Who doesn't love berries? Now that spring is in the air (in my mind, at least), I look forward to berries that don't have more travel experience than I do.
Berries don't last long and my usual weekly shopping routine means that I have no berries for half the week. One of the biggest problems is mold. Sometimes the berries go moldy in just a day! So I was very interested to read of a mold-prevention method by the great food-science writer, Harold McGee (author of The Curious Cook and On Food and Cooking).
Heat kills mold. It also kills the spores that spawn mold. No surprise there. But heat also wrecks delicate berries. The discovery is that berries are far more heatproof than one might imagine. There's a range of temperatures that place a serious hurt on mold without hurting the fruit. McGee wrote about it in his column, The Curious Cook, in the New York Times. He soaked berries in water heated to exact temperatures. He dried them with paper towels before repackaging and refrigerating them.
It sounds like a lot of trouble. But wait a minute. The berries arrive in a handy plastic container full of holes. Equally handy is that hot tap water is pretty close to the temperature McGee recommends. He used 125°F (52°C) water for 30 seconds and darned if my hot water isn't 125°F! Maybe there is an easy way...
- Run the hot water so it's as hot as it gets. You can measure it if you like, but don't worry if yours is higher or lower than 125, I think the method will be pretty effective unless your temperatures are considerably different.
- Open the berry container and put the whole container in a bowl a little deeper than the berry container. Run the hot water into the bowl and keep it running. If the bowl is the right size, the berries will mostly stay in their container. The berries need to be in hot water for at least 30 seconds. I left them for a minute or more.
- Lift the basket out of the water and drain.Turn it on one side, then the other, then upside down, draining it as well as you can.
And that's it! No fussing, no need to dry them with paper towels. The berries are washed and ready.
Now, I know that the usual recommendation is to not wash fruit until you're about to use them but this doesn't seem to matter. McGee does warn that 140 degrees F, the berries lose their "bloom," the natural waxy coating, so if your hot water is that hot, you may want to not use fully hot water.
Try it -- let me know about your experience in the comments.