Keeping Food Fresh – The Old Fashioned Way
Sometimes I feel like I should have been a time traveler. I don’t always feel 100% like I belong in the age in which I was born. I think the 1940′s & 50′s were the pinnacle of women’s fashion, and who doesn’t long for the days when movie stars were classy like Audrey Hepburn and Carey Grant and not the hot messes we see splashed across every tabloid today? Sure, I *love* some of the technology that is available to me in the grand age of 2011 – heck, I’m even composing this blog post on my iPad, but there are times when it feels like technology is just trying too damn hard, or perhaps just aiming it’s efforts in the wrong direction. Can anyone explain to me why a battery powered pizza wheel was ever invented, let alone how it could possibly improve on the tried and true method of moving your hand back and forth? Then there’s the egg cracking/separating gizmo that looks like it takes more time to load it with an egg than it would to crack a dozen eggs. Sometimes, the best way of doing things is the old-fashioned way.
I’m lucky enough to have some vintage glass fridge containers – the “tupperware” of it’s time, which is definitely the pre-plastic age. Okay, so they’re not airtight and certainly not leakproof, but they do the job, especially for keeping butter and such. For all the benefits that plastic products have, their food safety is coming into question these days and glassware is once again making a comeback. As a result, over the last year or so, I’ve been gradually transferring my dry goods from plastic containers into mason jars, re-purposed milk bottles and glass canisters. Glassware has other benefits too: it doesn’t stain or retain odors like plastic, and your containers can be easily labeled with a sharpie marker, instead of gummy stickers. At the International Home & Housewares Show in Chicago, glass food storage is making a comeback, with silicone seals and groovy new colours. Old is new again and the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage is relevant more than ever. This is why I turned to old fashioned solutions of how to keep bread fresh. Since being introduced to the fabulous No-Knead Bread recipe, we almost always have a loaf of bread in the house, but with only two of us, it lasts longer than it would in most households. Even in my pre-no-knead-bread days, I would buy a lovely baguette at the grocery store and inevitably half of it would turn to stone before it could get eaten. I tried using kitchen towels and plastic wrap and various other combinations to no avail. So with a 3-year supply of bread crumbs in my pantry, I knew I had to find another solution. The answer? A good old-fashioned bread bin.
Years ago, hubby and I had a slick, modern bread bin where things would go to die. It was stainless steel with tight seals, which meant that what was “out of sight, out of mind”, became a science experiment growing in a corner of the kitchen. Gross. Into the yard sale years it went, and I just resigned myself to a life of bread storage problems. But while browsing around on eBay, I checked out vintage bread bins and noticed one very big difference between the vintage ones and the shiny new modern ones you can find today: air holes. All of the vintage bread bins and pie safes have at least one set of air holes punched into them, allowing for some air to get in them, yet not so much that your bread turns to stone. I knew this had to be the solution – after all, what had our grandmothers done with freshly baked or bought bread, in those glory days before preservatives and plastic bags? Wasting food was much more of a sin than it seems to be today, so they must have had a solution that actually worked. Why had we done away with it? Oh right – preservatives and plastic bags. Well, that is broke, so I’m fixing it.
I found a fabulous vintage bread box, complete with air holes, and it even had a glass lid – something I had not seen before but knew immediately that I would like. If we could see with a glance that there was bread to be eaten, it was less likely to be forgotten in there. So, I placed my bid and in no time my lovely “new” bread bin was installed on my kitchen counter. I put a piece of parchment paper inside to keep everything clean and put in my loaves of bread: plain, cheese bread and my Hot Cross Bun loaf – all of them homemade and free of preservatives. A couple I placed cut-side down on the parchment, and one I left resting on it’s bottom. The result? All three loaves were good to the very last bit of crust for 10 full days – incredible! No mold, no funky fungus and no bread-shaped rocks. Hooray for the old-fashioned way!
So, if you’re like me, and have been frustrated with spoiled bread – hit the antique stores, scour the flea markets or surf around on Etsy or eBay, and find yourself a groovy old bread box or pie safe to call your own. Join the “retro-lutionary” food storage movement and pick up some glass storage jars too!