The time is upon us to start our Christmas baking. So, today, as is my annual holiday baking ritual, I went to the bulk food store to stock up.
(I did a whole bulk food musing post on my cooking blog. If you went there first, don’t panic — this is not the same thing. But I am going to cross-post this over there later.)
So, I love the bulk food store. I cannot lie. I do tend to go A LEETLE BIT MENTAL when I am there, buying ALL THE FESTIVE BAKING THINGS. I don’t go in very often, because I tend to go nutty, and because I don’t do that much baking to warrant it.
Today, since Stinkerbelle was with me, I wanted to get in and out fairly quickly. Mainly, this was an attempt to curb the crazy shopping bonanza, but if I am really honest, part of it was because I had forgotten to make That Girl have a pre-game pee before we set out this morning. I had a relatively short list of things to get, so it should not take very long. Plus, she and I both are still battling this nagging cough, and it’s not cool to cough your way through the bins of food.
I decided it was best for all concerned to be as quick as possible.
We meandered through the aisles of bins, scooping and bagging up what we needed. We started in the Christmas goodies, wandered through flour, sugar, candied fruit and chocolate, and eventually ended up at the other end of the store in the spices, with our cart getting full up, our list getting checked off, and Stinkerbelle getting impatient to get moving.
So, I finished up getting a little bit of ginger, some nutmeg and some allspice, and then we were off to the checkout.
We got home and brought our bags inside, but it was sunny and eleven degrees today, and Stinkerbelle wanted to be outside, so I thought a little walk up to the post box might be nice. By the time we got back, it was lunchtime, and then naptime, and before I knew it, it was three o’clock. And I had not put our baking supplies away yet.
That Girl was still snoozing, so I went down to put away all our shopping. Another thing I like about shopping at the bulk food store is that I get home and I can just empty my little plastic bags of sugar or flour or whatever into the appropriate canister TAA DAAAH. So I did. Sugars, flour, sprinkles, chocolate, spices, each had it’s appointed spot.
It was then that I realized, as I picked up my three bags of spices — I had neglected to label what spice was which.
In the majority of the bulk food store, you have twist ties to tie off your bags of supplies, but in the spices section, there are bread ties with a piece of paper attached, and you write the product number on each as you bag it. This is because the checkout staff, while possessing a remarkably encyclopaedic knowledge of everything in the store and the ability to identify each on sight, need help with the minute portions of spices in their tiny bags.
WHICH ALL LOOK THE SAME, I’LL HAVE YOU KNOW.
Okay, so the ginger was easy, because, well, it’s ginger-coloured and it smells A LOT like ginger. But I am here to tell you that, to the untrained eye and nose, nutmeg and allspice look REMARKABLY similar to the aging, maybe-one-day-I’ll-have-glaucoma-OMG, I-don’t-have-my-new-glasses-yet eyes. And the smell test is not much help, because in such small quantities, every bag smells pretty homogeneous. Kind of spicy and plasticky, but not much to discern one from another when you’re buying, like, TWO TEASPOONS of stuff.
I had a problem.
I got out my existing containers of nutmeg and allspice and tried to do comparative sniffage. In the existing little containers, metallic and designed to keep things fresh, you can really smell the difference. In the plastic bags, sniffing the new stuff? Nada. (And my nostrils are stinging still, just so you know.)
I tried looking at each. The existing stuff? The grind and colour are distinct enough to tell the difference. The bagged stuff? Both a pretty fine grind and similar colour.
I poured a smidge of each out on a white plate and got under the brightest white light and tried to figure it out. I tasted. I touched. I asked pertinent questions.
The spices were less than accomodating.
In the end, I took my best guess, and poured one into the nutmeg container and one into the allspice. Fortunately, for my immediate baking purposes, both will go into my gingerbread in equal quantities, so I’m not too concerned. After that, for the eggnog cookies? Could be a little dicey, but we’ll do our best. I think I have another bit of nutmeg in the back of the cupboard so we might be okay.
But, come the summer, when it comes time to make jerk, which requires a whole lot of allspice? If I guessed wrong, that’s going to be some odd-tasting, nutmeggy jerk indeed.
Maybe I should just make enough gingerbread and pumpkin bread and pumpkin muffins before then to use up all the current supply. That would mean another trip to the spice aisle, obviously — but next time, I’ll remember to label the packages.