The Four Essentials of Successful Cold Storage.
Cold storage is the food preservation technique that preserves fresh, raw fruits and vegetables at temperatures that are cool but never freezing, whether it be in a traditional root cellar dug like a Hobbit-hole straight into a hillside or the crisper drawers of a technologically advanced new refrigerator.
The Four Cornerstones of Effective Cold Storage
You must keep in mind that a pear or a carrot is still alive after being picked up or pulled out of the ground in order to comprehend how cold storage works. Even after plant foods are harvested, plants continue to breathe (yes, they “breathe”), and there are still live enzymes in them.
Some of those enzymes are designed to help nature’s natural composting process by breaking down the food. Cooler temperatures slow down respiration and enzymatic activity, which delays spoiling (but does not completely stop it).
Since cold storage keeps fresh food from drying out, cold air absorbs less moisture than warm air. However, while employing cold storage, you need consider humidity.
Humidity levels for root cellars should range from 80 to 95 percent (more on this in the section below on root cellaring).
Despite the chilly temperatures, the air inside refrigerators has a tendency to be rather dry. Because the produce crisper drawers have a greater humidity level than other areas of the refrigerator, fresh fruits and vegetables should still be kept loosely wrapped. Ever throw a bunch of carrots straight into the crisper without placing them in a bag or other container first?
In only a few days, did you see how they were already beginning to shrivel up? That’s a fantastic illustration of why cold storage requires high humidity levels. Maintaining air moisture levels and/or covering food to stop moisture loss from evaporation are two ways to attain ideal humidity levels.
Successful food cold storage also requires air movement and darkness in addition to chilly temperatures and humidity.
In order to successfully store food in the cold, air must circulate and it must be dark.
Condensation on the food’s surface is avoided via airflow. For any cold-stored items that are not individually wrapped, this is extremely crucial.
Although high humidity is necessary for effective cold storage, rotting food might occur in a root cellar without enough air movement. Root cellars need ventilation systems that let in chilly nighttime air and let out the heated, damp air that accumulates inside of them.
These systems also release ethylene, a gas that certain fruits release that ripens and ultimately spoils food. By the way, the apple or banana generates ethylene that causes the other fruits to ripen, which is the reason behind the technique of placing unripe fruit in a bag with one to ripen it.
Good cold storage also controls light, so the food is kept largely in the dark. The exceptions are those times when you need adequate light to remove anything from your cold storage room.
Your refrigerator’s light prevents this by staying off until the door is opened. You need to install a light at the entrance of a walk-in root cellar that is simple to switch on and off. An ordinary flashlight could be enough in modest cold storage scenarios.
Food should never be left out in the sun for a long period of time. This is because certain veggies, such as potatoes and onions, may begin to sprout if exposed to light, therefore it’s crucial to keep them as darkly as you can.
Thus, chilly temperatures, high humidity, adequate air circulation, and darkness are the four key elements for adopting cold storage to prolong the edibility of fresh product for several weeks or even months.
Let’s begin by discussing how to make the most of the cold storage system that practically everyone has in their house.
How to Store Different Items in Your Refrigerator
The cool basement where previous generations kept perishables has been supplanted in many households by the refrigerator. But are you using yours to the fullest? There are many microclimates within your refrigerator, each more suited for some foods than others.
For instance, the temperature within the fridge door is warmer than the temperature on the main shelves, and the lower shelves in both the main area and the door are warmer than the top shelves.
Is it not backwards? The top shelves need to be warmer than the lower ones since heat rises. You would seem so, but the higher shelves of most refrigerators have the coldest air since it is released from the top down.
This information explains what goes there.
Even though this is the hottest area of your refrigerator, the temperature there varies. Butter and eggs should be kept in the higher compartments since they are colder than the bottom ones.
A plastic cover that protects the eggs from the passage of chilly air is often used in egg compartments. If not, you may achieve the same result by keeping your eggs in a closed container and placing it on one of the top shelves of your refrigerator door. Salad dressings, ketchup, jam, and pickles keep well on the refrigerator door. Not your milk, however!
If at all feasible, place cheese on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator’s main body and store milk, yogurt, and other dairy items on the top level. There should also be storage for fruit juices and leftovers.
CENTER SHELF (S)
Any vegetables that won’t fit into the crisper drawers should be kept here, along with meat and ripe fruit.
If there isn’t a drawer in the middle of your refrigerator for them, keep cheeses and cold cuts there. Foods that have been vacuum sealed, including those that were purchased at stores and are still in the packaging, should be kept here.
DRAWS BY CRISPER
Your fresh veggies should be placed in these. But keep in mind that a refrigerator’s inside air is quite dry, although less so in the crisper drawers. Always keep your vegetables in plastic bags or containers rather than leaving it out in the open.
Best Practices for Refrigerators
Your refrigerator works best when it is just slightly full, as opposed to your freezer, which is most energy efficient when it is fully stocked with food. You want food to be able to move about in the air effortlessly.
If you can manage it, try not to keep the refrigerator door open for longer than 30 seconds. In other words, don’t spend too much time contemplating what to eat for a snack while gazing at the contents of your refrigerator.
Why? Well, when you open the fridge door, a ton of warm air pours in, and at the same time, frigid air erupts from the bottom of the refrigerator.
Just 30 seconds after the door opened, something emerged from the fridge’s lowest section. The temperature inside the refrigerator may rise by as much as 15°F in only 30 seconds when the door is open compared to when it is closed. Then, it can take up to 15 minutes for the refrigerator’s inside to return to its pre-cooling temperatures.
Pickle recipes for the refrigerator
In the chapter on vinegar pickling, I previously provided a recipe for dill cucumber refrigerator pickles. Here is a recipe for another traditional refrigerator pickle.
Refrigerator pickles have the advantage of being ready to eat in as soon as 1 to 4 days (but they will keep for months). They must be kept at very low temperatures, which is a drawback.
They won’t keep for very long if the electricity goes off and you don’t have a basement that is similarly cold. Because of the same drawback, refrigerator pickles are more difficult to present as gifts than canned pickles, which may be left at room temperature until the receiver opens them.
However, I really like refrigerator pickles. You may use less vinegar in them than you would in other recipes since they depend on acidic brine and cold storage. This translates to a significantly lighter taste for you, the consumer. Additionally, a sharper texture is often a result of less canning time.