I knew the time had come to clean out my pantry when I stopped bothering to check what I already had in the house before writing my grocery list. My pantry was a mountain of boxes and bags I had long forgotten about.
So it was on a cold winter Sunday, when I was wandering aimlessly around the house, having fulfilled all my other housekeeping duties that I realized the time had come to face the music.
I slowly opened the doors and surveyed the damage.
Mismatched Tupperware lids, crumbs of cornmeal and pieces of broken spaghetti stared back at me, taunting me. So I took a deep breath and dove in.
I found: four half-opened bags of jasmine rice, 3 bags of egg noodles (both large and extra-large), 5 nearly-finished bags of coconut flakes, and three opened boxes of baking powder.
After cleaning out the pantry and arranging all the products by: pasta and grains, oil and vinegar, and baking products, I realized I had never tested the efficacy of my baking powder, baking soda, and yeast, and there was no time like the present.
These are a few easy tests you can that will take you mere minutes:
To test baking powder’s effectiveness: mix 1 teaspoon baking powder with 1/2 cup hot water and the mixture should bubble immediately. Store in a cool dry place. It should be replaced every 6-12 months.
To test baking soda’s effectiveness: mix 1/4 teaspoon baking soda with 2 teaspoons of vinegar and the mixture should bubble immediately.
To test whether the yeast is still active: Mix 1 tsp sugar into 1/2 cup of warm water (110° to 115° F), then mix in 2-1/4 tsp yeast. If the cream foam has risen to the top of the cup by the end of ten minutes, the yeast is active. If not, it needs to be replaced.
To my dismay, my yeast and all but two boxes of baking powder had effectively died. And if I’m not baking with the best products, what’s the point? What better way to start your year than to start fresh.
As a parting note, check out Mark Bittman’s tips in the New York Times on how to determine what to toss, and what to keep in your kitchen.
What about you? Are there any products lurking in your fridge or pantry that are long past their due date?