autumn days

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

fresh grains & oils

As I work through my pile of articles to read, I finally made my way to an Oregonian article from March 20 on food rancidity.  This food storage information led me into deeper conversations within my community about the storage and use of oils.

This is what I got out of the article.

  • Rancid foods are "carcinogenic, pro-inflammatory and very toxic... [and] widespread in the food chain."
  • Rancid foods can be past their expiration dates or have a grassy paint-like odor.
  • Keep whole grains and oils fresh in the freezer or refrigerator.
  • Buy grains and oils in smaller quantities and consume them within a few months.
  • Buy products that contain oils and fats in smaller quantities.
  • Store most cooking oils in a cool, dark cabinet away from the stove.
  • Refrigerate polyunsaturated oils, especially fish, nut, and flax seed oils.
  • Keep all flax in the freezer or refrigerator (learned at Bob's Red Mill).

Advice from my Bob's Red Mill friend:
"We always recommend to keep our products in air tight containers in the fridge or freezer (either works) as that way you can use them about 7-8 months past the sell by date.  The sell by date is the expiration date and should be stamped on the side of the bag near the top of the bag.  There are also some large storage containers at our store and you can buy oxygen absorber packets that let you store the grains for years and years.  Most grains and flours have a shelf life of two years, with products that have natural oils like the Flaxseed Meal having a shelf life of one year.  I just keep them in the fridge at home and they seem to do well.  If baking with them, it is best to let them come to room temperature before baking."

Advice from my naturopathic doctor:

  • Oils that are safely heated are coconut and olive.
  • Butter should be served by melting it atop warm foods, such as toast or steamed vegetables.
  • Butter becomes carcinogenic when microwaved.
  • The structure of oil changes when heated. (healthiest to least healthy: room temperature, oven, stove top, microwave)
  • She also provides her children with a blend of coconut and almond milks instead of cow's milk.

What have I changed since learning this?
I've tossed expired goods, such as old oils, sauerkraut, mustard, ketchup, horseradish, and maple syrup.  I also put flax and quinoa into my refrigerator and make sure I consume my grains without the specific time.  Now when I need to make a meal, I try to use supplies I know are pushing the limits of freshness, such as that wilting lettuce or that last shake of turmeric.  I look through my cupboards to make sure I am using my entire inventory before I make another bulk grocery trip.  And when I begin making a recipe and realize I am missing something, it is in my nature to throw in something similar that I have on hand.  A little creativity makes a dish unique and flavorful.

I also plan ahead and pull out butter to warm up on the counter before baking projects.  Then I don't have to microwave butter (thus changing its composition) for baking.  A small pat of butter sits out awaiting my breakfast toast.  Instead of frying my vegetables in butter, now I put a pat of butter atop my lightly steamed vegetables.  It is so simple and delicious.

It is intimidating to learn about the health of food preparation and storage, though with each thing I learn (and those things I choose to keep in my pocket of knowledge), I feeling more confident and thoughtful and grateful in regards to the fresh foods I feed my family.

What would you like to share about food storage and use in your home?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this information. I have always kept flax seeds in the cupboard but now I will put them in the refrigerator. In my home, we are very conscious how old items are in the freezer and in canning jars. Canning and preserving books give approximate storage times, but I think most people assume that items in the freezer and in canning jars mean indefinite storage time. Food loses nutrition the longer it is stored. Each spring it is my goal to have an almost-empty freezer.