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Best way to store fresh food in the home

The modern methods of chilling, freezing, wrapping and transporting food should mean that we buy produce at its very best: fruit and vegetables brought to perfect ripeness, meat and fish at the peak of freshness. Sometimes, however, the freshness is an illusion created by packing and refrigeration technology, and when you get the food home, Spoilage will be rapid unless some of the professionals' techniques are employed.

Almost all vegetables store well in the refrigerator, where the low temperature prevents spoilage. If space cannot be found in the refrigerator for all the vegetables, use a cool, dark place instead of warmth and light will hasten their spoilage. Do not store them in clear plastic bags or airtight containers as the warmer temperature will make them sweat and rot. Keep potatoes in a dark place or they will go green and be inedible.

Never store bananas or unripe avocados in the refrigerator, as both develop black skins if refrigerated and their ability to ripen is impaired. Ripe avocados, however, can be stored for a few days in the salad compartment of the refrigerator. Keep strong-smelling fruit such as cut pineapple or melon well wrapped in the refrigerator, or their fragrance will affect the flavor and smell of dairy foods such as butter, cheese and milk.

In the refrigerator, cheese is best stored in waxed paper or foil which, unlike plastic warp, do not cause it to sweat. Very strong cheeses, however, are best kept in a plastic box so that their aromas do not taint other foods.

Fish does not improve with storage. If it is to be kept for more than 12 hours, even in the refrigerator, scatter cracked ice over it, replacing the ice as necessary, and cover the container to prevent the smell of fish tainting other food. Shellfish perishes particularly quickly and for this reason it is generally sold alive, or else precooked or frozen. If you are in any doubt about the length of time a quantity of shellfish has been stored, do not eat it.

All meat and poultry should be chilled; meat should be eaten within four days, poultry within three days. If you buy your meat from a butcher, store it loosely wrapped in greaseproof paper or foil as plastic covering will cause the meat to sweat and then become slimy and decompose. However, most meat sold in supermarkets is wrapped in sealed packets; these are best left unopened until the meat is needed.

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