Yesterday was a milestone in the long running battle I have been waging to find a satisfactory system for organizing my spices. The history of this battle will probably not interest you, but I will share it anyway.
It begins with my realization, quite early in my cooking career, that the little bags or bottles in which spices are usually sold have almost no value as storage containers. The bags are unsealed, continually falling over, inconvenient to handle, and difficult to sort through. The little jars are sealable and stable, but they are too small for spoons and fingers, unstackable, and not easy to refill.
So, I invested in a number of plastic containers made for the purpose of holding spices. They had a lid on each side: one for shaking and one for spoons. They came in sets of twelve, and I bought two sets, so I had enough for what I wanted at the time. I quickly realized, however, that these were too small for things like cinnamon sticks and whole nutmeg and had too small an opening for me to use my fingers, which is my preferred way of measuring. There were soon also too few of them for my growing collection and I could not find any more of them. There were other similar containers available, but they were unmatched, and I will confess that this disturbed the obsessive compulsive part of my personality to a completely unreasonable degree.
My next attempt, one that worked well enough for many years, was simply to use the little plastic containers from the bulk food stores where I was buying many of my spices anyway. They had tops wide enough for even the biggest spoons and fingers. They came in one cup, two cup, and four cup sizes. They were stackable. They were cheap. There were also virtually infinite quantities of them, which was important as my collection approached a hundred spices and teas and other sundries. I still had some reservations about them, however. The seals were not great, so the spices tended to age too quickly, and they were not very strong, so the lids were always splitting and needing to be replaced. Still, I had methods for dealing with any spices that really needed a strong seal, and the arrangement was quite functional.
This Christmas, however, my mother gave me several boxes of glass cannisters in two cup and four cup sizes. The seals were very good. The tops were a little narrower than the bulk store containers but still very functional. I decided to make the shift. Unfortunately, though she gave me more than a dozen of the large containers and several dozen of the small, these quantities did not even approach the needs of my collection. So, I had her tell me where they had been purchased, and I called every outlet in the area, eventually finding a place that had enough stock for me to buy an entire case of the larger canisters and three cases of the smaller ones. I then spent the better part of yesterday afternoon transferring and labeling everything. The results were much to my satisfaction.
The upper shelf has the four cup canisters, two deep and fifteen wide, and they hold the beans and nuts and dried fruit and whatnot. The lower shelf has the two cup cannisters, three deep and two high and fifteen wide, and they hold the spices proper, loosely organized, with ground spices behind their whole counterparts and the less frequently used items well at the back. The shelf to the side has my twenty odd teas and infusions. There is even, in reserve, a whole case of the two cup cannisters in the basement, to account for breakage and additions to the collection. Everything is in its place, and there is a place for everything.
I am well pleased.