BAKING POWDER: Baking powder is a combination of an acid and an alkali with starch added to keep the other two ingredients stable and dry. The powder reacts with liquid by foaming and the resulting bubbles can aerate and raise dough. Almost all baking powder now on the market is double acting, meaning it has one acid that bubbles at room temperature and another acid which only reacts at oven temperatures. Unless a recipe specifies otherwise, this is the type to use.
Don't expose baking powder to steam, humid air, wet spoons, or any other moisture. Store in a tightly lidded container for no more than a year. Even when kept bone dry it will eventually loses its potency. To test its strength, measure 1 tsp powder into 1/3 cup hot water. The mixture should fizz and bubble furiously. If it doesn't, throw it out.
For those folks concerned with aluminum in the diet, the Rumford brand has none in it and there may be others.
F.2 BAKING SODA: This gritty powder is sodium bicarbonate also called sodium acid bicarbonate (NaHCO3), a mild alkali. It is used in baking to leaven bread and other baked or fried foods and does so in the same manner as baking powder. It can also be used to make hominy. When combined with an acid ingredient, the bicarbonate reacts to give off carbon dioxide bubbles which causes the baked good to rise. If kept well sealed in an air- and moisture-proof container its storage life is indefinite. If kept in the cardboard box it usually comes in, it will keep for about eighteen months. Do keep in mind that baking soda is a wonderful odor adsorber. If you don't want your baked goods tasting of whatever smells it adsorbed then keeping it in an airtight container is an excellent idea.
F.3 HERBS AND SPICES: It is difficult to give exact instructions on how best to store culinary herbs and spices because there are dozens of different seeds, leaves, roots, barks, etc., we call an herb or a spice. There are, however, some general rules that may be followed to best preserve their flavors. All spices, particularly dried, are especially sensitive to heat, air and light. Room temperature is satisfactory for keeping them and refrigeration or freezing is even better, but they should be kept away from heat sources. It is common for the household spice cabinet or shelf to be located over the stove, but this is really a very poor place. Dark opaque glass is best for storage, but failing that, keeping a tightly sealed glass container in a dark place is next best. The cellophane packets some products come in just won't do. Tightly sealed metal containers will work as well. Even dense plastic will do, but glass is best.
Where possible, buy spices whole. Whole nutmegs will keep their flavor far longer than ground nutmeg, the same for other seeds and roots. You'll have to use a grater, grinder or whatever, but the difference in flavor will be worth it.
If you buy spices in bulk containers (which is certainly cheaper) consider transferring some into smaller containers and keeping the larger one tightly sealed in a cool, dark place. This will prevent unwanted light and air from continually getting in and playing havoc.
Included in the suppliers addresses are listings for several spice and herb companies. The one I have personally dealt with so far is Penzey's and their products have been consistently excellent with good prices. It's worth investigating some of these companies as they can really take the sting out of purchasing large quantities.
Misc.Survivalism FAQs maintained by Alan T. Hagan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright ©1996, 1997, 1998, 1999. Alan T. Hagan. All rights reserved.
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