The pandemic and lockdowns have introduced the world to stocking for eternity (though not literally!!). And this has slowly become a habit for most of us. But what we tend to forget is that after a couple of months of scorching heat, India witnesses pre-monsoon, monsoon, and post-monsoon seasons. Even the spring and winters are wet sans humidity. So, in a country with a tropical climate most of the year, one needs to save things that have a shorter shelf life.
Since molds and fungus are common, one needs to restrict the hoarding of ingredients. The thumb rule is: stocking is ok but stuffing the pantry is a big NO. One can buy limited items and re-purchase them later. Buying sealed and packed items from the store also needs a keen eye. They can also be infected with fungus or molds due to an increased level of moisture in the air. Ingredients that can generally go bad due to moisture are pulses, flours, spices, condiments, herbs, vegetables, and fruits. However, each of these categories can be stored for a longer duration. Follow these simple tips to save them from getting spoilt.
Air-tight containers and Ziplocs come in handy especially during monsoon season when moisture is optimum. The ingredient gets spoilt if moisture comes in contact with air. Air-tight containers and Ziplocs seal up the ingredient and do not allow airflow to pass through the ingredient. Air-tight jars are perfect to save pulses and grains. They can also be used to store whole spices, condiments, and spice powders.
Lining the lids of the jars with tissue paper also acts as a preventive measure. It is important to keep in mind that only a clean and dry spoon gets inside a jar to pick up ingredients. Ziplocs can be used to store herbs like coriander, mint, or curry leaf. Herbs, after cleaning and drying, can be wrapped in individual tissue papers, sealed in Ziplocs, and stored in a fridge. Dry fruits are also best stored in Ziplocs. One can also stash them in refrigerators.
Silica Gel Packets:
Silica gel sachets and packets are ideal for absorbing moisture. They can be used practically everywhere to preserve ingredients. One can use them in jars inside the pulses or grains. Silica gel sachets can also be used in sugar or salt containers. They prevent clogging for the formation of lumps in sugar and salt. They are also safe to use as they do not mix with the ingredient and can easily be removed. One can also add them in containers that have coffee powder or tea.
The Good Old Fridge:
Most flours like whole wheat flour, chickpea flour, all-purpose flour, rice flour, or any other flour have a tendency to absorb moisture. Molds and clumps are quite a common occurrence with flours. So, in such cases, a deep freezer is the best option. One can seal the cut packets with clips and store them in the upper part of the refrigerator. Lower temperature prevents the growth of fungus. This increases the shelf life of the flours. The lower part of the fridge is perfect for fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Storing different types of vegetables and fruits in perforated veggie bags can reduce moisture contact. Other perishables like jams, butter, and other condiments can also be stored in the fridge to prevent them from getting spoilt.
Dry Roast and Sun drying:
Dry roasting and sun drying are age-old techniques to remove any moisture from whole spices and spice powders. One can dry roast in a wok or an oven at a slow temperature for a short duration. This does not change the aroma or texture of the spice or spice mix. Sun drying is a sure shot way to dry an ingredient naturally. Sunlight also removes pests or bugs that are also responsible for increasing moisture content and spoiling the ingredient.
Cloves, Bay Leaf, and Dried Red Chilli:
Certain whole spices have the qualities to save ingredients from getting spoilt. These whole spices have anti-fungal properties. They prevent moisture from spoiling the ingredients, especially flours and spice powders.
Meals are tasty and healthy if they are cooked with ingredients that are not spoilt or stale. While spoilt ingredients are harmful to health, stale ingredients are not palatable to be consumed. Stale ingredients lose their flavour, texture, and nutritive value. Moisture is the main reason for ingredients to get spoilt. One spends a lot of money on buying stuff. So, it is important to preserve the ingredients and store them well till they last. Storage jars, hands, measuring scoops or cups, or anything that touches the ingredient, one should not forget that the mantra is clean and dry!!