Post # 63 Safety Under Glass

October 26, 2012 at 10:01 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 63 Safety Under Glass

See what I did there?  It’s sort of play on words.  “Pheasant Under Glass” which is often referenced “high-class” dish ordered by the rich and elite becomes “Safety Under Glass” which is today’s food topic.  Get it?  Never mind.

Food storage is a subject near and dear to my heart.  Being able to buy food in bulk and store it safely for however long I’m going to need it is something I struggle with constantly.  Buying food in bulk is cheaper in the long run.  Also, cooking larger quantities and storing it for later use is more efficient.  It’s just as easy to make a gallons of soup as it is to make two servings.  Way back in the day, people didn’t have too many storage options.  It was common to buy what you were going to need for that day and the next but no more than that.  The most common food storage for the long-term was cans.  Even that could be problematic.  If one small spore of mold or bacteria got into the process, the contents could turn deadly.

With the arrival of modern refrigeration, food storage became easier to manage.  Ever wonder why we sometimes refer to it as an “ice box”?  Before modern refrigerants became accessible to consumers, the only way to keep foods cool was with ice.  Nearly every home had a box with a door on it that had a pan at the top and shelves below.  A large chunk of ice was placed in the pan and cooled the interior.  Of course, the ice melted and had to be replaced frequently.  There was a thriving business of ice men who drove wagons of ice around neighborhoods selling chunks of ice for the ice box.  Then science discovered ways to cool things without ice and in a closed system.  Ice boxes that actually used ice went away and modern refrigerators took their place.  The modern “fridge” has evolved and grown into the primary food storage system for most industrialized countries.

Freezing food is certainly convenient.  Nearly everything lends itself to being frozen.  But there are other ways to store food safely.  One of the wonders of the space age and modern chemistry is a neat substance called plastic wrap, or cling film.  Most spoilage of food takes place because it’s exposed to air and airborne contaminants.  Provide a barrier between food and air and you have a storage system!  Prior to the discovery of plastics, the barrier was paper that had been treated with wax, or else metal that had been milled so thin it came in rolled sheets.  Plastic replaced most of that.  I remember as a kid in grade school opening my lunch to find PBJ wrapped in wax paper.  The edges were always stale.  Wrapped in plastic, that never happens.

However, it’s not easy to wrap soup in plastic film.  Gets very messy!  So was born another industry, the plastic, airtight carton.  Originally, the primary maker was Tupperware.  How many people remember the commercial about burping your Tupperware?  Now you can find the stuff everywhere.  You can re-purpose empty margarine tubs.  You can re-use empty soup cartons when you order chinese takeaway.  The stuffs everywhere.  Some are better than others for being airtight and surviving either the microwave or dishwasher.  And there’s a whole new challenge of where to store all those #$%@#$ containers.  I clean out our fridge once a week and dispose of any leftovers that remain untouched or unidentifiable.  I often will open what I thought was a tub of butter only to find a single spoonful of something I can’t remember.

Plastic bags started out as relatively simple things.  Plastic envelopes that were sealed with twist ties.  The came an easy and fun folding method that let air in and kept nothing out.  Then someone invented a radical new system called a zip-lock.  Works great but can be difficult to use if it’s not created properly.  Some are color coded so you can see immediately if the zipper has caught.  Some use touch so you can tell as you’re zipping the back shut if it’s worked.  Some have extra tabs at the top that you pull and it does the zipping for you.  With a variety of sizes and thicknesses, these are among the handiest of the plastic storage device around.

Recently, there’s been a trend to make food storage not only easier, but more decorative.  Go figure.  People want to display food as art.  In my kitchen, I have several matching tall plastic containers that hold sugar, AP flour, and bread flour.  I have to label them so I don’t confuse their contents.  I have a decorative glass jar with a metal hinge and lock for the lid that stores small pasta.  Whenever I have just a small amount of macaroni or some other bite-size pasta left in a box or bag, it goes into this jar to create a mixed pasta jar that looks nice.

My favorite old style storage jar is a huge heavy glass canister with a lid.  It holds my sandwich rolls when they’ve cooled down.  The lid is heavy and keeps air out.  It’s simple lines are old-fashioned and are reminiscent of an 1880s general store.  I can see at a glance how many rolls are left and if I need to make any.  I can tell how fresh they are, and can tell if they are starting to look a little dicey and need to be tossed.  For $12, it was a great investment.

Well, there you have it.  Some info on storing food and why.  Let me know if you have any questions and as always:

Enjoy!

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