Food Storage

Accepting food with whatever trappings were offered. 

We opted to forgo the freezer in this apartment, and I’m hoping our next home will skip the refrigerator. 

Until then, everything is organized according to Cornell’s guidelines for storing organic food. 

Fatty or sweet things, like crème anglaise, homemade coconut milk, butter, and crème fraîche belong on the top shelf. 

Wine and juice go on the rack, with leftovers below and eggs in the drawer. 

Finally, separate dairy and meats on the middle and lowest shelves, respectively- larger cuts, like côte de boeuf, can be wrapped safely in a flour sack towel with a wooden board underneath. 

I also make jam and condiments (mainly harissa and mayo) at home, all of which go in glass jars in the door. 

You can freeze in glass jars or stainless steel containers. 

Don’t fill above the shoulder and allow room for expansion in flat edge jars. 

Freeze homemade tortillas wrapped with cloth stored flat in a stainlsss steel container, rolled in cloth in a large Ball jar, or simply in a cloth drawstring bag or bento bag. 

You can do the same with cookies, muffins, breads, croissants etc. Kathryn from Going Zero Waste has a detailed guide on freezing plastic free and uses a pillowcase to preserve baked goods.

 

Zero Waste Food Storage (Plastic Free, Paperless)

 

Apples

Keep unwashed, loose in the refrigerator. Can store with potatoes

Kiwi

Keeps well at room temperature.

Apricots

Only put ripe apricots in fridge, in low-humidity drawer.

Leafy greens

Wash, dry, and store wrapped in a cloth towel.

Arugula

Wash, dry thoroughly between two towels, then store wrapped in a towel in a drawer.

Leeks

Keep in an open jar with a little water for stems.

Asparagus

Trim ends, then store upright in a glass with a little bit of water.

Melons

Room temperature until ripe, then refrigerator.

Avocado

Room temperature. Store loose with an apple to speed ripening.

Nectarines

Room temperature until ripe, then loose in refrigerator.

Banana

Keep at room temperature away from ethylene-sensitive produce.

Onions

Unstacked, in a cool, dry place away from the sun.

Basil

Trim stems, then keep upright in a glass jar with water at room temperature.

Parsnips

Loose in crisper.

Beets

Trim, wash and dry greens, then keep wrapped in a towel or glass container with moisture. Scrub roots and keep in high humidity drawer or damp towel.

Pears

Store with apples to ripen. Good in refrigerator or at room temperature.

Bell pepper

Wash, dry, store loose in crisper drawer.

Peppers

Store unwashed in crisper.

Berries

Soak in water with a splash of vinegar. Rinse, then dry flat between two towels.

Persimmon

Room temperature.

Broccoli

Leave uncovered in drawer. To prevent crumbs, drape a towel over unwashed florets first, leaving the stem exposed.

Pineapple

Keep whole pineapple out of the fridge. If you’re not eating within three days, core, cut, and place in airtight glass jar.

Brussel sprouts

Store loose in a humid drawer.

Pomegranates

Bowl at room temperature.

Carrots

Scrub, store upright in a jar with water.

Potatoes

Store vitelotte in darkest part of the fridge. Otherwise, in a cool, dark, dry place away from onions, in wood, wire, metal or cloth.

Cauliflower

Same as broccoli.

Radish

See beets. Save the radish greens- they’re delicious.

Celery

Rinse, keep in a humid drawer or damp towel. Store celery root the same way.

Romanesco

See broccoli, cauliflower.

Cherries

Store unwashed in the fridge in a netted bag, small wooden basket, or loosely closed glass jar.

Spinach

Store loose in the refrigerator or wrapped in a cloth towel.

Citrus

Best at room temperature. I stack them in a glass vase or fridge drawer.

Spring Onions

Loose in the crisper.

Cucumber

Do not wash. Store in crisper.

Squash

Room temperature or crisper, washed.

Eggplant

Store loose, unwashed, in crisper.

Strawberries

Soak in vinegar with water, dry, then keep in an open bowl in fridge.

Figs

Arrange in a single layer on a plate. Place in fridge.

Sweet potatoes

Never refrigerate.

Garlic

I buy fresh purple garlic, which needs to be kept in a cloth bag at room temperature or refrigerator drawer.

Tomato

Never refrigerate, they get mushy. Keep in a wooden basket or open glass jar. Store with apples to speed ripening.

Grapes

Store unwashed in refrigerator, loose or in a bowl.

Turnip

Same as radishes and beets.

Green beans

Store loose in a humid part of the refrigerator or in a damp towel.

Zucchini

Keep at room temperature. Wrap in cloth and place in fridge for longer storage.

 

Storing Food Without the Refrigerator

I often unplug appliances, turn off the hot water heater, and try no impact living for a while. 

Mostly, I think EDF is ripping us off and wanted to see if they adjusted our bill to reflect a week of non-consumption (they are, and they didn’t). 

You don’t need sand or fancy shelving to safely store fresh foods. All you need are a few glass containers, some water, and a few staple ingredients you probably already have on hand

To prepare for a week without refrigeration, I did some field research, asking butchers, fromagers, and enleveurs how to store meat, dairy, and eggs sans electricity.  

Everybody thought this was the weirdest question. “We keep those things on the counter anyway,” explained the man at the crèmerie.

Americans always put stuff in the fridge that doesn’t belong. Unwashed eggs and mayonnaise keep indefinitely if you turn the eggs to prevent the yolk from sticking. 

Eggs have a natural protective coating, so buying the organic, unwashed kind is imperative, ensuring freshness and preventing bacterial spoilage. Make sure no bacteria gets in the mayonnaise jar, using a clean spoon each time.

Soft cheeses, packed properly in cloth and glass, keep several days out of the refrigerator- 3 out of 4 fromagers said young cheeses, like Brie and Camembert, can be left unrefrigerated for weeks! 

The key is plastic-free storage, since plastic wrap prevents breathing. Preserving the rind is crucial. Cut, semi-soft cheeses with rinds keep one week up to one month, depending on the cheese. 

Firm cheeses can be consumed safely up to one month or longer, but the flavor changes, becoming more pronounced with age. I kept feta suspended in brine in an airtight glass jar, and after one week, it tasted just as fresh as when I bought it. Same goes for shredded cheddar, stored in glass with plenty of salt.

Buy small cuts of meat and kept them in glass containers to prevent spoilage (similarly, small containers of jelly, jam, nut butter and maple syrup discourage mold). 

The medieval French preserved meat by roasting it, then generously applying natural honey, fat or jelly. Today, butchers sell fat for confits, a delicious food preservation method in which meat is slow-cooked, salted and sealed. 

Meat prepared this way can be consumed safely for months. 

Drink nut milk instead of cow’s milk. So do sour cream, fermented milk, and yogurt, stored in glass in a cool, dark place.

 

Olive oil, tamarind or citrus juice, and vinegar are best friends of the refrigerator-free. You can store soft cheeses in them or preserve fish. The leftovers make good salad dressing later. My mom sometimes made gravlax with salmon. Balsamic vinegar kept tomato sauce and roasted strawberries fresh, white vinegar prevented moldy bread, lime juice made guacamole last, and tamarind sauce preserved meats, fish, and vegetables. 

Strong spices, curries, and stews keep well. A coriander-coated fish my friend made stayed tasty, as do beans soaked in salted water, vinegar, and lemon juice. Bringing leftovers to boil every day or so will keep them fresh, even in humid climates.

 

I didn’t worry about fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes do best outside the refrigerator, and carrots and asparagus just need to be kept upright in a few inches water. If cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, wilt, soak the bottoms in water to restore. Remove potato eyes as they appear, and store with apples to preserve freshness. 

An unplugged, empty refrigerator smells stale after a few days. 

To prevent (or reverse) this, 

  • wipe the fridge down with white vinegar 
  • keep an open jar of baking soda in there. 

A mixture of two parts water to one part baking soda applied with a clean cloth is effective, but you’ll need white vinegar to wipe off any residue. 

Not that we should all go back to the pre-refrigeration days of botulism and food-borne illness, but this experiment tested my creativity and got me out of a cooking rut.

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