If you appreciate good food, you’re willing to shell out for the best of the best to stock your refrigerator and pantry. But let’s face it, those gourmet goodies are an investment. And if you like to have your gourmet foods delivered in bulk, you want to be sure to protect that investment. Here are 5 food storage tips to help you get the most out of your gustatory treasure.
Cheese is one of the foods people in the know are willing to spend big on. Plus, cheese lasts a long time, so there’s a real advantage to buy in larger quantities when the price is right, but you want to make sure you keep that precious block of flavorful goodness fresh for as long as possible. Cheese is a live food, meaning, it needs to be able to breathe to stay at its peak, so wrapping it in something breathable is essential. Plastic wrap prevents oxygen from reaching the cheese. Paper – like specialty cheese paper or plain ol’ parchment paper—is a much better choice.
Once ostracized as the root of all caloric evil (high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity), butter has made a comeback. While it may not be health food, it is definitely delicious. And these days you can take your pick of artisan butters made from cow’s, goat’s, or buffalo’s milk; sweet cream or salted; cultured or not. There has long been debate about the best way to keep butter. My mother-in-law keeps hers in a covered dish on the kitchen counter and goes through it fast enough that this is just fine. Since butter is about 80 percent fat, it is less susceptible to the ravages of bacteria that threaten foods with higher water content. And if it is made with pasteurized milk, it has yet another layer of protection. Salt, too, protects butter so salted varieties can be left at room temperature longer than unsalted, but it still will only keep for a week or so, whereas the same butter will keep, well wrapped, for up to 4 months in the refrigerator. Freezing butter, in its original packaging and freezer bagged, handily prevents spoilage for up to a year.
3. Cured Meats
Mmm. Salami. And prosciutto. And bresaola. So tantalizingly savory, so rich and fatty and salty and full of flavor. Fancy cured meats are spendy but worth every penny. What’s funny is that every single variety originated as a “peasant food,” a way to store meats (especially cheaper cuts) for long periods of time. Smoked, dried, fermented, and cured with salt, these meats have low water content, making them able to withstand the test of time—and come out no less tasty for it. Fatty dry-cured meats like salami and prosciutto will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to a month or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
4. Maple Syrup
If you’re a frequent user, an open bottle will last in the fridge for up to a year. But if you buy the good stuff only for the occasional holiday breakfast or special brunch, store it in the freezer once you’ve opened the bottle. It won’t freeze thanks to its high sugar content, but it will last indefinitely.
Unlike maple syrup, honey should be stored at room temperature, even after it has been opened. What’s cool is that that honey will last pretty much forever (like, perfectly preserved honey has been pulled from the tombs of ancient Egypt) because the bees invest it with bacteria-fighting enzymes.
6. Fresh Summer Produce
Every summer weekend, you’ll find me at the farmers’ market loading up on peaches, nectarines, plums, berries, tomatoes, corn, and other seasonal produce. To enjoy this bounty through the winter, I stock up and freeze. Wash and dry the produce well, and then prep it for easy later use. Slice or dice stone fruits, stem strawberries, cut corn off the cob, dice or shred summer squashes. The real trick is to resist the urge to toss everything in a bag. Instead, freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once it’s completely frozen, you can transfer it to resealable plastic bags to stash in your freezer for later—and they won’t turn into a solid block of mush.
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