Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Downsize Your Fridge

There is no need to keep mustard, jam, marmalade, chutney, pickles in the fridge. These are all methods of preserving food from before fridges were invented. Unopened, they should keep almost indefinitely in a normal kitchen cupboard or other cool dark place. Once opened we all know they can eventually go mouldy, but it depends on how quickly you use them up. There's no point keeping a jar of jam in the fridge if you get through it in a couple of weeks. If you don't get through it in a couple of weeks, consider buying a smaller jar next time.

Eggs shouldn't be in the fridge, or most fruits and vegetables. Cheese and bacon are also "pre-preserved" foods, although before the invention of fridges they would have been stored in pantries or meat lockers built of stone or with thick walls, sometimes underground or at least on the shadiest side of the house and painstakingly protected from rodents and flies. I store my meat and cheese in the fridge, but whenever I put anything in there I always remove any bulky packaging first. There's no point spending money on electricity to keep loads of plastic and cardboard cool, and anyway it makes more space for food.

Experiment to find which produce really needs refrigerating, and what will keep just as well in a cupboard. Maybe you can downsize to a smaller, more energy efficient, fridge.

16 comments:

Chilly McBurro said...

This post was brought you by British Council of the 1940s and was sponsored by Bakelite, the Wonder of our Age!

Joking aside, top tips as ever Beano - just one Q, does keeping eggs in the fridge help keep them longer? If not, how long would eggs stay fresh outside the cooling embrace of my (ironically named) Hotpoint?

Hedgewizard said...

The delightfully-named British Egg Industry Council prevaricated on this very question - eggs have to be stored below 20C by retailers. Once they're out in the home the advice is to refrigerate because they can't trust people to know what "below 20C" actually means - hence, "oh, keep it in the door of the fridge". Shelf life at room temp is exactly the same, except the yoks don't explode when you put them in a frying pan.

Mel - "buy a smaller jar"? We all know real SS-types make their jam... don't we? ;-)

Melanie Rimmer said...

Think about it - where are the eggs in the supermarket? Are they in a refrigerator? No - they're just on a normal room-temperature shelf. I think the sell-by-date on eggs is 30 days after they were packed in the carton. So you can conclude that eggs keep for 30 days at room temperature AT LEAST (sell-by-dates always err on the side of caution).

Your mileage may vary. In a red hot summer I'd expect them to go off quicker. In a cool pantry or, yes, a refrigerator they may last longer, if 30 days isn't long enough for you. But eggs don't hang around in this house for 30 days. I can't remember the last time I cracked a bad egg.

Like I said in the article - if stuff is going off, maybe you're buying too much. If someone shops once a week, why would they have 30-day-old eggs in their house? They can't get through 6 eggs in 30 days? I don't believe it. Get the damn things out of the fridge.

Melanie Rimmer said...

Hedgie - good point. I learned the hard way not to fill 1-litre kilner jars with jam, but to save little little jars for jam-making. Not because they go off, but for all those people who say "Ooh, home-made jam. Can I have a jar?" They're just as happy to be given a little jar of home-made jam as a mammoth, and you don't have the wrenching feeling of waving goodbye to a quarter of your cherry harvest in one fell swoop (and a precious kilner jar you'll probably never get back).

Gid said...

If you do have eggs in your 'fridge that you're uncertain of, testing them for freshness is simple.. fill a reasonably deep vessel with water and put the egg in.. if it sinks, it's fresh.. if it floats just under the surface of the water it's about a month or so old, but still in with a chance.. if it floats with any of the shell protruding from the surface of the water, throw it at any passing politicians..

The other problem with an unknown egg is that of whether it's a raw egg or a surplus hardboiled one that's been put back by mistake.. the test for this is also simple.. simple stand the egg on its base on a flat surface and spin it like a top.. if it wobbles all over the place it's a raw egg.. if it spins evenly it's a hardboiled egg and you have now found a fun new game.. :-)

Another Mel said...

On the subject of fridge efficiency, it is great to have the most energy efficient fridge that you can - you can now get AA rated ones. The up front cost is higher, but this will quickly be repaid by the lower running costs. This is one of the few items that I would purchase new, when replacement is required, as it is no longer legal to sell them below a D rating. However, Mel, I am sorry to be picky regarding the comment about your packaging, but it is worth noting that fridges operate at their most efficient at about 3/4 full, so the air can still circulate round the food, but it is not cooling too much air. So, sometimes, leaving the packaging on may help your fridge to run efficiently. Now that the weather is warming up, I put bottles of water (tap, naturally) in my fridge to make up the bulk, so I can also have a cold drink when i feel like one. Hopefully, something to think about.

Another Mel said...

On the subject of fridge efficiency, it is great to have the most energy efficient fridge that you can - you can now get AA rated ones. The up front cost is higher, but this will quickly be repaid by the lower running costs. This is one of the few items that I would purchase new, when replacement is required, as it is no longer legal to sell them below a D rating. However, Mel, I am sorry to be picky regarding the comment about your packaging, but it is worth noting that fridges operate at their most efficient at about 3/4 full, so the air can still circulate round the food, but it is not cooling too much air. So, sometimes, leaving the packaging on may help your fridge to run efficiently. Now that the weather is warming up, I put bottles of water (tap, naturally) in my fridge to make up the bulk, so I can also have a cold drink when i feel like one. Hopefully, something to think about.

Stoopid McBurro said...

Mel: I'm sorry! I'm thinking about it! Honest! Please put the BBQ tongs down!

HW: The Schutzstaffel made their own jam? Well who would have known? Did you get this off a doc on Five? Next you'll be telling me the Camer Rouge made quilts from rags.

Gid: Thanks! I had heard about the water test, but not the spinny test (although it makes sense). I will try it but not if the mistress is around as she is a dab hand at strip-poker and this will just set her off. Anyhoo, any more quick tips?*

T'other Mel: I agree about the AA rating - we got one when our old and much abused fidgefreezer started leaking coolant into the fridge leaving a sweet sticky residue on everything.**

* I once heard that 'going off but not quite off' milk separates on a stainless steel draining board.

** Imagine our surprise when, as we cleaned out the old fridge for removal, the suspect liquid turned out to be manky pineapple juice leaking from a long forgotton and well hidden little carton. D'oh.

Stoopid McBurro
www.wildburro.co.uk
********************

Lesley said...

As I tend to be a bit absent minded on occasions, I use a pencil to mark the shells of hard boiled eggs with the letters 'HB',(ie, when I remember)

The last time I had a bad egg was when I bought six in a box from Somerfield in Dartmouth, just before we sailed our boat out from the port on the way back home to Wales. We were not happy bunnies the following morning when we wanted them for breakfast, still at sea after a busy night sail.

However, I remember that years ago, my mother never broke eggs straight into a cake mixture because freshness couldn't be guaranteed. She always broke each one separately into a saucer and if OK, slid it where it was wanted.

Vashti said...

Ooh, I still do that with eggs - break them into a little bowl first, and only if they pass the Little Bowl Test do they get to go into the cooking.

But then, I should probably pay more attention to use-by dates (and finally learn the bowl of water trick).

Steph said...

I was well miffed when I bought a dozen free-range duck eggs in Kirkby Steven, only to find that 4 were well off!! However, on moaning to Mel about the lack of scruples of the egg sellers, she informed as (as she's prone to do) that duck eggs wot are truly free range get layed all over the place, so the farmer has to hunt for them so the 'lay' date isn't always known. It did serve to remind me what rotton eggs smell like. It's a phrase bandied roound but until you experience it, you can't really appreciate it. So go on, keep an egg to one side for 2 months, then throw it at a politician. If arrested, just say Steph told you to try it.

Stonehead said...

If you can't afford to upgrade to a new fridge, consider using a Savaplug. I thought the claims a bit dubious, but my own monitoring revealed energy consumption had been cut by almost 26%.

That brought a B-rated fridge in line with many AA freezers. Same thing with the freezer, too.

On the subject of cheese and bacon, most modern commercially produced ones have much less salt and nitrites (bacon) in their cures than in the past. Many modern home cures are the same.

That means you can't safely store these cheeses and bacons outside a refrigerator.

We make our own bacon using a very old recipe and it's very salty to modern tastes, but it can be left hung in a cool spot. All you have to do is return to older ways of eating - eat less (always a good idea anyway) or boil it/soak it before frying it or otherwise cooking with it.

Also, there a couple of pickles that do better in the refrigerator - prepared horseradish being the main one. It lasts about six weeks in the refrigerator and only a week or so in the cupboard.

yon said...

Heh. What about living without a fridge at all for 6 years? Our former landlord's fridge was so manky and ludicrously oversized, we just decided to do without it, and given that there was a Spar just across the road who were perfectly willing to refrigerate stuff for us until we wanted to buy it, it really wasn't a big deal. It's just more convenient with one (given that most modern flats/houses aren't built with pantries, more's the pity).

Having a fridge again now does mean that I'm aware that I end up buying more stuff than I really need, just because it will keep in the magic box, as opposed to just buying what I actually know I will eat soon. Should probably try to get back to pre-fridge habits again.

yon
p.s. Hi Mel! Long time no see...

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