Friday, February 26, 2010

Keeping it fresh

Can there be anything more annoying than buying wonderfully fresh foods only to have them spoil before you have a chance to use them. Firstly, I am trying harder to only buy fresh for the day I am going to use them, however that is not always the best way to take advantage of sales and quantity discounts.

When I go to Costco for instance, I often buy in quantities that Jeff and I would be challenged to use up before spoilage. I sometimes am able to pass some of these great items on to my kids by sharing with them, but they are 20 miles away and it is not always easy to get things to them.

So I am stuck with trying to figure out the best way to store things like cheese, fresh spinach or greens, mushrooms and other veggies. Over the years I have happened on to some tips that have saved my "freshies" for much longer than before and I am happy to share the knowledge.

Fresh veggies are still alive. This is something that many people forget. They need to breathe. Don't mix that thought up with open air in the fridge as this will often dry them out. The FoodSaver folks would have you believe that everything needs to be vacuum sealed and void of air entirely. Not so true for fresh veggies.

spinach at 3 weeks in fridge

When I opened my packaged of fresh greens and spinach, I noticed that the top of the package had condensation on the lid as the still-live leaves give off their gases, much like a mini hothouse in my fridge. The plastic bin protects from the dry frigid air. But if too much condensation builds up and drips back on the greens, they start to get slimy as they begin to spoil. I therefore wipe dry the top of the lid daily. I also give them a light shake to loosen the leaves. I place one clean dry paper towel loosely on top of the greens and replace the lid. Doing this I have been able to purchase large bins of greens at Costco and use them over a month's time with very little spoilage.

paper towel wicks away damaging moisture without drying out produce

Similarly, I will repackage mushrooms, mini carrots, snap peas or green beans into a larger more airy gallon sized zip bag, add a paper towel and not remove all the loose space in the bag. Side note on mushrooms: NEVER wash them under water or get them wet. They should be gently brushed off with a soft brush or paper towel to clean them. Water will make the spoil quickly.

fresh down to the last mushroom

For tomatoes...I never put them in the refrigerator unless it has been cut and partially used. I have a airy basket for them. I have a paper towel on the bottom of the basket.

 wrap cheeses in parchment and then place in zip bag

I have learned that cheeses too are living products. Now if you have huge quantities, vacuum sealing and/or freezing may make sense, but to extend the life of my cheeses, I have discovered that kitchen parchment paper is my friend. I take the cheese out of its original plastic wrap and re-wrap the cheese in parchment paper and then place it in a zip bag. This allows the cheese to breath and wick off excess moisture, but not dry out. The only cheese that I would not wrap this way would be a fresh mozzarella or type of moist/wet cheese. It works great for any dry cheese like Italian grating cheeses, cheddar, Swiss or Gouda.

Fresh herbs are placed in a shallow vase with about 1/2 inch of water and placed into the fridge.

There you have it, my favorite "freshie" tips. Hope you like them and they are beneficial to you.

No comments: