Friday, February 20, 2009

Live Foods Crash Course - 4 Storage (LFCC)

In a nutshell, there is much more to keeping good food good than just putting it in a refrigerator or cabinet. Many foods do not do well in the fridge, or must be in there, or may need to be moved at certain point in their maturation. Further, many foods that people do not generally refrigerate benefit from freezing and refrigeration though it may not be mentioned on packaging. The manner in which things are stored makes a noticeable difference in the quality and life of the subject foods.

In the line of simplicity I offer these basics to ingrain deeply:

Not everything should be refrigerated! Many things lose flavor and texture in the fridge, some become tough, dry or just ugly. (Tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, oranges, bananas etc.) Learn how to store and get more flavor out of what you buy.

Every food has limits to how long it will remain viable, nutritious and worth the energy of consuming. This comment is made with two things immediately in mind: Oils and Spices. (by oils I include oily foods such as nuts and seeds) Upon a moment more of reflection I'll include frozen foods as a close inbred cousin. I've seen it in almost every kitchen I've had the fortune of walking into and been allowed to snoop around in. People either lack cognizance of what is in their kitchen or are unrealistic about the rate of decay of what they've got.

Recently I was making some eggnog (rare for me as my diet is often undairy) for my family over the holidays. They had some processed "Cocaine" Sugar as I sometimes refer to it, the white slightly bitter standard for many confections and some Cinnamon but no nutmeg. I thought it over and called my grandmother "Nan" as she is officially known. I requested a bottle of honey and some nutmeg. I proceeded to make the Nog, added ingredients and toward the end I opened up that jar of nutmeg. When you open nutmeg, it should hit you... hard. It is one of the most lively and intense seasonings available, up there with powerhouses like Cardamom, clove, oregano.

I notice very little and do not feel the exhilaration I've learned to associate with the uncapping or even better, fresh grating of nutmeg. So I recap and flip the bottle, a faded digitized stamp reads something like 8/01... It's almost 2009, this nutmeg is just a little past it's prime. Against my better judgement I decide to use a bit anyway and supplement with some added Cinnamon and I get a Nog that is drinkable but definitely lacking in some quality... so I add more cinnamon and more rum and we play some Pinochle.

Everything has its limits. Spices lose potency due to time, sunlight, heat and the quality of the storage vessel (glass always preferable). I find people keep things and then try to use them far past their having any taste whatsoever. The other place where issues of duration were mentioned is oils. Oils whether refined such as Canola or Olive or in the original packaging such as that jar of peanuts or almonds, goes rancid. The greatest culprits in this process of rancidity are heat and time, light being an important factor as well.

That jar of peanut butter will not last forever, though you will often find folks proceeding as if this were so. Best practice for nuts and seeds is to acquire some good packaging and put them in the freezer if you intend to keep them for an extended period. Oils should not be kept out in clear bottles near sources of heat, dark cool places instead.

Folks sometimes refrigerate oils though this can be dicey when you need them to flow, depending on the oil. If you plan on keeping oils for a period beyond a couple of months then it is wise to make some plan for what sort of storage you will employ to keep it fresh. Rancid or oxidized oils are not only poor in taste, depreciating the foods you put them in, but add acidity and free radicals to your diet which works against any desire for good health you might be pursuing.

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