Sunday, November 20

Simmering Seasonal Spices & The New World!

Did you know as early as 80 BC the spice trade was ON. Bear with me, I love history. Spices were discovered by the Western World when the Silk Road was opened from East to West. Over the years as Eastern silk traders made their way to the Greek and Roman Empires they began packing spices among their silk wares, ebony and luxury textiles. After trying such spices as Cinnamon, Cassia, Cardamon, Ginger and Turmeric the Western World  was hooked on this new taste sensation. These unusual dried plants were so wonderful and sought after they became extremely rare and expensive commodities, surpassing even silk in value. Certain spices were so valued they became the main form of currency during this period of new discoveries. As the Greco-Roman world increased, trade from India flourished. The Indians traveled over land passing through Constantinople, spanning two continents and eventually making their way to Rome.

Fast forward to the early part of the Middle Ages. The rise of Islam and the Ottoman Empire almost certainly closed the door on trade between East and West. The Ottomans overtook Constantinople and demanded high taxes for anyone passing with such valuable goods. The taxes were so expensive this all but stopped trade with the West.

Then along came Colombus in 1492 when he sailed the ocean blue. He sailed West trying to find a quick route to the East and thereby bypassing the Ottoman tax. Well you know the rest of that story. Old Colombo was the first man to make a go of it but he most certainly was not the last. Eventually in 1497, Vasco da Gama was the first to make it all the way to India. This reopened the trade route between East and West and trading began to flourish once again. 

Today the spices that we use are so easily picked up at our local grocery store. No need to sacrifice 6 months of our lives cruising on a sailboat to India to pick up cinnamon. Also have you noticed how expensive most of them are - and for good reason. After you buy a  spice and open it up, care to guess how long the shelf life is? Six months! That's about it. Sad but true. I fudge and use mine a little longer but they never taste quite the same as when you first open them. 

But don't throw out your outdated spices, NO! This is my solution for old spices: I use them to make my own special Holiday Scentsy. I take the spices I know are old, mainly cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg go first and keep them in a cabinet close to my stove. At least twice a week I fill a small saucepan with water, then add fragrant odds and ends. I keep orange peel, sliced apple and cranberries in the freezer for such an occasion. A sprig off of the Christmas Tree or Rosemary bush is the BEST!* Sprinkle in a few of your favorite Holiday spices and bring it to a boil, turn it down to the lowest setting and let that sweet perfume fill your home. Whatever you like. Whatever you have. It just smells like what HOME should be during the Holidays. A stove top potpourri mix is an easy, and inexpensive way to make your home smell wonderful in just a few minutes.

Package a few of your favorite fragrant holiday spices and give them to friends as a special treat. They make great hostess gifts during the season of giving. 

*If you don't bring in a fresh tree for the Holidays your local nursery is usually FULL of branches from various trees. Remember they cut the bottom off of a tree so that it will be ready to soak up lots of water when you get it home. I have never been charged for these fragrant "left-overs". 

The question of the day is: Would there be a United States of America if not for men on the hunt for spices. Seriously, think about it.

spices, cinnamon, cloves, Christmas, holiday, scentsy, rosemary, simmering, gifts, inexpensive, treats, seasonal, 

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