When I first moved out on my own, I only had a few spices, and would buy new ones as needed. My initial solution was perfect went I only had about a dozen and wanted to keep them fresh in a Tupperware box. But as my culinary adventures expanded, so did my spice box.
Eventually it got a bit ridiculous. When you buy the spice bottles, they only hold about 25g, and then the refills are anywhere from 80g and up, which means you always have leftovers in the refill. Not to mention that we bought spices from several different stores so the containers were all different shapes and sizes. I could never find the spices I needed, and we had tons of duplicates, so I’ve wanted to reorganize the spice box for a while.
The other impetus for the reorganization was because I’d had a previous run-in with moths in the dried goods. I had moved all my cereals, grains, and other dried goods like pasta and nuts, into glass containers. I did use a few large plastic ‘pourable’ containers for flour and sugar, but I tried to stay away from plastic mostly. I used a mixture of old pasta jars, pickle jars, and mason canning jars.
I’m certainly not the first blogger to have this ah-ha moment of using mason canning jars (they even make specialty spice lids for them) but I thought it might be useful to write down my process since no one really talked about the volume versus weight dilemma of choosing a container size.
I planned to move all the spices into glass jars, but the problem was sizes. All the jars had measurements in liquid volumes, whereas the spices were measured in weight. I looked up some estimates of how many grams are equal to milliliters, and the problem is the density. So you could fit 250g of water a into a 250mL jar (1:1 ratio), but if it were flour instead of water, the density of the flour would change the ratio. To add to my confusion, some websites used terms like “quart, half pint, pint”, others measured in millilitres or ounces. For reference, a half pint is 8oz., approximately 250mL (the two on the leftmost of the picture below, stacked, are both 250mL).
To determine the size of jar I needed, I wanted to see the sizes in-person. So I went down to Homestead Junction, a local shop for all things DIY and homestead—farming, cooking, baking, beekeeping, fibre arts, foraging, soapmaking, and more. They run workshops, sell supplies and DIY books, and rent equipment. If you want to make your own pasta, roast coffee, raise chickens, make candles, make your own cheese, cure meats—you name it. In case you can’t tell, I love Homestead Junction. I want to learn all the things.
I had a few packages of spices so I could eyeball the correct volume. The cayenne pepper was 97g, sage was 80g, and marjoram was 25g. But all three of those had very different densities. Don’t even get me started on bay leaves, cloves, or peppercorns.
I decided to get the Mason jars instead of one of the other options because they were stackable, unlike the Flint jars with their nicer lids or the pretty cylinder Weck containers. It looked like 125mL (4oz.) would be on the small side, so I decided to go with 250mL (8oz.). I also decided on wide-mouth jars that were only about 7cm tall, as I could easily stack them in my cupboard.
I did consider getting the standard-mouth jars (10.5cm high) because you could use this nifty spice-shaker lid (specifically for mason jars) with them, but I wouldn’t have been able to stack them in my cupboard. So remember to measure your spice drawer / cupboard / storage location in your kitchen before you shop.
I bought 24 jars (2 dozen 250mL, wide-mouth with lids and labels included) and paid about $16 per dozen. The price was comparable to the big box grocery store (aka Great Canadian Superstore), but it looks like I may have been able to get them cheaper at someplace like a big box home store (aka Canadian Tire). However, it didn’t feel right going into Homestead Junction and window shopping—getting advice and helf from the employees,and then making the purchase elsewhere. I like supporting my local stores. In the future I may do a price comparison shop, now that I know what I’m looking for, but that would also be for convenience of location.
When I got home, I whipped out the label maker and started cataloguing my spices more thoroughly. Wow, did we ever have a lot of duplicates—two half-finished cinnamons, two opened sages, chili powder up the wazoo, and rosemary for eons. We even had two containers of cayenne pepper, one that hadn’t even been opened.
I decided to use the labelmaker for the sides of the jars, and the stickers that come with the jars for the tops of the lids (see photo below). For where I store my spices, it is more necessary to have a label on the side than on the top. However, if I uncap the summer savory and the marjoram, I don’t want to mix their lids up and cross-contaminate flavours.
As for the volume/weight dilemma, I discovered that 80g of sage doesn’t quite fit into 8 fluid ounces, nor does 25g of marjoram. Ground sage definitely packs more tightly than the flaky leaves of marjoram, so I’m not surprised at the difference in volume.
All in all, I’m in love with the new spice storage. Even though I had to throw out a few tablespoons of a few different spices (and about half the bay leaves), I’m still very pleased. Now, anyone need some extra cayenne pepper?