Kitchen Shrink: It's a wrap! Food storage tips

KITCHEN SHRINK:

I've always been super judicious about storage of assorted foods, whether raw, live or cooked, following optimum temperature recommendations, and environmental conditions. But as summer blisters in full force, when ingredients and prepared dishes can spoil as fast as you can say "salmonella," I amp up my already obsessive precautions to prevent the outbreak of foodbourne illnesses.

Even when refrigerated, foods can still spoil, lose their texture and flavor integrity, eye appeal and nutritional value when not properly wrapped, especially cut avocados and apples which tend to turn brown with a sharp glance, lemons that shrivel, and cheeses that wilt and mold. Foods can also become tainted with toxins contained in certain storage wraps.

A Paper Trail

Waxed paper, a kitchen staple for decades is coated on both sides with either soybean or paraffin wax. It's freezer, fridge and microwave (not oven)-friendly, best for separating layers of assorted foods to prevent sticking, particularly in the freezer, or lining baking pans or trays for no-bake cheesecakes and other indulgences.While you can wrap sandwiches, cheeses, cooked meats, poultry and leftovers in waxed paper, it tends to deteriorate after several weeks in the freezer. It's also difficult to handle, as it doesn't conform easily to the shape of objects, or stay firmly in place. That's where freezer tape comes in handy, that sticks to most surfaces, including paper, plastic and foil, securely sealing foods for long-term freezer storage.

Parchment, that's coated with silicone is a heat-resistant paper that's best used for cooking and baking to prevent sticking and burning, not typically used as a wrap.

But thick freezer paper, coated single-sided with plastic (make sure it's BPA-free) is ideal for heavy-duty freezing for up to one year that keeps air out to ward off freezer burn from fish, chicken and meats to cut fruits, vegetables, and other delicate foods. The durable outside paper surface can be written on for labeling.

Foiled Again

Silver foil sometimes called "tin" foil is actually made from thin leaves of aluminum (0.016 mm to 0.024 mm thick for heavy-duty strength). Aluminum foil has been a mainstay for grilling and roasting since our grandmas' days to prevent foods from burning, while locking in natural juices of meats and poultry. Alas, the metal has also been known to leach into foods during cooking, linked to health hazards, most notably Alzheimer's disease . As a wrap, foil is sturdy, durable and provides a barrier against moisture to prevent food spoilage for cold and long-term freezer storage (although it might impart a metallic taste to certain foods). It's reusable and recyclable, so silver foil is also green. A word of aluminum foil caution — once again, since the metal is reactive, don't use with acidic foods like tomatoes, berries and citrus.

Cling Monsters

Plastic wraps, which are clear, and conveniently clinging for a tight seal to keep bugs, bacteria and water out are composed of petroleum and other risky and potentially toxic chemicals. These include, Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC and Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, which have been found to leach into foods, especially when heated, and linked to increased risks of everything from breast cancer to birth defects. Glad, one of the leading manufacturers of plastic storage products has announced on its website that its food containers and wraps are free of Polycarbonates and BPA's, while S.C. Johnson that produces Saran Wrap makes similar claims.

The Bee's Knees

Beeswax wraps are all the buzz for a natural alternative to plastic and other conventional storage wraps to keep cheeses, breads, cut fruits and vegetables, and an array of other foods fresh for several days without the hazards of chemical or metallic leaching. Made of organic cotton, and coated with a blend of honeybee wax, jojoba oil and tree resin these beautifully colored and patterned eco-friendly wraps are washable, reusable, compostable, non-toxic, water-resistant, antimicrobial, and maintain the proper moisture balance for optimum food storage.

Creative folks can even make their own beeswax storage sheets using thin decorative cotton scraps, grated beeswax or pellets, a pastry brush and cookie sheet.

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Recipe: Chunky, Crunchy Guacamole

Ingredients: 3 large, ripe avocados; 1/2 small red onion, minced; 2 Roma tomatoes, diced; 1/3 cup jicama, diced; 1 yellow pepper, chopped; 1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped; juice from one lime or half a lemon; 1 tablespoon avocado or nut oil; sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

Method: In a large bowl, scoop out avocado flesh and chop coarsely. Gently fold in remaining ingredients. Serve with corn chips.

Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: kitchenshrink@san.rr.com

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