Friday, 28 March 2014

Proper Food Storage - Part 2


Just like Mom used to make! Photo source Flickr, used under creative commons.

Welcome to the second installment in our two-part series on proper food storage. If you missed last week's episode, click here! Today we voyage into the freezer, explore the complicated relationship some foods have with your refrigerator, and offer a few tips and tricks for tastier, longer lasting food.


In the Freezer
Your long-term storage solution! If you're planning to store frozen meat, fish or poultry for more than two months, add an extra protective layer by wrapping the package (still in its original wrapper) with heavy-duty foil or popping it into a freezer bag and sealing tightly. This will help prevent both freezer burn and cross-contamination of foods. Certain foods should not be frozen. These include fresh eggs in the shell, an opened container of liquid pasteurized eggs or egg substitutes, mayonnaise or unopened canned ham. Unopened carton of liquid eggs can be frozen without any problems.

Food Life Span
Your safest bet is usually just to keep an eye on the best before date and make sure your food is stored and sealed properly. But what about opened food and leftovers? Most recipes we use don't come with a best before date. To see some guidelines for storing those hard to pin down foods in your fridge or freezer, visit healthycanadians.gc.ca

Refrigerator Frenemies
Some foods have a more complicated relationship with your refrigerator. While it's always a good idea to store cooked or pre-cut fruit and vegetable dishes, for some fresh foods the fridge can be a hostile environment. Refrigeration can actually cause them to lose their taste or texture or spoil faster. Here are some tips for dealing with these tricky customers:

  • Unripened Bananas – These will never ripen if placed in the fridge. You can store ripe bananas in the fridge for up to two weeks, although their skins will turn brown.
  • Avocados – The same idea as bananas. Let them ripen on the counter first.
  • Fresh Whole Tomatoes – They will turn mushy and mealy. May as well turn them into pasta sauce at that point. Keep them on the counter and keep an eye on them.
  • Potatoes - Storing them at cold temperatures converts their starch to sugar more quickly, affecting their flavor, texture and the way they cook. Keep them somewhere dark and dry.
  • Onions and Whole Garlic– The moisture in the fridge is not good for them. You should also keep them away from your potatoes for the same reason. Keep in a dark, well ventilated place.
  • Eggplants – Their flavour will drain away in the fridge. Store on the counter (unless your house is really warm) and use within a few days.
  • Whole Melons – Refrigeration will cause them to lose nutrients over time, so it's best to enjoy them as soon as they're ripe and finish eating within a few days. Wrap and refrigerate after slicing or if you are worried about over-ripening.
  • Lemons and Limes – These fruits have a tendency to absorb the odours of other foods, which can do funky things to their flavours. They should be fine on the counter, though.
  • Honey - Refrigerating it can cause crystallization, making it gritty, or simply too thick to spread easily. Honey will be fine at room temperature in a dry place.

Extra Tips and Tricks
  • Label your leftovers - all you need is some masking tape and a pen. Write down the date and stick it to your leftover containers on the first day of storage. Leftover meals are generally good for another three days in the refrigerator and up to a month or more in the freezer.
  • If you make a gigantic batch of anything, break it into meal sized portions before freezing or refrigerating it. For food safety, foods should be reheated only once and any leftovers from the leftovers should be discarded.
  • Avoid refreezing meat and fish. Cooked meat and fish may be refrozen once, raw should not be refrozen. Previously frozen foods need to be fully cooked before they are returned to freezer. For example, if we used frozen hamburger for our spaghetti sauce, we need to fully cook the sauce and then the meat in it is safe to refreeze.
  • Don't store leftover canned food in the cans they came in. Materials from opened cans can leach into your food, giving it a metallic taste and possibly leading to contamination over time. Transfer to a resealable container or a bowl covered in plastic wrap instead.
  • Store mushrooms in a brown paper bag to absorb unwanted moisture or place them loose in a plastic bag left partially open to allow air circulation.
  • Herbs, like chives, thyme, and rosemary can be stored in your refrigerator door or crisper. First, loosely wrap them in a paper towel, followed by plastic wrap. Make sure herbs are dry, or they may become moldy.
  • “Bushy” herbs like parsley, basil and cilantro can be treated like fresh cut flowers! When storing herbs, snip off the ends, and store upright in a glass of water (like flowers in a vase). Parsley and cilantro can be stored in the fridge, loosely covered by a plastic bag. Basil should be left out at room temperature.  Note: Both of the above herb storage methods can be used on asparagus in the fridge as well!
  • Have you ever gone on a long trip and come back only to realize the power has gone off at some point while you were away? A trick to see if your power has gone off long enough to thaw the food in your freezer is to place a single ice cube in a plastic Ziploc bag in your freezer before you take your trip. If it has kept its shape, your food should be fine, otherwise it's probably safest to pitch everything.


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