Do you like it spicy? So do we! We’ve been using some very tasty spice blends from Teeny Tiny Spice Company when cooking with our favorite D’Artagnan meats. So we wanted to know more about these organic spice blends and the entrepreneurial woman behind them.
These spices are tiny in name only; they pack big flavor!
Thora Pomicter, founder and spice entrepreneur, answered a few of our questions…
How did you start Teeny Tiny Spice Company?
We started our company in 2010. I had been a stay-at-home mom for 15 years at that point. We were home-schooling our two children, and my husband was (and still is) an anesthesiologist.
We all love to cook, and Ed and I always made a point of cooking with our children, ever since they were very little. We also loved cooking different ethnic dishes of all kinds, so spices were naturally a part of our cooking.
Our spice company began when we started to make our own spice blends to simplify our lives, and still be able to cook the food that we loved. We had an overwhelming number of little spice baggies from the bulk spice bins in our local natural food market, to the point where we didn’t know all of what we had. We were all so busy, but we always made time for family meals, and we always cook with whole foods and organic ingredients. Making our own spice blends was a way to eat the food we love to make, with less time and effort. Our friends kept telling us that we should start a spice company, so we did. While I am the main person who runs the company on a daily basis, it is a family business. We all work together to make it run.
How do you create your unique spice blends?
Very simply, we create our blends by researching what people eat in different regions of the world, researching the spices that they use, and in what combinations. Then we come up with our own versions of spice blends that are based on traditional recipes. Spices have such a rich, beautiful, complex, adventurous, and often even violent history, and there is pretty much a story behind every spice and each type of spice blend. We are inspired by the cultures, traditions and stories behind the different blends that we create, and of course by their flavors.
Have you always loved spices?
Yes. I have a love of hot and spicy! Even as a child, I gravitated to foods that would make my nose burn and eyes run. I loved hot Indian food and real Mexican food with all of the hot chili peppers. I like to experiment and play with flavors, and there are endless possibilities with herbs and spices.
Do you have any tips for home cooks when making their own spice blends?
First of all, don’t be afraid to play and experiment. So many people say to us that they don’t know how to cook with spices, but many great flavors come from “mistakes.” There is no general formula that I know of for making your own spice blends, but I can offer a few tips.
- Choose an herb or spice for your base flavor to build around. Choose something that is not going to overpower anything else you add right off the bat. For example, choose a mild chili pepper such as ancho or poblano rather than habanero. You could also choose an herb such as basil or parsley. Begin to layer your flavors from this foundation.
- Use lesser quantities of the stronger spices as you build your blend so that they do not overpower (like clove or hot chili peppers). You want to achieve a balance of flavors, so even if you are making a very hot and spicy blend, you can create balance using elements of sweet (cinnamon, nutmeg), mild, bright (mint, lemon or orange peel), smoky (chipotle, smoked black peppercorns, smoked paprika), etc. Play with contrasting elements to bring about a balance of flavors. Think about adding something like cinnamon to a hot chili blend, as the sweetness of cinnamon can balance out the heat and bring out the fruitiness of the peppers. Or for an herb blend, maybe add some lemon peel or mint to create a fresh pop of flavor. In our harissa blend, which is a more fiery hot pepper blend, we added some mint as a way of bringing a light freshness to the blend.
- Write down your initial formula as you go so that you can make adjustments for the next time.
All your spice blends are organic. Is that important with spices?
Of course there is the obvious reason that when you buy organic, you are purchasing spices that are free from pesticide residues, but there are many other reasons why organic is a healthier and safer choice. Conventional spices may be sterilized by the processes of fumigation with toxic chemicals and irradiation, whereas organic spices are steam sterilized. Furthermore, conventional spices may contain hidden filler ingredients such as flow agents, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors (MSG), anti-caking agents and GMOs from corn and soy. Basically, if you want to be as certain as you can be that you are getting a clean product, organic is the better choice.
What is the best way to store spices? And how long will they last?
Spices are best stored in airtight glass or metal containers away from direct sunlight and moisture. When properly stored, your dried spices will have a very long shelf life of up to a couple years. Your nose and eyes will tell you when it is time to replace them.
We have a few favorites, but what are your favorite Teeny Tiny Spice blends?
Do you have any recommendations for pairing your spices with meat?
My quick answer is “any of our spice blends on any meat.” We developed our spice blends with versatility and ease in mind, so that any one of them could be used in virtually any dish. This is how we use them in our cooking and recipe development. It just depends on the flavor profile that you are in the mood for at any given time. So if we are grilling steak or chicken and we want a smokey, BBQ type flavor, we will choose our Perfection Spice Rub. If we are more in the mood for Asian, we will choose our Szechuan Spice. If we are in a Caribbean Island mood, we will use our Jamaican Jerk … I love to use our West African curry or Shepherd Herb Mix with lamb.
Thanks for chatting with us about spices, Thora! We learned a lot. Now it’s time to cook with some Teeny Tiny spices!
Do you have a favorite spice blend you use? Tell us about it on social media. Tag @dartagnanfoods and @teenytinyspice on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.