There are many reasons why Filipinos love the Christmas season. Besides exchanging gifts and spending precious moments with family and friends, the holidays are also a time for indulging in and exchanging sumptuous dishes at various parties and family reunions. After all, serving and sharing good food is a significant part of Filipino culture, especially during the most awaited time of the year.
Whether you’re hosting gatherings this year or attending celebrations, you’ll probably have plenty of holiday meals, food gifts, and leftovers that you need to store. And if you think that all you have to do is squeeze everything into your refrigerator so you can enjoy them later, there are several other considerations for storing food. To keep your food fresh and safe to eat, you should be mindful of good food safety practices. Don’t know where to start? Here are a few tips to help you pack and store holiday food properly:
Keep Your Refrigerator and Freezer at the Right Temperature
When it comes to extending the life of your delicious holiday staples and keeping your family safe from foodborne illness, your refrigerator and freezer are two of your most reliable kitchen partners. However, just because you keep leftovers and other food items in your refrigerator or freezer doesn’t mean they will remain safe for consumption. The key is to chill them at ideal temperatures to inhibit or slow down the growth of harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and C. botulinum.
To ensure that your appliances are doing their job, keep your ref temperature at or below 4oC and your freezer temperature at -18oC. If you want to keep your holiday leftovers (and day-to-day food in general) for months or take advantage of seasonal sales on meats and veggies, perhaps you can buy chest freezer. Aside from providing a much bigger storage space, chest freezers have built-in sidewall insulation that helps maintain the perfect temperature while using less energy. Best of all, they prevent food damage or freezer burn because there’s significantly less air circulation compared to ordinary freezers.
Store Food in Small Portions
While it may be tempting to simply put aluminum foil or food wrap over the entire serving platter, it’s best to transfer the food into smaller containers. Not only will it speed up the cooling process and prevent bacterial growth, but storing large quantities of food in smaller portions can also help preserve food quality and flavor. Best of all, portioning it into serving sizes will make reheating hassle-free. Try packing food in microwave-safe containers. That way, you can readily pop a serving or two into the microwave instead of having to reheat the entire batch.
Put Labels on Everything
After transferring holiday leftovers into clean containers, the next step will be to attach labels indicating the food names and storage dates before putting them in the ref or freezer. With this simple trick, you can easily keep track of your stored holiday food items and plan a reheating schedule to avoid spoilage and food wastage. When properly stored in the freezer, you can save:
- Lechon for up to 2 months
- Soups with veggies or meat for 2 to 6 months
- Cooked fish for 4 to 6 months
- Fried chicken for up to 4 months
- Meat stews (menudo, mechado, kare-kare, etc.) for 4 to 6 months
- Lasagna for up to 3 months
- Steamed embutido for up to 3 months
- Filipino-style spaghetti for up to 2 months
Keep Baked Goods in the Freezer
If you’re wondering how to keep pies, cakes, and other baked goodies fresh for longer, your best bet is to place them inside the freezer instead of the refrigerator or bread box. Wrap the baked goods in aluminum foil, then secure them with plastic wrap before freezing to lock in the freshness. Do this trick when you receive baked desserts as gifts during the holidays so you can keep and enjoy them for up to three months after. Remember to thaw frozen baked goods in the ref overnight before reheating them in the oven or toaster to preserve their texture.
Avoid Overloading Your Refrigerator
Keep in mind that your sumptuous holiday dishes and treats can only maintain their freshness if they stay cool inside the refrigerator. As such, you should avoid overfilling your refrigerator. In order to keep its contents properly chilled, there has to be enough room inside the fridge for the cooled air to circulate. If you’re short on space, consider using food-safe plastic seal bags as they don’t take up as much space as hard plastic or glass containers. You can also keep drinks and beverages in a separate cooler to create more room inside the fridge.
A Filipino Christmas isn’t complete without a bounty of food to be shared with friends and family. Make sure that everything stays delicious and safe to eat! With these easy pointers, you can prepare many of your Noche Buena or Media Noche specialties ahead of time, and keep holiday dishes and leftovers fresh long after the feasts have ended.
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