Research points to the many benefits of eating fresh, unprocessed foods in order to help maintain a healthy diet, the down side to this is that these foods are generally free of preservatives, consequently they spoil faster. There are, however many natural ways to keep food fresh, whether it be fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, poultry, grains, eggs, bread, milk or even cheeses. Most of these methods are normal, common sense things, but there are some that might be surprising to many, all are natural, and they all help with food preservation. Here are some useful tips to help you enjoy the freshest of foods:
Pay close attention to expiration dates when shopping; buy food packages with the latest date printed on it.
Keeping your refrigerator between 38 and 40 degrees F will keep foods the freshest.
There is more temperature fluctuation in the refrigerator door, don’t store highly perishable foods there, especially milk.
Dry vegetables and fruits before storing, and do not store them in plastic bags, which trap the ethylene gas that causes produce to ripen faster.
In order to remain at the peak of freshness, meat products require plenty of air circulation around them in the refrigerator.
Meat should be kept in its original wrapping in the refrigerator if you will be using it within two days.
Smoked meats like bacon or ham should be wrapped in a vinegar-soaked cloth.
Meat should be wrapped in foil or freezer paper before being placed in the freezer.
Make sure to put milk back in refrigerator immediately after using.
Always store milk in its original container.
Never store milk in the door; it is where the temperature fluctuates the most.
Before storing ice cream place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface, this will keep it fresher longer.
Store ice cream in the main part of the freezer, not in the freezer door.
Always wrap cheese in plastic or waxed paper before storing it in the deli drawer.
The best way to store eggs is with the pointed side down.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Produce releases ethylene gas as it ripens, while this is perfectly natural it does cause other fruits and vegetables to ripen faster. Some produce is more sensitive to ethylene than others, conversely some fruits and vegetables produce more ethylene than others.
Among the more sensitive are green beans, lettuce, watermelon, carrots, apples, eggplant, broccoli, cucumbers and potatoes.
The high-ethylene producers include pears, cantaloupe, apricots, tomatoes, bananas, plums, avocados, peaches, kiwis, mangoes, papayas and nectarines.
Avoid storing any of the high producers with the more sensitive fruits and vegetables.
Always store bananas on the counter, do not refrigerate them.
Make sure you wash and dry all produce before storing.
Never store produce in plastic bags.
Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries should be stored in the plastic container they came in, keep them in the rear of the refrigerator.
If you will not use bread within a week, first slice it and then freeze it, from there you can remove slices as you need them.
Fresh bread should be stored in a dark, cool and dry pantry.
To keep pound cake and banana bread fresher always cut slices from the middle, after you take a slice push the two ends together so that you still have a loaf, this way there are no cut ends to go stale!
Store cake with half an apple in the container, it will stay moist substantially longer.
Store cookies in an airtight container or jar with a slice of bread, this will help keep them softer.
Mark Gold has more than 27 years of experience in the Food and Beverage Industry. He has written numerous articles on foods and food preservation.