Sunday, February 7, 2010

how to make an overly obsessive spice rack

new, improved

Five years ago, I moved into an apartment with a skylight over the kitchen and built-in spice shelves along a wall and decided to overhaul my mess of spice bottles and bags to make them fitting for such a pretty display. I looked for containers that would be uniform, have a wide mouth (to easily dip measuring spoons or fingers for a “pinch” in), were opaque (so that the sunlight wouldn’t damage the spices over time) and wouldn’t cost a fortune to buy in the quantity I needed.

old tins

I ended up with 4 ounce tins and affixed them with Avery 5160 Mailing Labels that I’d printed from a Microsoft Word document and all was right and pretty in my orderly, well-spiced world. Until it wasn’t. Four and a half years later, there were problems. Paper labels were peeling at corners, many were smudged but that was the least of the problems… after five years of catching kitchen grease and bits of powders in their rims, a few were grimed shut leading to many expletives when I needed ginger, stat for a recipe and the bleeping lid wouldn’t come off. Some tins had rusted slightly over repeated washings without wiping them dry.

I was not pleased, as I’d hoped those tins would be a once-in-a-lifetime investment, and begrudgingly began seeking out a new solution. Many months later, I found one in these wee bottles.

new spice bottlesmy little apothecaryspice bottles, from the topnew spice bottles, bubbled labels

Pros: Yes, they’re very pretty. They’re also 4.5 ounces each (which means that they will hold the contents of most spice bottles), have a wide mouth and although the pictures don’t make this clear, they are completely airtight (the tins were not). There is a silicon rim along the inside of the lid that snaps shut when completely closed, so wonderfully tight that I’d recommend you open a full bottle of powder over the sink, just in case the vacuum created makes a mess. Because they’re glass, they’ll never warp or rust and will always wash up shiny, which will please me immensely. They’re made by a company named Libbey Vibe, and sold through Amazon quite inexpensively, where you can also buy chalkboard labels that fit the lid and a thin chalkboard marker that is supposed to come off with glass cleaner. I affixed mine with Avery 18695 Clear Return Address Labels (font: Bell Gothic, Size 16) that are remarkably smudge proof, easy to remove (with no residual grime) and re-affix should they land crooked, which all of mine did. For extra “smudge protection” you could cover them with a second blank clear label. [4.5-Ounce Libbey Spice Jars on Amazon]

A Tangentially Related Pro: These jars also come in different sizes, all the way up to 82 ounces if you’re looking to pretty up your whole pantry, not just your spices.

Cons: I’m having a hard time getting the labels around the curve of the bottle exactly flat, there are bubbles. The difference between now and five years ago? It barely bothers me. A bigger issue is that clear jars don’t protect the spices from sunlight, which I will either decide to live with, keep them in the cabinet, or put them out on shelves with a kind of makeshift curtain draped over them. Finally, they’re a little less space efficient as I wouldn’t advise stacking them more than two high (I’d stack the tins in threes, sometimes fours) as it gets too wobbly.


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