Cleaning the kitchen cupboard: toss or save?

By ANGELA TREADAWAY / Guest Columnist

Have you looked at the foods in your kitchen cupboards lately? Is it time to bid some foods a fond farewell? Read on for tips to help you decide whether to toss, move or try to save common kitchen cupboard foods.

Read labels carefully — they often contain important storage information and recommended use by dates.

-Baking Powder: Good for 12 to 18 months or expiration date on container. Store tightly covered in a dry place. Make sure measuring utensils are dry before dipping into the container.
To test for freshness, mix 1 teaspoon baking powder with 1/3 cup hot water. If it foams vigorously, it still has rising power.

-Baking Soda: Good for 12 to 18 months or expiration date on container. Store tightly covered in a dry place. Make sure measuring utensils are dry before dipping them into the container.
To test for freshness, place 1-1/2 teaspoons in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar. If it fizzes, then it will still help leaven a food. If it doesn’t fizz, use it as an odor catcher in the refrigerator.

-Shortening: Good for three to eight months opened; 8 to 12 months unopened. Store in a tightly closed container in a cool, dark place. Shortening that has been stored too long will go rancid and develop an undesirable taste and odor. If you haven’t used a shortening for a while, smell it before using it in a recipe.

-Canned Foods: Good for one to two years. The Canned Food Alliance recommends eating canned food within two years of processing for best quality. Many cans will include a for best quality use by date stamped somewhere on the can.  Avoid refrigerating opened canned foods in their can. Food can develop an off-odor from the can, once opened. Transfer to another storage container.

-Spices and herbs:  Good for one year for herbs or ground spices, two years for whole spices. Air, light, moisture and heat speed flavor and color loss of herbs and spices. Store in a tightly covered container in a dark place away from sunlight, such as inside a cupboard or drawer. For open spice rack storage, choose a site away from light, heat and moisture.

Refrigerate paprika, chili powder and red pepper for best color retention, especially in summer or hotter climates.

Angela Treadaway is the Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety/Preservation and Preperation with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. She can be reached at 410-3696.