Spice Preparation: Turmeric Paste

I cannot recall ever living in a home where Turmeric was not a fixture in the spice cabinet. When I was growing up, my father was always experimenting with Indian dishes and he did not just rely on commercial curry powders and the like, but always had the ‘makings’ for his own spice blends on hand. Turmeric, being so ubiquitous in Indian cookery, was always in the kitchen cupboard and, today, I, too, am never without a ready supply.

Until recently, however, my only experience with this versatile spice was with the dried variety – both the whole dried rhizome, and the bright yellow powder that can be found in most grocery stores. I knew, of course, that it was possible to buy the rhizomes in their raw state, and, while I was dying for a chance to cook with the fresh article for years, it wasn’t until I located some in a shop in Ottawa’s Chinatown that I finally got the chance.

Having grown up with Turmeric as an everyday kitchen item, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate that it is not that familiar to many westerners and I have written a ‘Spices’ post that examines it in some detail. In that post I use some slices in an experiment with boiled rice but, for some future uses, and as an experiment, I wanted to make a Turmeric Paste…

Making ready-to-use pastes out of ginger, garlic, chili peppers, or combinations thereof, is a fairly common practice in many kitchens (see my Chili-garlic-ginger paste), and turmeric is well suited for this as well. Most sources I have come across suggest that a paste made by grinding fresh turmeric should last a week or so in the refrigerator but I believe that, with a little salt added, this period can be extended considerably. I have salted ginger paste in my fridge that has lasted for many months (and turmeric should retain its flavor at least as long), but, unlike ginger or garlic, the color of turmeric is an issue and the ‘shelf-life’ may thus not be quite as long as other spice pastes.

By the way, the salt I am using here is non-iodized pickling salt. The iodine in common table salt can darken and discolor pickles and I want to avoid the same thing with this vibrantly colored preparation…

Basically, I just chopped the peeled turmeric rhizomes fairly finely and then ground them to a paste in my mortar. The amount yielded was about a quarter cup and to this, as a preservative, I added approximately one-half teaspoon of salt.

Before going further, I should caution you at this point that turmeric, which is used as a dye, leaves deep stains on anything it touches. The powder variety is bad enough, staining fingers, dishtowels and plastic, but the raw paste is even worse. Fingers come clean eventually, but plastic can be indelibly stained and I now have a knife blade and a marble mortar that are colored a rather pretty yellow. Only time will tell how long these stains will last so be aware of this if you work with the spice and take the appropriate precautions…

Anyway, the ground paste looks like this… When grinding, the turmeric throws quite a bit of juice that is, on the one hand, rather watery, but also has a very slight stickiness as well. I am using an old plastic container to store the paste (one that can be discarded after use) but you may want to choose glass if you make your own.

I will be using some of the paste immediately to cook some pork kebabs (to results be posted shortly) but I also want to see how it fares in storage. Accordingly, I have covered the paste with a little oil, as you can see above, in order to keep the air away. I plan to keep at least some of the paste for a minimum of a month and will update this post at a later date with my observations of the taste and color quality…

 

10 thoughts on “Spice Preparation: Turmeric Paste”

  1. Fascinating article. I too love turmeric and first added it to scrambled eggs many years ago. I recently made a spiced rub which I used on chicken and turmeric was one of the ingredients, along with garam masala, cumin powder, ground coriander seed, and crushed green peppercorns. I shall try making some pastes after reading this article. Thanks for the inspiration. By the way I also pour some olive oil over my homemade hot pepper sauce, which you can find at:
    http://theliteratechef.com/2011/04/09/dorotheas-homemade-hot-pepper-sauce/

  2. You just gave me a thought of what I should do with the remaining fresh gingers in my fridge before they go off. Thanks, Victor

      1. Thanks, I am just reading your other post on chili-garlic-ginger blend. Love it too! Must try. Glad you like my post – that’s how I found you. Cheers! 🙂

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