spices pepper cooking
December 21, 2011 11:56 AM   Subscribe

What are some of your favorite"outside the box" uses for spices?

My wife works for a spice company. They recently have been shopping around to find new vendors and been getting samples of different spices. What they ended up with is almost 200 different spice samples that they have given to us. We have at least a pound of almost all of them, except the dry herbs. Just about any spice you can name, we now have about a pound of it.

I have already found good ideas for some cooking uses in this and this previous post but I am looking for more outside the box uses. Spices in certain foods you normally wouldn't expect or even non cooking uses for some spices.
posted by holdkris99 to Food & Drink (39 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Well, I got the title and tag fields backwards, sorry Robbie Van Winkle.
posted by holdkris99 at 11:57 AM on December 21, 2011

Lemon Lavender cookies
posted by arcticwoman at 12:00 PM on December 21, 2011

I like my yogurt savory instead of sweet, so I love adding different spices. Makes it feel more like a meal.
posted by Vaike at 12:01 PM on December 21, 2011

Sprinkle cayenne pepper on the soil in your garden or outdoor potted plants to keep the squirrels/rabbits/deer away from eating the flowers/vegetables.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 12:01 PM on December 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

If you make a tea with cayenne pepper, it'll really clear up the stuffiness associated with a cold.

Cinnamon sticks look really cute tied together as a decoration, and they smell really nice while doing so.
posted by xingcat at 12:02 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Make your house smell like a christmas cookie by adding the following to a pot of water and placing it on low heat: cinnamon stick, ten or so cloves, pinch of allspice.
posted by introp at 12:02 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Go all crafty and make sachet bags. http://www.ehow.com/how_8548_make-sachet.html

Sacets are traditionally lavender and similar sweet herbs, but ginger-scented underwear or oregano-scented socks might have their attraction.

If you were my friend, I'd encourage you to give me small bags of all them (there are tiny resealable plastic bags) so that I could finally toss all my old spices and start fresh, new spices in old bottles. If you have a lot of friends it could be pretty time intensive, but you could have a party, like a quilting bee -- a spice dispensing.
posted by kestralwing at 12:06 PM on December 21, 2011 [9 favorites]

I make my own chai mix using star anise, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom... You can also heat spices in a bit of water on the stove to make the house smell good.
posted by headnsouth at 12:06 PM on December 21, 2011

So you have 200 pounds of spices? Holy awesome.

That stuff isn't going to last forever, so I would definitely look into Indian recipes. Some of them use 20 or 30 different spices. It depends on what you have, of course, but that might be a good way to use a lot up in a hurry. (Indian cooking is actually really easy once you get the spice part covered.)

Non-cooking uses? Any whole spices could be used as potpourri, even added to a candle if you happen to have the supplies for that. If you have cloves, you could make a clove orange, etc.

Whole spices could also be infused into vodka or other spirits. MAYBE that would work with ground spices, I've never tried it. Be a bitch to filter out, probably. Krupnikas is very heavy on the spices. (Recipes differ, google around to match what you have on hand.) This stuff will last forever and can be taken to parties, etc.

You could make spice blends, like a spice cookie blend or a bbq rub, and give them as gifts or use them yourself. You have enough stuff to get really experimental with this.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:08 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

If you need ideas for last minute holiday gifts, you can make some spice rubs (gift tags for each of those are here).

Maybe you could donate them to a local shelter or soup kitchen.
posted by amarynth at 12:11 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nutmeg is hallucinogenic in large enough doses.

Just sayin'.
posted by saeculorum at 12:13 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Nutmeg Aromatherapy
How to Video

Cayenne can be made into a spray to kill aphids.

Indian food is very spice intensive. As is Ethiopian, berbere is the traditional spice blend, similar to India's garam masala. Niter kibeh is Ethiopian-spiced clarified butter and is delicious.

Christmas is the season for spiced-mulled wine.

Healing Spices

Spice Lovers
posted by shoesietart at 12:13 PM on December 21, 2011

Use them as popcorn toppings! Toss your spice of choice with a little bit of olive oil over popcorn, and you have a tasty, versatile snack.
posted by raztaj at 12:14 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Incense, use as flavorings for homebrewed wine, beer, mead or cider, hot or cold infused oils, medicinal tinctures, get a nice loose-leaf black tea and mix your own flavored tea, distill essential oils (takes a small amount of equipment), liqueurs are always a huge hit, bake yourself to death! A bit of quick Googling should yield instructions on all of these. I'd love to have your problem. :D
posted by WidgetAlley at 12:14 PM on December 21, 2011

Cinnamon is an ant deterrent, if you have minor ant problems.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 12:17 PM on December 21, 2011

Some spices and herbs make delicious ice creams - lavender, basil, cinnamon, ginger... I haven't tried many others, but I imagine it would be interesting to find out. Nthing clove oranges and Indian food.
posted by ke rose ne at 12:22 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Vanilla and nutmeg in fresh pork sausage. Laced with rum. Yum.
posted by LN at 12:24 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Make up your own spice blends and give out to any and sundry.

One that I've used a LOT in baking is something I got from the Chocolate and Zucchini blog tie-in cookbook -- an equal mix of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove. I've used that for gingerbread and spice cookies and such -- any recipe that calls for some of each of a couple of those separate spices, I just swap out with the four-spice blend instead.

Or spiced mixed nuts -- a couple tablespoons of mixed spices (as you so choose) toasted in about a quarter cup of butter or oil, then poured over about a pound of nuts -- stir it up and then dump into a pan and roast. Or make your own seasoning for Chex Mix. (Chex mix is especially addictive which means you'll get through it even faster.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:28 PM on December 21, 2011

I posted this in a thread about meat rubs & I think it is delicious (it has herbs but also several spices):
Scott's South-Meets-South-of-France Rub

Makes about 7 tablespoons

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried rosemary
1 teaspoon cracked black peppers
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/4 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 small bay leaf, finely crumbled
4 cloves garlic, minced to a paste

Combine ingredients. Refrigerate unused rub up to several weeks.
posted by pointystick at 12:30 PM on December 21, 2011

Tis' the season, to make Cinnamon ornaments.
posted by librarianamy at 12:33 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Make some soap.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:38 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whoa, over 100 lbs of spices will take years to use up by yourselves. Thus, I agree that you should share the bounty. Give little bags of individual spices to friends and coworkers (don't bother blending - too much work and less versatile for the recipient), then when you get sick of that have a bartering party where people bring various surplus goodies and swap them around (especially good in summer when vegetable gardens overflow). Finally, donate what's left to a soup kitchen or something.

But first: make pomander balls by sticking whole cloves into oranges and tying with a pretty ribbon. (Other fruits are sometimes used but they tend to rot before they dry out, so stick with citrus.)
posted by Quietgal at 12:41 PM on December 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

I once saw a bartender sprinkle cinnamon on a row of flaming shot glasses. It created a visual sparkling effect that she called "fireworks".
posted by jmsta at 12:50 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I sometimes put a pinch of cinnamon into cold drinking water. Makes it just a bit less plain - in much the same way a lemon slice does.
posted by kickingtheground at 1:41 PM on December 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

I boil cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger in water to steam my face and help ease cold symptoms.

It's even more awesome when you put all of that together and make Yogi tea!

Yogi Tea

1 Gallon Water
30 cloves
30 whole green cardamon pods
30 whole black peppercorns
1 lg finger of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
5 sticks cinnamon
1 teabag, Black Tea
*Milk and Honey to taste (*optional)

Bring water to boil. Add all spices except black tea bag. Boil 30 - 45 min. Longer is stronger. Finally, add black tea bag and boil another 5 min. If adding milk & honey, do so after adding the tea bag and letting it steep– OR BETTER add milk and honey to individual cup or a small batch. That way you can store the raw tea in the fridge and prepare with milk and honey as you go. After adding milk and or honey, bring to a boil again, then shut immediately or keep on lowest flame to keep warm.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 1:45 PM on December 21, 2011

Liqueurs are really easy to make with spices.

Take 3/4 of a bottle of vodka, drop some whole spices in it (cinnamon sticks, nutmeg nuts, allspice berries, whatever), let it sit overnight, sieve it out, and fill the bottle the rest of the way with a 1:1 to 2:1 simple syrup (that's 2 parts sugars to one part water) .

Ceylon cinnamon is my current favorite thing to do this with.
posted by aubilenon at 2:36 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Break cinnamon bark into smallish pieces and add some to the ground coffee when you brew. It adds a wonderful aroma and cuts the bitterness, especially if you like really strong coffee.
posted by DrGail at 2:45 PM on December 21, 2011

You can put spices in bath bombs (I've used cloves, cardamon, cinnamon, ginger, juniper berries, nutmeg, rosemary, thyme ... ). And ginger can be pleasant just dumped in a bath if you have aches. You can dye fabric with turmeric, though in my experience it's not terribly fast. Also, orange and clove pomanders.
posted by paduasoy at 2:54 PM on December 21, 2011

Ground cinnamon and lemon juice make a great mask for exfoliating and clearing up the skin. It'll burn a bit (okay, a lot) but the results are fantastic.
posted by so much modern time at 3:30 PM on December 21, 2011

Cloves can be used to keep ants away. Or so some parts of the internet says!
posted by Seboshin at 3:52 PM on December 21, 2011

Sprinkle it over your coffee. This works for anything that doesn't make you recoil with disgust at the thought of adding it to coffee. (If that doesn't work, anything you'd add to, say, pumpkin pie can be good.
posted by dekathelon at 4:18 PM on December 21, 2011

Well, I just dumped a little bit of honey and a ton of Moroccan spice blend on some almonds to roast for Christmas. It's got the spicy-sweet thing going on.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:27 PM on December 21, 2011

Turmeric kills the horrid smell of browning meat.
posted by scruss at 5:53 PM on December 21, 2011

I can't prove it, but a pound of Allspice berries or Star Anise might get your car unstuck from the snow. Whole pepper too, like as not.

Nutmegs are the right size for slingshots.

Some of the substantial uncrushed spices might be good in kids' crafts-- not just for elbow macaroni anymore.
posted by Sunburnt at 6:12 PM on December 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

How crafty are you? I'm thinking you could do something decorative, with layered spices of different colors and textures. I wonder if you found two tall glass cylinders, and put the smaller of the two inside, then different decorative layers of the spices in between? (kind of like this) Then a candle in the middle... you could come up with something quite lovely (and potentially nice smelling, depending on your spice mixtures). Maybe even something like this using the spices instead of the colored pods.
posted by librarianamy at 7:34 PM on December 21, 2011

Another possibly helpful askme
posted by Mizu at 9:11 PM on December 21, 2011

Just today I had some really monumental cardamom ice cream.
posted by troublesome at 10:37 PM on December 21, 2011

Sprinkle spices over flatbreads as you are rolling them out, then bake as normal.
posted by primer_dimer at 2:47 AM on December 22, 2011

make artisinal gluhwein spice bags ... and be the toast of all your friends
posted by jannw at 3:36 AM on December 22, 2011

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