How To Keep Fruit Fresh Longer.Of the numerous varieties of fruits grown in this country, apples and pears are about the only ones that can be kept for any length of time without artificial means. As soon as fruit has attained its maturity, a gradual change or breaking down of tissues begins. In some fruits this process follows rapidly; in other it is gradual. There is a certain point at which the fruits are best suited for use. We call it mellowness, and say that the fruit is in “good eating condition.”
When this stage has been reached, deterioration and rotting soon follow. In some fruits, as the peach, plum, and early varieties of apples and pears, these changes occur within a few days after maturity, and it is quite useless to attempt to keep them; in others, like the later varieties of apples and pears, the changes are slow but none the less certain. To keep such fruits we must endeavor to retard or prolong the process of change, by avoiding all conditions likely to hasten decay. Even with ordinary care, sound fruit will keep for quite a length of time; but it can be preserved in better condition and for a longer period by careful attention to the following practical points:—
- If the fruit is of a late variety, allow it to remain on the tree as long as practicable without freezing.
- Always pick and handle the fruit with the greatest care.
- Gather the fruit on a dry, cool day, and place in heaps or bins for two or three weeks.
- Carefully sort and pack in barrels, placing those most mellow and those of different varieties in different barrels; head the barrels, label, and place in a cool, dry place where the temperature will remain equable. Some consider it better to keep fruit in thin layers upon broad shelves in a cool place. This plan allows frequent inspection and removal of all affected fruit without disturbance of the remainder.
- Warmth and moisture are the conditions most favorable to decomposition, and should be especially guarded against.
- The best temperature for keeping fruit is about 34° F., or 2° above freezing.
How To Keep Fruit Fresh Longer
Another method which is highly recommended is to sprinkle a layer of sawdust on the bottom of a box, and then put in a layer of apples, not allowing them to tough each other. Upon this pack more sawdust; then another layer of apples, and so on until the box is filled. After packing, place up from the ground, in a cellar or storeroom, and they will keep perfectly, retaining their freshness and flavor until brought out. The Practical Farmer gives the following rough but good way to store and keep apples: “Spread plenty of buckwheat chaff on the barn floor, and on this place the apples, filling the interstices with the chaff. Cover with the chaff and then with straw two or three feet deep. The advantage of this is that covering and bedding in chaff excludes cold, prevents air currents, maintains a uniform temperature, absorbs the moisture of decay, and prevents the decay produced by moisture.”
The ordinary cellar underneath the dwelling house is too warm and damp for the proper preservation of fruit, and some other place should be provided if possible. A writer in the American Agriculturist thus calls attention to an additional reason why fruit should not be stored beneath living-rooms: “After late apples are stored for the winter, a gradual change begins within the fruit. It absorbs oxygen from the air of the room, and gives off carbonic acid gas. Another change results in the formation of water, which is given off as moisture. The taking up of oxygen by the fruit and the giving off of carbonic acid, in a short time so vitiates the atmosphere of the room in which the fruit is kept, that it will at once extinguish a candle, and destroy animal life. An atmosphere of this kind tends to preserve the fruit. There being little or no oxygen left in the air of the room, the process of decay is arrested. Hence it is desirable that the room be air tight, in order to maintain such an atmosphere.”
The production of carbonic acid shows that a cellar in or under a dwelling, is an improper place for storing fresh fruit. When the gas is present in the air in sufficient proportion, it causes death, and a very small quantity will cause headache, listlessness, and other unpleasant effects. No doubt many troubles attributed to malaria, are due to gases from vegetables and fruits stored in the cellar. A fruit cellar should be underneath some other building rather than the dwelling, or a fruit house may be built entirely above the ground. A house to keep fruit properly must be built upon the principle of a refrigerator. Its walls, floor, and ceiling should be double, and the space between filled with sawdust. The doors and windows should be double; and as light is undesirable, the windows should be provided with shutters. There should be a small stove for use if needed to keep a proper temperature in severe weather.
To Keep Grapes.—Select such bunches as are perfect, rejecting all upon which there are any bruised grapes, or from which a grape has fallen. Spread them upon shelves in a cool place for a week or two. Then pack in boxes in sawdust which has been recently well dried in an oven. Bran which has been dried may also be used. Dry cotton is employed by some. Keep in a cool place.
Some consider the following a more efficient method: select perfect bunches, and dip the broken end of the stems in melted paraffine or sealing wax. Wrap separately in tissue paper, hang in a cool place, or pack in sawdust.
To Keep Lemons and Oranges.—Lemons may be kept fresh for weeks by placing them in a vessel of cold water in a very cool cellar or ice house. Change the water every day. Oranges may be kept in the same way. The usual method employed by growers for keeping these fruits is to wrap each one separately in tissue paper, and put in a cool, dry place.
To Keep Cranberries.—Put them in water and keep in a cool place where they will not freeze. Change the water often, and sort out berries which may have become spoiled.
Perfectly ripe fruit is, as a rule, more desirable used fresh than in any other way. Fruits which are immature, require cooking. Stewing and baking are the simplest methods of preparation.
General Suggestions for Cooking Fruit.—The utensils for stewing should be porcelain-lined, or granite ware. Fruit cooked in tin loses much of its delicate flavor; while if it be acid, and the tin of poor quality, there is always danger that the acid of the fruit acting upon the metal will form a poisonous compound. Cover with a china plate or granite-ware cover, never with a tin one, as the steam will condense and run down into the kettle, discoloring the contents. Use only silver knives for preparing the fruit, and silver or wooden spoons for stirring. Prepare just before cooking, if you would preserve the fruit perfect in flavor, and unimpaired by discoloration. In preparing apples, pears, and quinces for stewing, it is better to divide the fruit into halves or quarters before paring. The fruit is more easily handled, can be pared thinner and cored more quickly. Peaches, apricots, and plums, if divided and stoned before paring, can be much more easily kept whole.
Cook in a small quantity of boiling water, and if economy is a point to be considered, do not add sugar until the fruit is done. Sugar boiled with an acid will be converted into glucose, two and one half pounds of which only equal one pound of cane sugar in sweetening properties. It will require a much larger amount of sugar to sweeten fruit if added before the cooking process is completed. Fruit should be cooked by stewing, or by gentle simmering; hard boiling will destroy the fine flavor of all fruits, and especially of berries and other small fruits. Cinnamon, cloves, or other spices, should not be added, as their stronger flavors deaden or obliterate the natural flavor, which should always be preserved as perfectly as possible. If desirable to add some foreign flavor, let it be the flavor of another fruit, or the perfume of flowers. For Instance, flavor apple with lemon, pineapple, quince, or rose water.
Unripe fruit is improved by making the cooking quite lengthy, which acts in the place of the ripening process, changing the starchy matter to saccharine elements. In cooking fruit, try to preserve its natural form. The more nearly whole it is, the better it looks, and the more natural will be its flavor.
Apples are best cooked by baking. Pears and quinces are also excellent baked. The oven should be only moderately hot; if the heat is too great, they brown on the outside before they are done throughout. In cooking fruit by any method, pains should be taken to cook together such as are of the same variety, size, and degree of hardness; if it is to be cut in pieces, care should be taken to have the pieces of uniform size.