We know that right now, everything is a little upside down but one truth remains: keeping your health up is the top priority and that means a high intake of fresh produce. Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and all its cousins abound, and buying in bulk is best for your pocket. But what happens when you go overboard and need to prevent your produce from going bad? We got the scoop from our chefs on making your ingredients last longer.
Even in a restaurant environment, dry-ageing is a very advanced technique that can be especially risky if attempted at home where the environment is not always sterile. However, it is still possible. For the safest way to do this at home, look into buying a kit, such as this one from Umai Dry, which includes special bags that are engineered for dry-ageing. The bag acts as a breathable membrane that stabilises the meat’s environment and prevents moisture, odours and bacteria from entering. With this method, you can safely dry-age any meat at home, from beef to lamb to duck. Do note that water weight gets lost in the process, shrinking your meat, so start out with large cuts for best results. Dry-ageing is best over 30 days; I recommend a minimum of 15-20 with regular observation. Once your meat is ready, cook it to your preference.
Billy Otis, Head Chef, Taqueria Super Macho
Dehydrating can extend the life of everything from fruit and vegetables to meat. The simplest way is to lay the item on a sheet tray, set your oven on low and roast for a very long time, rotating regularly. This can last for hours depending on the shape and size of your ingredients. I like to dehydrate beef tendons. Cook them in the pressure cooker for an hour, then freeze. Afterwards, slice them thinly and dehydrate for 24 hours. Once dehydrated, throw them in the fryer and they will puff up like a cracker that you can season to your liking.
Jowett Yu, Head Chef, Ho Lee Fook
Oh I love pickling fresh ingredients! From beetroot to onion, to tomato to radish. Pickled anything is a secret weapon in the epicurean arsenal, adding a bright crunch to sandwiches and salads or enjoyed on their own (even in a cocktail!). When home pickling, make sure you sanitise all containers, preferably glass jars, by boiling them first. For a pickling liquid, I like to follow the general 2:2:1 ratio of vinegar: sugar: water. Make sure to remove any excess water content from your ingredients before adding them to the jar so you do not dilute the tart acidity. On the stove, bring your pickling solution to a boil and then pour into the jar, covering all ingredients completely. Let it cool before refrigerating (no more than two hours). Store in the fridge for up to three months.
Theign Yie Phan, Head Chef, Le Garçon Saigon
There are two methods you can use for fermenting at home and both require a food scale, non-iodized salt and an anaerobic environment.
Method one: saltwater brine
Add ingredients to an air-tight container filled with water, then add an amount of salt that is equal to 4% of the total weight of the ingredients plus the water. Store it in a dark place between 20-28 degrees celsius for up to seven days. This method works best with hard root vegetables. One of my favourite ways to use it is to make fermented french fries for a fun twist on fish and chips.
Method two: vacuum sealer
Lightly rinse your ingredients with water (don’t scrub, you still want some natural bacteria) and add them to a vacuum bag with an amount of salt that is equal to 2% of the total weight of the ingredients. Seal and store in a dark place between 20-28 degrees celsius. Wait around four days before tasting. You can leave it for three more days for a stronger flavour but do not exceed seven days total. A great way to use this method is to ferment berries. They taste wonderful on top of French toast with whipped cream, in a tangy vinaigrette or on top of seafood crudos. If you want to save your product for a rainy day, store it in the freezer.
Braden Reardon, Head Chef, Carbone
Freezing your fruit is an easy, economical way to extend the life of anything sweet and fresh sitting on your counter and makes a great addition to smoothies. Wash and dry your fruit thoroughly, removing as much excess moisture as possible. Peel the skin, carving away any bruises or gashes. If your fruit is larger than bite-sized, cut or slice it into uniformly-sized pieces. Pat dry and spread in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined tray. Cover with cling wrap and place in the freezer for several hours. Once frozen, gently peel the fruit off the parchment paper and transfer to labelled freezer bags. You want to prevent freezer burn so make sure to squeeze as much air as you can out of bags before sealing them. Your fruit is now ready to go and will last for six to nine months.
Lisette Magampon, Head Chef, Osteria Marzia