Life — 2003
|Part 2: Stowage, Reality Check|
First in, first out. This simple rule is most important. To prevent spoilage, always rotate your stock.
Keep a written inventory of where you put everything and update it frequently.
Repack anything you can into vacuum-sealed and/or Ziplock bags. I cut the box top (or recipe) off the box and place it inside the bag with the food (throwing away the box). This will save space and, more importantly, will get rid of the majority of the garbage before you leave the dock.
If you have time, prewash and thoroughly dry all your fruit (except berries) and vegetables. Also, trim off any excess unusable tops, roots, outer leaves, etc. Do not wash eggs. If you are going to store eggs for longer than a couple of weeks, wipe them clean with paper towels, return them to their carton, and turn the carton over every few days. This will keep the yolks suspended, and they will last longer. To tell if an egg has gone bad, place it in a bowl of water. Fresh eggs sink, spoiled eggs float.
Use a permanent marker to write the name on top of any item stored in a can or jar that has the potential of losing its label.
Wrap each piece of produce that needs to be kept chilled (i.e. head of lettuce, tomato, eggplant, squash, etc.) in a layer of paper towel and stand upright in a cooler or refrigerator. Keep bunches of the same type of produce together when wrapping (like carrots, celery, green onions). I use a small rubber band to secure the paper towel, otherwise, things can get messy. Always store mushrooms in a paper bag, never plastic.
Never store food anywhere near toxic items like cleaning chemicals, lubricants, paint/varnish, epoxy, etc. It is deadly amazing how many containers look alike, particularly when their labels have fallen off.
Keep coolers and refrigerators closed as much as possible and avoid handling produce until you are ready to use it. Follow a "break-out" procedure where you plan your menu in advance and then "shop" from your stowage areas, gathering all your ingredients at one time.
Separate apples and other high-methane-producing fruit from the rest of your produce to reduce accelerated ripening. Never store apples and onions together; your apples will last a lot longer.
For extended voyaging use homemade packets of desiccants (silica gel) to control humidity when packing grains, legumes, and pasta. You can buy bulk desiccants at most Arts and Crafts and Wal-Mart stores in the dried-flower section.
There are some new high-tech produce storage bags on the market that can greatly slow the ripening process. I've used EvertFresh Bags with amazing results. They're available at some RV supply stores. You can call (800) 822-8141 for a retail location near you or contact them at www.evert-fresh.com, where you'll find excellent information concerning proper storage conditions for many fruits and vegetables.
I maintain rigid control over food stowage and recommend that someone always be designated as "in charge" when it comes to where and how food is stowed and when it is to be used. A quick daily check of fresh foods by that person can determine what needs to be used first and the menu can then be written to fit those needs.
All of these hints can really be summed up in this simple phrase: Plan your work, keep it simple, and work your plan.
W. Patrick Brown has been a professional chef for 27 years and is beginning his seventh season as a chef aboard the M/V Ursa Major, cruising in southeast Alaska. He maintains "Adventures of an Itinerant Chef" at www.chefpatrick.com.
This article originally appeared in the March 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.