Showing posts with label food storage solutions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food storage solutions. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

How to Prep and Store Organic Raspberries to Keep Them Fresh Longer

For the past year or more, I've been on a quest to find a way to prolong the time I can refrigerate fresh raspberries before they go bad. A few weeks ago, after extensive research and numerous failed experiments, I finally succeeded! In this review, I’ll share the preparation and storage method I developed that allows me to store fresh berries in the refrigerator successfully for days longer than any other method I tried.
The method I developed for prolonging the storage of ultra-perishable organic raspberries
was a labor of love that took more than a year of research and experimenting!

Organic Raspberries Are Extremely Perishable

Fresh berries are one of nature’s most delicious treats. Unfortunately, they don’t keep long in the refrigerator, especially the ones that you buy in a store rather than from a local farm stand. I try to buy mostly organic produce these days, and organic berries have even shorter lifespans than their conventionally grown counterparts. In fact, during the winter, many of the organic raspberries we get here in Boston are imported from Mexico, and after such a long journey, they rarely last more than a day, if that! That’s a waste of both food and money.

I adore organic raspberries and started eating them every week when I switched to a very low carb / keto lifestyle. That's when my search to find a way to prolong their edible life became a much higher priority.

My extensive online research produced lots of information and advice from reliable sources. Unfortunately, much of it was conflicting. Most sources advised not rinsing fresh raspberries until just before eating them. Some suggested soaking the berries in a vinegar and water solution immediately after buying them, then rinsing, drying and storing them. I remembered and looked up a 2015 article by my friend Grace who, after doing her own online research, developed a similar method for prepping and storing most types of produce that includes a 10-minute soak in a saltwater solution, followed by a 10-minute soak in a vinegar-water bath.

I tried them all. Many, many berries were sacrificed on the alter of my research! Unfortunately, none of the methods I tried succeeded in extending the storage life of my beloved organic raspberries. Nonetheless, I was determined to find a solution that would keep them going bad within a day or two of bringing them home.

Through Trial and Error, I Eventually Worked Out My Own Method for Storing Organic Raspberries Successfully for Several Extra Days

Undaunted (well, sort of), I started combining various aspects of some of the prior experiments. After each new experiment, I analyzed the results and tweaked the process for the next attempt. After a few more months, my stubbornness persistence finally paid off!

The prep work needs to start the minute the raspberries are brought home. After discarding any mushy ones, any remaining berries that have softened a bit are set aside to be eaten the same day. The rest get a brief saltwater bath, followed by a brief vinegar and water bath. The berries stay in each solutions for only 2-3 minutes, a much briefer soak than in any of the other methods I tested.

Next, they are rinsed, drained, and sorted further based on their firmness. Then they are set on a paper towel-covered cooling rack(s) for several hours to dry out thoroughly. As far as I know, mine is the first method to use this multi-hour drying time - an idea that turned out to be a game-changer in my experiments!

The storage method turned out to be as important as the prep process. Lining my storage container with two to three layers of paper towel was a step in the right direction, but not enough to slow down the berries' deterioration significantly.

The last piece of the puzzle fell into place when I stopped layering the berries between paper towels in a sealed storage container before refrigerating them. After another series of experiments and tweaks, eventually I was able to prolong the storage time by another 1-2 days by switching to a large, shallow storage container and storing the berries face down in a single layer, spaced apart so they didn't touch, and letting the lid rest on top of the container instead of sealing it.

Now My Organic Raspberries Remain Good for 5 or 6 Days!

Since I don't drive and I need to ask my husband to replenish my supply each week, my goal was to be able to have him buy me two 6-ounce containers of organic raspberries and keep them fresh for three to four days in the refrigerator. But once I started to make significant progress with my experiments, I raised my sights on a more ambitious goal.

Once I started experimenting with significantly longer drying times, my results improved dramatically! Obviously, how long fresh berries will keep depends on their condition when they are purchased. (Don't you hate not being able to see the berries at the bottom of the container, which are the most likely to be damaged or moldy, because they're hidden by the absorbent pad?)

After another month or two of trial-and-error, I finally achieved my new "stretch" goal: figuring out a way to prep and store three 6-oz. containers (18 ounces) of organic fresh raspberries so they stay fresh for 5 days. In fact, when I've been able to get a container of berries that are very fresh, firm, and unbruised, I've been able to prep them, store them in the refrigerator, and enjoy them for as long as 6 days!

A discovery like this is too good not to share. So, if you want to try my method for yourself, read on.

How to Prep and Store Organic Raspberries So They Stay Fresh Longer: Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Gather your tools and supplies.

Some of the supplies for prepping organic raspberries
to help them last up to 5 days (or even longer) in the refrigerator
Here's what you'll need:
  • Fresh organic raspberries (or any other type of berry, organic or conventionally grown)
  • A small bowl
  • A medium-to-large mixing bowl
  • A large slotted spoon
  • Water
  • Table salt or sea salt
  • A timer (after trying out many different brands and models, this simple, inexpensive, and accurate kitchen timer is definitely my favorite, thanks to the intuitive buttons, a large, easy-to-read display, and a ring loud enough to be heard from another room!)
  • Easy access to the kitchen sink (preferably with a sprayer-type faucet)
  • A roll of paper towels, preferably with closer perforation lines (like these Bounty Quick-Size Paper Towels) that let you tear off only the length you need
  • Shallow food storage containers with lids - one large and one medium sized
  • Optional: Paper clips
  • Optional: FreshPaper Food Saver Sheets
*Heinz All-Natural Distilled White Vinegar is one of the few white vinegars that aren't made with petroleum (yuck!). It's made from grain, which could be GMO, of course, but since it's a choice of that or a petroleum-based product, I'll stick with the former. Since I use a significant amount of it for prepping my raspberries, making my sugar-free pickling brine for my refrigerator pickles, and diluting it 50/50 with water to make a non-toxic kitchen surface cleaner/degreaser spray, I sometimes buy it in the large, 1.32-gallon economy size jug.

Step 2: Pick through the berries.

Carefully transfer them from their containers and spread them out in a single layer.

Pick through the berries, throwing out any that were damaged and setting aside any that need to be eaten that day rather than stored.

Then gently place the remaining berries in the small bowl.

Step 3: Soak them briefly in heavily salted water and rinse.

Fill the mixing bowl partway with enough water to just cover the berries. (You'll quickly learn eyeball the amount of water based on the volume of berries you're prepping.) Add about 3 tablespoons of table salt or sea salt and stir to dissolve.
Preparing the saltwater bath for the berries
Set the timer for 2 minutes, but don't start it yet. Adjust the "arms" of the colander so it rests on the edges of the sink. (Alternatively, place a traditional, small-holed colander over another mixing bowl, resting it on the lip of the bowl to elevate it for better drainage.)

Hold the bowl of raspberries just above the surface of the liquid in the mixing bowl, then tip them into the salty water. Start the timer.

Give them a brief, gentle stir so all sides of every berry come into contact with the saltwater solution, then stir them gently again after a minute.

As soon as the timer alarm goes off, use the large slotted spoon to lift the berries out of the water and place them into the over-the-sink colander so they are spread out over the entire surface of the colander. (Try to avoid piling the berries on top of each other, which can bruise the ones underneath.)

Run the cold water faucet and use the sprayer to quickly and gently rinse the berries in the colander. Leave them to drain while you empty and rinse the mixing bowl.
Keep the water pressure gentle to avoid bruising the berries!
Tip: The less you handle the berries and the more gently you treat them, the longer they'll keep!

Step 4: Repeat, using a vinegar and water solution this time.

Refill the mixing bowl to the same level as before, this time substituting a mixture of roughly 3 parts cold water to 1 part all-natural white vinegar. (As an example, to make 2 cups of the vinegar solution, you would mix 1-1/2 cups of water with 1/2 cup of all-natural white vinegar.)

Gently tip the rinsed and drained raspberries from the colander into the vinegar solution in the bowl, then give them a gentle swish, soak, rinse and drain as you did in Step 3.

Gently spread them out on a double thickness of paper towels to absorb more of the water, turning them so the holes face down so any remaining water inside the berries can drain.

Step 5: Sort the raspberries according to firmness and let them dry for at least 3-4 hours (even overnight, if necessary).

Line the gridded baking rack(s) with three layers of paper toweling. Transfer the berries to the racks, one at a time, keeping them face-down and spacing them slightly apart so they don't touch their neighbors. Sort the berries into two groups as you do this, placing the firmest berries to one side of the rack (or on a different rack) and the softer berries to the other side.
Leave the raspberries on the rack until they are firm and the surface is very dry


Set the racks on the counter and set the timer for 1 hour. When it rings, use the lightest touch and the least amount of pressure possible to slowly and gently roll each berry onto its side and separate it from the paper towel, then return it to the rack. (If you don't do this, or if you wait too long, the berries can stick to the paper towel as they dry, making it difficult to remove them without rupturing the surface at the sticking point. Voice of experience here, lol!) After you roll and lift off each berry, check for any leaked juice stains and, if necessary, move it to another spot where the paper towel is clean and dry.

Leave the racks out on the counter for at least 3 to 4 hours, preferably longer, until the surface of the berries has dried out a bit and they feel firmer than they were prior to their brief saltwater and vinegar solution baths.

Letting the surface of the berries dry out enough before refrigerating them is key to extending their storage time. I've even left them out overnight a couple of times, when they hadn't firmed up sufficiently after 4 hours on the paper towel-topped racks.

Step 6: Prep the storage containers and refrigerate the berries.

The raspberries in the measuring cup were set aside to eat that night.
The ones in the containers are prepped and ready to be stored in the fridge.
Line both food storage containers with a double or triple thickness of paper towel, folding it neatly at the corners so the bottom to create a paper "tray" that fits perfectly flush against the sides and bottom of the container's interior. Holding four corner folds in place with paperclips helps keep the bottom of this liner flat and the sides at a 90-degree angle, which prevents that berries placed along the edges from tipping over and rolling toward the center.

When the berries have dried out sufficiently on the surface and are firmer to the touch than when you brought them home, place the less firm berries into the medium-size container, face down and spaced slightly apart. Then repeat with the remaining berries and the larger container.

Place the filled containers in the refrigerator, then lay the lids lightly on top of them and slightly askew, keeping the berries exposed to a small amount of air during their cold storage to help maintain their firmness. For the same reason, don't place anything on top of the lids.

Prepped raspberries in food storage containers with their lids askew
so the air can continue to circulate throughout the cold storage period 
Note: Moisture is raspberries' sworn enemy. So, before I made my multi-hour surface drying and unsealed lid breakthrough discoveries, I used to place a FreshPaper Food Saver Sheet inside each storage container before sealing the lids. Although the packaging says they can be reused for up to 2 weeks before tossing them, I found that the FreshPaper sheets absorbed so much moisture inside the sealed containers that I had to take them out and let them dry every other day. Now, I use them only when I get a container of out-of-season berries that are too soft to firm up even after leaving them out to dry overnight (although in that situation, being able to store them successfully for more than a day or two is unlikely). If you'd like too try a package, I got mine as part of a Whole Foods Market grocery delivery via Prime Now, a local shopping service that's free for Amazon Prime members.

Step 7: Eating the Raspberries

When you're ready for some fresh berries, simply remove as many as you want from the container and dig in. No need to rinse them again - they're ready-to-eat!

Store-bought, organic raspberries - still tasty (and not mushy)
even after they were stored in the refrigerator for 6 days!
Before you return the uneaten berries to the fridge, check that they are still standing up and spaced apart inside the storage container, then place the lid lightly on top.

Remember to eat the berries in the medium-sized storage container first, before starting in on the large container last.

Future Experiments

Over time, I've been swapping more and more single-use, disposable paper and plastic products for more eco-friendly, reusable alternatives. So, while this method works remarkably well for me, I'm troubled by how many paper towels it requires.

I could (and eventually might) substitute a dedicated set of cloth dish towels for draining and drying out the berries and cutting some to size for lining the storage containers. But since our bathroom towel racks are filled with towels and we have nowhere else to hang hand-laundered items to dry, hand-washing a bunch of berry-stained towels once or twice a week isn't in the cards. I'd be concerned about throwing the berry-stained towels into the washing machine with a regular laundry load because the dried berry juice might tint the water pink and ruin everything else in the washer. Running the machine with just the towels would be a waste of water and electricity.

I tried drying the berries directly on cooling racks with a grid design, but the openings were too large and many of the berries fell through.

I'm still hoping to come up with a way to reduce or eliminate paper towels from my process. At some point, I want to buy a couple of largish sheets of food-grade, stainless steel mesh and fold the edges down to make a drying tray. If I can figure out the right mesh to let the raspberries dry out over a period of hours without sticking to the metal, that might be a good solution.



How to Prep and Store Organic Raspberries to Keep Them Fresh Longer reviewed by:
Margaret Schindel








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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

My Experience Using Freshware Food-to-Go Packs to Freeze Soup: A Review

Freshware Helped me Freeze Individual Mug-Size Soup Servings


After a recent bout with the flu, I realized I had not really prepared very well. Everyone knows how important chicken soup is in helping respiratory illnesses, but few people are up to making it from scratch after they get sick. I wasn't, either, and canned soup just isn't as good. If only I'd been able to pull individual servings out of my freezer that were just the right size for my soup mugs! But I couldn't, since there weren't any there. Since then I've stashed many soup servings in my freezer. Here's how.

My Experience Using Freshware Food-to-Go Packs to Freeze Soup: A Review




Fortunately I did have some frozen French onion soup I'd bought at Costco to get me though a couple of days of flu. Each portion was just right to heat in a soup mug. I decided to look for something that would help me freeze my own individual size portions, so I searched Amazon. I was actually looking for molds, but all I could come up with were muffin tins, and they weren't the size I wanted. I finally found these Freshware Food-To-Go Packs.

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I finally decided on the 16-ounce size. As you can see above, I wanted a portion just right for my soup mugs. My mug holds 12 ounces comfortably with a bit of room at the top. If I pour 12 ounces of soup into the Freshwear container, there is room left for expansion at the top.

My Soup Story


When my Freshware Food-To-Go packs arrived from Amazon. I was anxious to try them out. I chose them because they are BPA Free, and I didn't want to put anything hot  into a plastic container that contained BPA. I also liked that they could go from my freezer into my microwave so that I could partially thaw the soup before pouring it into my mug. It can stand temperatures from -40°F to +250°F. I liked that I could pour it straight from my crockpot into the containers without waiting for the soup to  cool.

My Experience Using Freshware Food-to-Go Packs to Freeze Soup: A Review


This is my most recent batch of soup as it simmered in my crockpot. This time I made vegetable soup with just a bit of ground beef for added flavor. Here's how I made the soup you see here: I Made Soup Again Today.

I really like my crockpot. It's an older version of this one, and its shape makes it easier to cook many kinds of meat and poultry that are harder to cook in my round crockpots. I can also program it for specific cook times and temperatures, knowing it will switch to warm if the cook time finishes. I can't do that with my older crockpots.

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Freezing Hot Foods in Freshware


I found the Freshware very easy to work with. It stacks neatly in the cupboard for easy storage. When I need to freeze soup or anything else in a mug-size portion, the containers are easy to fill and stack.

I usually make a crockpot full of soup or another dish. I put about six servings in a casserole dish to store in the refrigerator to cover about three meals for two during that first week after cooking. I freeze what's left in the Freshware containers. Here's how that looked when I froze some beans I had cooked.

Here the containers have been filled and I've put the lids on them. The foods were still hot when I filled the containers.

My Experience Using Freshware Food-to-Go Packs to Freeze Soup: A Review


Below I show them stacked.

My Experience Using Freshware Food-to-Go Packs to Freeze Soup: A Review


Notice how snugly the lids fit and how neatly they stack for storage in the freezer. Because the containers are clear, you can see exactly what's in them.

Thawing My Soup after Freezing in Freshware Containers


I had planned my container size for filling mugs that comfortably held 12-ounce portions of food, mostly liquid. You can see the beans I froze above, before they went into the freezer. Below you see the soup after it came out of the freezer. On top you see the soup still frozen after I removed the lid, which kept its shape well. You can also see that the soup had plenty of headroom for the liquid to expand.

My Experience Using Freshware Food-to-Go Packs to Freeze Soup: A Review

The middle photo shows the soup thawing in the microwave. I thawed it without the lid. When it was almost thawed, I transferred it into the mug, since I prefer handling a mug when the soup is hot. Had I wanted to take this to work as a hot lunch, I could have packed it frozen and heated it in the container at lunchtime and also eaten from the container.

Note: This week I cooked a large batch of lentils. I filled three Freshware containers to freeze and one to put in the fridge. I wanted to be able to easily add cooked lentils to soups and salad during rest of the week. When my husband was removing something else from the fridge, my lentil container fell out and fell on the floor from three feet up. The thin bottom of the container broke, but did not shatter. The top stayed on. I was able to safely remove the contents to a new container without adding any cracked plastic with the lentils. It was a very easy process.

Lunch is Ready


The soup is pretty hearty, with lots of protein and vegetables, so it doesn't need a lot to go with it. I toasted a slice of sourdough bread and peeled a tangerine because I love tangerines with anything savory. I can eat the toast on the side or dip it in the soup.

My Experience Using Freshware Food-to-Go Packs to Freeze Soup: A Review


What do you like with your soup?

Get Freshware Containers to Make Your Life Easier


As you can see, Freshware Food-To-Go Packs make preparing and freezing meals in single portions very easy. Cook a large batch of your favorite lunch, freeze what you want to store for later, and thaw at home or take frozen to work to heat there. The containers are able to be washed in a dishwasher. I didn't try this because my dishwasher isn't working anymore and I'm waiting to replace it. But the containers are easy enough to wash by hand. Why not pick up some Freshware containers today while you're thinking about it?



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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Reviewing Plastic Bag Sealing Clips

 Click to Buy a Set of 38 Plastic Sealing Bag Clips
One of the cheaper, yet indispensable items in my kitchen are my plastic bag clips. We use these without even thinking about it and yet I don't think I've ever seen them reviewed - until now that is!

Have you ever tried them? They usually come in packs, often consisting of different size clips and they are an absolute godsend in my kitchen let me tell you.

I thought everyone used them until one of the young accountants I work with came out holding a small one and asked 'do you know what this is?' Even after telling him what it was used for he looked at me as though I was from another planet - so maybe NOT everyone has them!

Why Do You Need Plastic Bag Sealing Clips?  


To keep your food fresh of course!  Seriously I use these bag clips for lots of different things.  People who know me (or have read some of my posts on kitchen organization) would know that I do like to use containers to store things in, but sometimes that's not always possible.

plastic bag sealing clips
Photo by Lou of Lou's Designs
Let me give you two examples - if you look at the photo you'll see I have a bag of spiral pasta and a bag of brown rice with sealing clips on them.

I usually have dried spaghetti and dried penne at home and I keep them in containers, but I wanted to try a recipe using spiral pasta.  Now I could have found a container and used my favorite pink labelling machine to label it spiral pasta, but I didn't know if I'd be buying another packet so I just used a bag clip.

With the brown rice I had a container with basmati rice in it and one with long grain white rice.  I have just brought a new container to use for the brown rice, but for the last month (the previous brown rice I had came in a resealable bag) I've used a bag clip as you can see.

How to Keep Chips Fresh After Opening The Bag?


You simply grab some bag clips!  I love my bag clips when it comes to corn chips as when making nachos using corn chips I usually have some left in the bag.  Now we used to just snack on them until they were finished, but by saving them (we usually have nachos on the weekend instead of takeout) I find that I'm saving myself one bag of corn chips a month on my grocery bill!

We haven't been having nachos as much lately and I realized that I'd had a bag of corn chips in the pantry (sealed with a clip) for three weeks and you know what - they were still fresh!  Need I say more.

Now chocolate is my downfall, but my husband's weakness is potato chips and it's often cheaper to purchase large bags than smaller ones, but I really don't want him to eat a large bag - I also don't want to waste any.  Since we've found that our bag sealing clips work so well with corn chips we've tested them on potato chips and they keep them fresh too - win/win!

Can You Use Plastic Food Clips in the Freezer?


can you use plastic bag clips in the freezer
Photo by Lou16
Absolutely!  I don't know how you store your packets of frozen peas or frozen sweetcorn once you've opened them, but I use food clips.  I figured if they were plastic they would be fine and I was right!

Are There Other Uses for Plastic Bag Sealing Clips?


Probably, but these are the ones I use them for and I think that is plenty.  Let me know if you have other uses for them in the comments.

For an inexpensive 'gadget' this is one kitchen tool that everyone should have in their kitchens.  I know some people say well I use ziplock bags and I admit I use them too, but seriously if you can use the bag it came in why waste more plastic bags for storage?











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