Spice mixes, they are lovely. Making a blend of different spices to satisfy your particular tastes is something we’ve probably all done in the kitchen, even if it’s just been a quick rub for the BBQ or a shake n bake style in a zip lock bag. Whole spices are infinitely better than already ground up, they do actually stay fresher longer, for the simply reason that air hasn’t gotten in to the spice. So, while it’s a bit of a process, having whole spices, a coffee grinder (set aside for spices) and learning the proper technique for preparing spices is a must.
If you want to get the very best out of your spices then you need to toast them, hands down best thing to do. This is an incredibly easy task to complete. Basically you take a skillet or even a good sized pot, heat it to a medium, put all of your spices, pods, seeds, whatever in and stir or shake them around a bit here and there. You are of course not furiously mixing but rather making sure that they are all evenly toasted. Do not use oil or water or anything else.
The trick of course is to keep them evenly cooking, but you do not want them to cook too quickly, a higher flame will do you no good because you’ll cook the outsides but not fully all the way through. Keep the flame on medium, less heat is better. The whole process should only take maybe 7 to 10 minutes max.
Once you finished the toasting, move them to a bowl so they are out of the heat. Then you can either pound them with a mortar and pestle or grind them up in your spice grinder.