Would you use 15-year-old cloves?

They still smell good.

Maybe I’d use them in a potpourri or sachet or something, but I would not use them to cook with.

This. IMO, they aren’t consumable anymore. Toss them or use them for aroma therapy.

I’d use them. But if I had time to go shopping I’d buy new ones.

I’d use them if they still smelled good, and had been kept in a sealed jar. It’s not like they rot, or turn into something unhealthy AFAIK. I’m still working my way through a package of cloves I bought two years ago, and they’re fine.

But yeah, if I had time to shop, I’d get new ones.

Lots of 15-year-olds smell good. That doesn’t mean you should use them.

Hah! Winner for the day!

When you smell cloves, what is it that you’re smelling? You are smelling volatile flavor compounds that evaporate from the cloves. Over the years more and more of these flavor compounds evaporate, which means fewer and fewer are left. After a couple of decades and you’re left with nothing more than oddly shaped wood chips.

Buy some fresh cloves and compare the smell to the smell of the 15 year old cloves. The fresh cloves will smell clovier and more complex. The old cloves will smell tired and worn out and one-dimensional. Compare the smell of old preground pepper to fresh-ground pepper…it’s almost like a different spice. If you don’t care, then go ahead. But the point of using spices is to add flavor, right? So why not make the flavor the best? New cloves aren’t exactly going to bust your budget, right?

Use them on that 20-year old ham that’s in the fridge.

Cloves aren’t really consumable anyway. The taste gets cooked out of them and into the dish and the cloves themselves get tossed. I doubt that using them will cause any harm. You might need to use more to get the same level of flavor. And, as others have said, you’ll have lost some complexity.

Just out of curiosity, what would you be likely to use them in? For some people, not throwing them out would just mean that they’d sit in the cupboard for another 15 years. No need to get new cloves for that.

I’d use ‘em. Low impact, but still…I’d use’ 'em.

Wouldn’t that put you at risk of Kramer’s Ergot? Or do I watch too many episodes of House?

It’s a matter of principle with me. I toss any spice that’s been around more than 8 months or so, with limited exceptions. The difference using fresh spices is so noticable that old stock just doesn’t cut it anymore.

The OP doesn’t say whether they were sealed the whole 15 years, or not. I’d still toss them. Life is too short to use less-than-fresh ingredients.

Not. We’re actually talking about a quarter of a jar here.

I’ve been Googling my ass off, but as far as I can tell that’s just the name of a comic book series. :confused:

Heh. This makes me think of my mom. By the time I moved out, she had spices in her cupboard that were older than I was, but she would not entertain any idea of throwing them out, as that would be wasteful. Yes, she was a Depression baby. I was on my own supplying my own kitchen when I found out that fresh spices and that gray dust that my mom used were two completely different things.

That said, if any spice could retain some character after fifteen years, it would be cloves as long as they are whole. I’d just use more of them than the recipe called for to make up for their diminution in intensity.

I don’t know about Kramer’s ergot, but ergot is one of those fun premodern diseases you get from eating really old or bad rye.

I’d use them along with fresh ones, just 'cause I hate wasting spices, even if there isn’t much useful left in them.

Periodically I’ll make a soup and rummage through the cupboard dumping old stuff into it, just so I can feel good about using it up.

Find someone who likes clove cigarettes and let them roll their own.


It’s not like you sit around the table gnawing on whole cloves that have given their all for that baked ham.

As for those that discard of spices after a few months, more power to you but I don’t like shopping in specialty shops for ubber fresh spices that often. The giant containers at Sam’s Club still work fine for my taste buds. If I was preparing something really special, maybe, otherwise a generous shake of this and a generous shake of that.

I don’t think they use whole cloves for those. Twould be worse than twisting one up when you’re down to the seeds and stems again blues.