Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Kitchen Tip: Keeping Dairy Products Fresh Longer

We're a big family so hubby and I buy many food items in bulk sizes. Multiples of items in bulk sizes, even. (Yes, even though I don't like going there, Costco is our friend.) So it sometimes happens that two tubs of plain yogurt will get opened, or the sour cream will get pushed behind the produce for a week or three. And when that happens, unwanted little beasties often set up house in there, and I really hate when that happens. Wasting food annoys me. But I've discovered a few tricks that help keep dairy products fresh longer.

First, I don't put out the entire container for people to serve themselves from. It's inviting trouble to do that. So even though it makes more dishes, I'll put some sour cream or whatever in a small bowl for passing at the table. Now that I've been doing this for a while I've gotten pretty good about estimating how much we'll need, so I don't have to obsess over whether extras should go back in the container or be tossed.

Second, after every use I scrape the stuff on the sides of the container down into the remainder. That's usually where the beasties set up after all, so if there isn't a lot of sour cream or whatever on the sides, the place is less homey for them. An added benefit of scraping down is, without stuff clinging to the sides and going bad, it's easier to tell by smell if the remaining product is still edible.

Not everybody is on board with my system yet, so we still have those dairy-testing adventures. If my sniffer doesn't yield a conclusive result, then I have to poll the family, of course.....you'd think they'd hate that enough that they'd scrape down the sides, wouldn't you? But you'd be wrong.

I have found a way to get some foolproof help on dairy freshness testing, though. I have allergies, so my nose and tastebuds don't always work well. But my two kids are great taste testers.....except that even they hate the taste of spoiled dairy products. And who can blame them? Here's the deal we have: when I can't tell if something's fresh, I ask one of them to taste it for me. If it's still good, no problem. If it's bad, the kid gets a treat to help get the nasty taste out of his or her mouth. If the kid gets sick after taste testing for me, once they're better they get to pick a dessert that I'll make with no argument. (They have expensive taste sometimes!) I've only had to do that once so far. But the chance of getting a treat or a dessert is so tempting the kids will argue over who gets to be my taste tester!

(Bad, bad mother, I know! They'll figure that out soon enough. For now it's a fun game.)

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