There are a lot of seasoning mixes that I used to take for granted back in the US, when they were easy to come by in large jars on any supermarket shelf. I recently dug up a few recipes that called for such seasonings and realized that I could no longer get the brand name versions by just going across the street. Luckily, the internet provided — in the form of homemade seasoning mix recipes that are pretty darn close, if not perfect matches. As usual, they are much cheaper than the retail versions and are rather fun to make! I might just mix up some of these and package them nicely to put in holiday gift baskets this year.
To the left, Emeril’s Essence Creole seasoning mix. To the right, Old Bay seafood seasoning mix. On the top, a very nice Italian seasoning mix. All three whipped up in the space of fifteen minutes using only measuring spoons, plastic bags, and a bit of food processor action. I made smallish batches, just enough for a couple of recipes each, so that my supply would stay fresh. They’re all made from spices and herbs that I already have on hand, so there’s no point in making too much and having it go stale. That was always the most annoying part of buying a whole canister of the stuff at the market — worrying that you wouldn’t use it all before it lost its punch. For recipes and more pictures, click on!
For the Italian mix, I used AR’s Italian Seasoning I Recipe. It is a bit more complex than the throw-together-four-herbs mix I usually use and has a wonderful aroma. The ratio is very simple — 1:1 for everything. Use the same amount of all of these items, however much is appropriate for the end amount of seasoning you want. For the above, I took a tablespoon of each: dried basil, dried oregano, dried rosemary, dried marjoram, dried thyme, dried savory, red pepper flakes. The recipe also called for dried cilantro, which I did not have available. I considered using ground coriander, but that’s not quite the same thing and I didn’t want to mess around with what was already a nice mix. The same holds true when you’re putting together your own mix — with this many ingredients, I’d say that leaving one off won’t be a huge impact, as long as it isn’t one of the core Italian herbs (basil, oregano, marjoram and thyme).
To mix them together, I just threw everything together into a ziploc bag and shook it until it was blended. You could use a food processor, of course, but I rather like the coarse texture in this particular case. You don’t want herbs like this to be too powdery — the little flakes are usually meant to show up in the finished dish.
Next, I made up a bag of seafood seasoning similar to Old Bay, using this recipe from eHow. This one has several different ratios and a variety of components, some which required me to do some last-minute grinding. I used pre-ground whenever possible, however — something that was probably intended by the recipe-writer as well. Pre-ground spices that have been sitting on the shelf are a bit milder than their freshly ground counterparts, and that is something to take into consideration as you’re mixing. I read a comment somewhere else that somebody tried to do this with freshly ground spices and ended up with something too far over on the pumpkin pie end of the spectrum. So be forewarned if you’re using freshly ground, and sample a bit to make sure you’re on the right track. You might have to add more on the savory end to balance things out if that happens.
You will need: 2 tbsp. bay leaf powder (I pulverized whole bay leaves), 2 tbsp. celery salt (I used a 1:1 of sea salt and powdered celery seed), 1 tbsp. dried mustard (mine was freshly ground), 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, 2 tsp. ground ginger, 2 tsp. sweet paprika, 1 tsp. ground white pepper, 1 tsp. ground nutmeg, 1 tsp. ground cloves, 1 tsp. ground allspice, 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp. ground mace (I omitted this, mostly because I only had whole mace and didn’t see the point of grinding it when I already had all those other pumpkin pie spices in there), 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom, and 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon.
I popped everything in the grinder and pulsed until it was uniform. This one definitely has a very unique smell to it.
This last one is one of my favorites. I had a generous jar of it next to the stove at the old apartment and it was my go-to mix for sprinkling on anything that needed a bit of flavor. Emeril’s Essence Creole Seasoning, straight from Emeril Lagasse’s website.
You’ll need: 2 1/2 tablespoons paprika, 2 tablespoons sea salt, 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme. Shake it up in a plastic bag and you’re good to go!