Monsoon means fun and enjoyment. It means plenty of hot pakoras and samosas, bhuttas and jalebis, but it also means gastrointestinal infections. While you all know that you should be careful about what you eat during monsoon months, you probably don’t know that you got to be extra careful about storing your food items as well. You must pay attention to how you store the food, be it raw or cooked, wet or dry. This is because during the monsoon season, the chances of food items getting spoiled are very high, thanks to hot and humid weather which causes rapid multiplication and growth in the number and kinds of disease-causing micro-organisms. But with proper preservation and storage techniques, you can keep your food items fresh for long.
But before you read how to store food items, understand that cleanliness is the first step towards keeping insects and moulds at bay. The kitchen, especially the food preparation area, should be kept hygienic in order to avoid any chances of microbial contamination during the process of food preparation. “Moreover, cooked food must always be kept covered and kept away from raw food items that will likely be contaminated with microorganisms,” says Dr Saurabh Arora, Doctorate in Pharmaceutics.
Bread and other bakery products like cakes, pastries and confectionery are particularly susceptible to spoilage by moulds. So, take care not to keep these food items exposed to the moist air for long periods. Keep these in air tight containers and consume as soon as they are taken out of their air-tight packets.
Milk and milk products are susceptible to contamination and spoilage by microorganisms more in hot and humid weather. All dairy products should be properly pasteurized. Keep your cheese refrigerated always.
Vegetables and fruits
Wrap vegetables in newspapers before sealing them in zip lock bags to keep these fresh. Fruits should always be stored in refrigerators. Don’t keep cut fruits, even in refrigerator; consume fruits as soon as they are cut. Similarly, fruit juices should also be consumed fresh and not stored for later consumption.
Food once prepared should be consumed hot, soon after cooking. In case of consumption at a later time, it should be quickly cooled, carefully covered and put in refrigerator in order to avoid microbial contamination. In the refrigerator, the cooked food should be kept on the upper shelves while raw food should be kept on the lower shelves.
Grains and pulses
Avoid buying anything in bulk. Grains and pulses should be kept away from moisture as much as possible. Store these items in airtight containers to increase their shelf life. Another way is to dry roast grains and pulses or may be microwave them for 2-3 minutes before storing. But put them in containers only after these have cooled down.
Pulses that can be sprouted like kidney beans, chickpeas and Kabuli Matar should be stored in the refrigerator. You can add a little boric powder to keep pulses dry, but then you must make sure that you wash them thoroughly before each use to remove all the traces of boric powder.
Spices should be kept in air tight containers and placed in refrigerator. Bay leaves can be added to whole spices like cardamom, black pepper, cumin seeds and coriander seeds.
Salt and sugar
To keep salt dry, put a few grains of rice in its container as these will absorb any excess moisture.
To prevent sugar from becoming lumpy add some cloves in the container.
“Further, care should be taken not only for food items, but also for the various ingredients and additives that go into preparation of the dishes. These should also be kept in hermetically sealed containers, so that they are not exposed to moisture,” says Dr Arora.