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How to preserve and retain food

Written by Ristorante Vecchia Maremma.

This column is our starting point for a pleasant trip throughout the pleasures of our food. Here you will be guided by the restaurateur of the Vecchia Maremma Resort, Cristiano Ciampana, who's mastery is highly appreciated since many years. Today we start with some easy tricks to preserve your food and your food ingredients better and for a longer time.

1. How to preserve Mint

Mint is an herb that comes from the mediterranean basin.
The more adopted for cooking is the roman kind.
Its aroma is at its best just after it gathered.
To preserve the aroma for longer wash it, dry it up, and freeze it after putting the leaves in a glass jar making sure not to jam it in the jar.

2. When vinegar taste is too thin

Want a stronger tasting vinegar?
No problem! Just put its bottle in the freezer and wait for it to freeze.
On the surface water will change into ice while the vinegar itself will stay liquid.
Simply remove the ice crust from the bottle and you'll have a better vinegar.

3. Preserving Eggs

To preserve the eggs better and longer just remember to put it in the fridge with its smaller side turned down. This will slow the air bubble inside it growth.
To make sure it is still edible put it in cold water: if it stays underwater it is still good. Furthermore, when you open it, eggs will be still good if albumen and yolk are still dense.
To cook it at its best, never forget to take it out of the fridge a few minutes before the actual use.

4. The fridge

The fridge temperature should not be higher than 4°C (39.2°F); even if many do not provide a direct temperature control most of them allow to modify the coldness intensity. As a rule of thumb: even if the main fridge temperature is correctly set, it might not be like this for all the fridge shelves.

Conservare al meglio gli ingredienti significa mantenerne le proprietà nutritive ed il gusto. Foto Cristiano Ciampana.As there are so many fridge models around, keep in mind that it would be a good habit to verify its temperature with a thermometer that you can surely buy for pretty much nothing in any household appliances shop. Understanding which temperature to use for each class of food and the ones you actually have in your fridge is one of the best method to preserve them properly.

Meat and fish should be saved in the coldest shelf and some special care should be taken not to have their liquids leak and contaminate other food: for this scope you should always  put on the shelves meat and fish in a container.

Dairy products, eggs, cakes, leftovers and the ones with "to be kept in the fridge after opening" stated on the pack should be put on the shelves where the temperature goes from 4°C to 7°C (39°F to 45°F).

Vegetables are prone to be damaged by excessive cold and should be kept in those fridge areas where temperatures are a bit higher. Furthermore, vegetables and fruit, as they  come from soil, they have higher bacterical levels: make always sure to put them on the lower shelves or drawers and (or at least) wrap them up.

5. ... what about pre-cooked food?

Any food that has been cooked already should be placed in the fridge well protected by wrapping plastic or in a container.

For the FIFO (First in, first out) sake anything that goes first in the fridge should be consumed before the rest. It is a good rule to put freshly just bought food behind the older ones to make sure to reduce food waste. It is anyway alway useful to remember that anything we keep in the fridge should be controlled often and eventually trashed so that molds and bacterias won't ruin the fresh food before time.

Some quick hints:

  • When you buy food, make sure to put it in the fridge as soon as possible.  The same rule applies to any leftover or pre-cooked food  that should be frozen in no more than a couple of hours.
  • Defrost food with temperatures higher or lower than the environment one:  defrosting food in the fridge or with the microwave oven is always a good habit. In the last case make sure to cook the food immediately.
  • A stuffed fridge will let bacterias grow quick in its most recessed areas: make sure your stuff doens't slow down the air flow! To help the fridge to properly do its job remember to put your food in small containers: it will refrigerate food faster and let the air flow better.
  • Have care of your fruit and vegetables and  handle them gently: any cut or scrape will make bacterias grow faster under the surface.
  • Fruit can usually be stored out of the fridge; whenever they get mature make sure to anyway put them in the fridge to let them last longer.
  • Never wash fruit or vegetables before storing in the fridge: a higher humidity level will make bacterias and mots grow faster.
  • Do not wash the eggshell before storing eggs in the fridge but remember to do it before using.
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