Sumac

September Spice News

We’re back from our short summer spice sourcing trip. This year our travels took us to the Middle-East. On our journey we picked up a few interesting spices, namely Sumac Ajwain Seeds (Carom Seed), Black Caraway Seeds (also known as Nigella), and finally asafoetida.

So what will September Bring?

Our Essential Indian Spice Collection

With our new additions we are going to be putting together what we will dub our “Essential Indian Spice Collection”. Does this spice collection include every single spice you will ever need when cooking Indian food? No, no even close. But our Essential Indian Spice Collection it will put you on a solid footing as you embark on your next culinary experiment. Our collection will include the very basics.

  • Coriander Seeds
  • Cumin Seeds
  • Turmeric Powder or dried turmeric root
  • Fenugreek
  • Fennel Seeds
  • Sanaam Chillies (medium heat)
  • A Garam Masala mixture containing whole spices to be freshly ground at home.

All this will come in a fancy box making it the perfect gift for an upcoming holiday which shall not be mentioned until after Thanksgiving. Look for this set to go on sale by mid-September.

Asafoetida

aseofetida

aseofetida

I wrote a little about this new addition in mid-August. Let just say it has arrived in our warehouse and the odor is anything but pleasant. Why are we stocking such a rank smelling spice? Because people who love both super authentic Indian and vegetarian cuisine have been asking for it, and as they say the customer is always right. We’ve decided the best way to package Asafoetida, otherwise known as the devil’s dung, will be in our re-sealable stand-up pouches. This allows for the most ideal seal and represents the best way to keep this malodourous spice contained. Asafoetida will be available for purchase by next week.

Sumac  

Sumac

Sumac

Sumac really defined our Middle-Eastern travels. This spice is truly something special. If a dish ever needs a hint of acidity, look no further than this beautiful dark red spice. Sumac affords a wonderful sweet and sour flavour, with notes of bitterness interlaced with subtle fruity hints. Sumac will do wonders for grilled meats, chicken or shrimp, cooked vegetables, dips, grains, and of course Lebanese Fattoush Salad.

This tart spice cuts through even the richest of meats like a hot knife through butter, leaving you with a beautifully balanced mouthful. Why stop at rich meats? Sumac will blow any dairy lovers mind. Paired with strong pungent cheeses or a subtle Labne (Lebanese Yogurt), Sumac spice will make new even the most familiar flavours.

Look for this spice to go on sale mid-September.   

Asafoetida Coming in September

Ferula Plant

Ferula Plant.
Picture taken by Jörg Hempel.

We’ve just made an order for one of the most obscure but essential Indian spices out there. We are talking about Asafoetida Powder. Pronounced “Asa’fo’teeda”, this spice is harvested from the roots and stems of the genus ferula plant, pictured to your right. The plants roots are slashed causing it to produce a pungent resin. Once dried, the hardened resin is scraped off and crushed into powder. Note that commercial Asafoetida is not 100% pure. It is sometimes compounded with rice flower, but most commonly wheat flower, meaning its not gluten free (sorry). Now we’ve searched far and wide for the rice flower version, but for we could only get our hands on reliable supply of the latter (again sorry).

Asafoetida is not very impressive looking. Unlike the myriad of vibrantly coloured spices native to Indian cuisine, Asafeotida is bland and rather boring looking.

aseofetida

Aseofetida.

However what this spice lacks in looks, it makes up in flavour and stench. Did I say stench? You bet. This stuff, in its raw form stinks. Rich in sulphurous compounds Asafoetida is commonly referred to as stinking gum or devil’s dung. That’s right, we will be carrying a product that smells of the devil’s bowel. Luckily Asafoetida’s pungency mellows with heat. Ultimately it produces a pleasant oniony-garlic flavour.

Here is a nice little video to fill you in on this stinky little spice.

Asafoetida is considered a must have spice compound in many vegetarian dishes especially daals, lentil based dishes. A small pinch of this stuff goes a long way. Here is a great daal recipe to get you started.

As far as the medicinal properties of Asafoetida are concerned, according to WebMd.com it is used to treat many ailments such as:  

  • Breathing problems including ongoing (chronic) bronchitis,H1N1 “swine” flu, and asthma.
  • Digestion problems including intestinal gas, upset stomach, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and irritable colon.
  • Treatment of “whooping cough” (pertussis), croup, and hoarse throat.
  • Hysteria, insanity, convulsions, and as a nerve stimulant for ongoing mental and physical fatigue with depression (neurasthenia).
  • Women sometimes use asafoetida to restart their menstrual periods after menstruation has stopped for some reason.
  • Asafoetida is sometimes applied directly to the skin for corns and calluses.

So there you have it. If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of Indian cuisine or need to restart your menstrual cycle, Asafeotida is an absolute must.

Fair Seas Spice Co.

This Week’s Spice Specials

Due to strong demand we’ve decided (all two of us) to extend our sale on Fairtrade Vanilla Extract and our Fairtrade Black Pepper. We’ve been getting such great feedback on both spices it would be irresponsible to end it now . On tap this week we also have fennel seed and bay leaf.

40% Off Homemade Fairtrade Vanilla Extract Kit

Vanilla Beans

Fairtrade Certified Vanilla Beans

The Vanilla Extract Kit makes for an ideal gift for anyone with a sweet tooth and a penchant for baking. Your homemade vanilla extract will not only taste amazing, this spice has many alleged health benefits as well.

Homemade Vanilla Extract Kit

Fairtrade Certified Homemade Vanilla Extract Kit

Vanilla is thought to have anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties; the beans also contain essential B-vitamins such as niacin, panthothenic acid, thiamin, and riboflavin. What’s panthothenic acid you ask? I have no clue, I’m just a simple spice slinger, but apparently it’s pretty good for you. Studies also suggest that vanilla can increase ones libido. We thought about testing the libido claim around the office but ultimately concluded we don’t want to get sued. Libido and lawsuits aside, vanilla extract is said to help with skin disorders, mend burns, make cough syrup a little more palatable, and soothe toothaches. Although we cannot verify these health claims with any measure of certainty or authority, we can say with confidence it tastes good.

35% Off Fairtrade Black Pepper  and Receive 50g of FairtradeBlack Pepper with the Purchase of any Pepper Mill

Black Pepper

FT Certified Black Pepper

The Fairtrade certified Black Pepper has also proven to be a hit. Not only is our black pepper 35% off, we’ve decided to include 50g of our FT black pepper free with the purchase of our made in USA pepper mills. Our pepper mills are actually pretty awesome.

Pepper Mill

Pepper Mill

We’ve all gone out and bought those fancy looking but poorly built pre-filled pepper mills. Odds are that pepper mill was made within a stone’s throw away from where your Iphone was built. Let’s just say the quality of those items leaves something to be desired. On the other hand our pepper mills are built in far-flung and exotic Pennsylvania, USA. They come with a life time warrantee on the stainless steel grinding mechanism, and are all encased in beautiful wood sustainably harvested in Vermont and New Hampshire. These pepper mills also make for an amazing gift idea.

35% off Fennel Seed

Fennel Seed

Fennel Seed

Fennel Seed is one of those spices we’ve all tasted but never actually used. Slightly sweet with anise and liquorish notes, Fennel pairs so well with so many different flavours and works beautifully with so many different cooking techniques. Whether dry roasting or consumed raw, fennel will add distinguishable yet subtle flavour. A common spice in many blends, fennel has found its way into Chinese Five Spice, Panch phoron (a great East-Indian Bengali seed blend), and almost every Garam Masala ever mixed in India. When eating rich foods like Italian sausage or oily fish, fennel cuts through fat providing that perfect culinary balance.  Not only is fennel an ideal counter balance in rich savoury dishes, it is flawlessly adjusted for sweet dishes as well.

35% off Bay Leaves

Bay Leaf

Bay Leaf

I’m sorry to tell you this, but it’s high time you throw away those bay leaves you bought back in 2006. They are probably as brittle as my 90 year old grandmother’s hip. Whilst grandma is still kicking, your bay leaves aren’t. Bay leaf is the perfect ingredient for slow cooked savoury dishes such as soups and stews. Dry roasted and ground with other spices, bay leaves are also a key flavour component in many garam masala recipes. Because of its versatility and depth of flavour, Bay leaf recipes stretch from Asia to Africa, and Europe to the America’s. Pungent and aromatic with a sharply sweet and slight woody flavour profile, one or two bay leaves are all you need to add wonderful complexity to your cuisine. Remember, fresh bay leaves are aromatic and will bend before they snap. If your bay leaves odourless and crumble in your hands, they most definitely need to be replaced,

Montreal Steak Spice – But only on Ethically Sourced Steak

The intention of this post is to discuss Montreal Steak Spice. Of course in order to use steak spice, one must have a steak. You can buy steak virtually anywhere, but you really shouldn’t. Being an ethical consumer means the only place you should be buying your beef is from local farms, or from a trusted butcher who sources meat locally and only from farms and cooperatives committed to the strictest ethical practices and standards.

Free-Range Beef

USDA Photo by Lance Cheung

How can a farm which harvests beef be ethical? First of all not everyone will be convinced there is no such thing as an acceptable way to kill animals for food, and that opinion is well respected. Yet what if someone is a meat-eater? How does one both both consume meat and enjoy guiltless sleep? First things first, be prepared to pay a little more for your Sunday BBQ. Second, buy only free-range, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef. These popular catch phrases however should not satisfy all your ethical concerns. You really need to get to know the farm on which your beef pastures. So go ahead, give them a call or even pay them a visit. Any farm which is proud of its products will happily field all your questions and concerns, post pictures on their website, and possibly offer tours of their facilities. These types of farms and farmers take pride in the absolute quality of their harvest and will jump at the chance to demonstrate why their beef is worth their time and effort and of course your money. Apart from being more ethical, you really are receiving a healthier beef. Grass-fed beef is higher in Omega-3 to Omega-6 fat ratio than the industrial grain-fed cattle. It is also much higher in B-vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol), vitamin K, and trace minerals like magnesium, calcium, and selenium.

Schwartz's Deli

Some rights reserved by jofo2005

Back to Montreal Steak Spice. According to the world famous Montreal Schwartz’s Deli website, Montreal Steak Spice finds its roots in Eastern Europe. Brought to Montreal by Jewish

Montreal Steak Spice

Attribution Some rights reserved by Paul Lowr

immigrants in the late 18 early 1900’s, the blend was used to preserve and season meats. After receiving a generous coating of the rub, the meats were cured and smoked. According to Schwartz’s, around the 1940’s, employees started seasoning steaks with the delicious spice blend. Customers caught wind and started requesting the same. Before long every deli and steakhouse in the city was blending their own rendition of the Montreal Steak Spice.

    This blend is a mix of the following spices.

Why take the time to mix this blend yourself? Store bought brands contain cheap and unhealthy oils, not to mention traces of gluten.

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Lastly, I’ve included a short DYI video.

Anti-Inflammatories – Ginger and Turmeric

Lately, our turmeric has been selling like hotcakes. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, Turmeric is the new craze among health experts and nutritionists. We in North America are only now figuring out what our friends in India have known for centuries, and that is that Turmeric is very very healthy.  I’ve posted a short video in which Dr. Weil (http://www.drweil.com/) discusses the amazing anti-inflammatory benefits of both ginger and turmeric.  Dr. Weil has an M.D. and sports an impressively massive beard, so you know whatever he says is indisputable fact (you simply cannot argue with a beard).