How to Take Care of Food: Meats, Produce, and Fruit

Deli Meat

How long does deli meat last? Deli meat may last for a week in the refrigerator. Deli meat, or lunch meat, is meat that has been cooked, cured, or smoked, and then packaged. Keep deli meat fresh longer by storing it in your refrigerator immediately after you use it. Of all the cut on demand deli meat, salami seems to keep the longest in the refrigerator. Pre-packaged deli meat will last longer than meat the deli cuts for you on demand. Deli meat cut on demand doesn’t freeze as well as pre packaged deli meat. Either way, freeze sliced deli meats in an airtight container.

Meat from the Butcher

There’s no exact number when asking how long meat such as beef, poultry, and pork will remain good in the freezer, The USDA website has a chart with guidelines on quality, but they also say meat can stay good indefinitely. I have found in general meat will still easily still be edible a year after freezing, assuming it is properly wrapped and stays frozen.
Most meat you get from the butcher needs to be rewrapped if you plan to keep the meat in the freezer more than a couple of weeks. The original packaging is for presentation at the store, and isn’t airtight. Some people will vacuum seal everything in order to guarantee the package is airtight. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, I have had good success with red meat and pork wrapping it tightly with Saran Wrap and then again with butcher paper. Label on the outside what the cut of meat is and the date it was frozen. Freezer burned food is still technically edible but usually has a funny taste. Sometimes you can cut away the freezer burn and cook the meat that isn’t efffected.

There are 3 safe ways to thaw meat: in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. If you thaw meat in cold water or the microwave, it needs to be cooked immediately. It is not considered safe to thaw meat in the sink or on your counter overnight.

Freezing Produce

When freezing meat, in most cases it’s pretty standard what you do with all meat. Produce is much different. Items such as lettuce and celery don’t freeze well due to their high water content. Take a walk through the freezer section of the grocery store to get an idea what vegetables you can freeze.
Most fruit I can think of can be frozen. Berries such as strawberies, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries all freeze well. I have noticed when strawberries and bananas thaw they tend to be slimy. However, they are still great for shakes and smoothies. I have seen lemons and oranges sliced up and frozen. The only apples I have seen frozen were cooked.
The best way I have seen to freeze any fruit is to lay it all out on a wax paper lined cookie sheet in a single layer and put the trays in the freezer. After a couple hours the trays can be taken out of the freezer and the fruit can be bagged up and returned to the freezer. This way the fruit doesn’t freeze together into a big clump.

Washing Produce

I have heard a lot of vegetable and fruit lovers tell me they never wash their produce. When I go pick berries or get something out of my own garden, I might not wash it. If you are getting produce from an organic farmer you trust, make your own decision for yourself. When feeding other people, you should always wash the produce.
There are three main reasons I can think of to always wash produce. Has this crop ever been sprayed with an industrial pesticide? If you don’t know, wash it. How many people have touched this item? Starting in the field, do you know if the picker washed his hands after using the head? Did he use the head or just use the field? Wash it. Human pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella are now sometimes associated with produce. IN 2006, people got sick, and at least 1 person died, from E. coli tainted spinach.

In part 3, I will discuss dairy products and pre frozen food items.

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