Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Best Before, Now, and Later?

Late start (due to enjoying pleasant dreams - if I wake after a good dream, then go back to sleep, the dream will often continue - which this time it did, and all about food!!).   Busy day today as well, so had better get on writing my blog...

Your mention of pet food that you remember sold at butchers Pam, would have been normal meat (beef etc, although some could have been horse I suppose), carcases marked with a splodge of purple paint tells the butcher the meat is not to be sold for human consumption, but for pet food..
The 'beef' that I had bought from the greengrocer (mentioned yesterday) also had a oily sheen on it, a sort of rainbow effect like we see on oil split on roads,  but I've also seen that on thin slices of beef that sold in vacuum packs at the supermarket, so not quite sure what or why this 'sheen' is there.

There is a lot of halal meat used in this country Noor, also kosher (no difference between the two other than the prayers I understand), and because of our fast growing Muslim community, halal meat is now served at many school dinners for all scholars to eat.  Also in prisons.  Certainly, the majority (if not all) our Indian restaurants are owned by Muslims, so all the meat in their curries will be halal. 
I've no problem with eating halal (or kosher) meat although of course pork is not included in the diet of both religion, although watching Jewish TV cooks/presenters both in the UK (Nigella) and in the US (Adam Richman), notice they don't seem to abide by their laws, and eat pork as often as they eat any other variety of meat.
But suppose it is the same with any religion, some members are orthodox and abide strictly by the rules, others have drifted away.  My only 'beef' with that (no pun intended) is that I wish some wouldn't wave their religion in front of us (as I heard Adam R. proudly do recently) then shortly after see him munching his way through a big bun stuffed with shredded pork.

I'm not against any religion, in fact respect all of them. Myself believing there is more than one path to achieve eternal life (or whatever we deserve).  But I feel any religion is suspect when it spouts that it is the 'only one', and everyone else that has not joined them is doomed to eternal hell when they die.  There is no excuse for killing innocent people (especially children) in the name of a religion.  Only evil minded people do that, and the Devil is behind most of them.  As B says, most wars are started by religious fanatics, and unfortunately this seems to be true.  We are all 'sons of God', and 'brothers under the skin', so let's start by believing this and learn to love, not hate each other.
Better get off my soap box before I turn all of you against me. 

Yes, Debra, I did give suggestions of what could be made/served for that budget four-course gourmet meal.  Did give a recipe for a twice-baked souffle around that time as one dish that could be served as a starter, or with chicken livers and salad as a main course. 

Not sure if your project on 'food waste' is mainly about using up 'fresh food' gillibob, but as I know there are many people who are obsessed about sticking to 'use-by' (perhaps sensibly), and 'best-before' dates, throwing out everything that has reached it, the info I read yesterday re canned foods might make all of us think again.

The book I was reading:  "A Practical Guide to the use of Canned Foods" published by the Canned Foods Advisory Service, admittedly was published over 50 years ago.  No date on the book, but it still had a postcard inside that could be returned to give details of friends that could be sent a free copy, and the place for the postage stamp said 'penny stamp' (and that in old money).   The introduction seemed to deal with the time when women stayed at home, but would be helped by using canned foods due to the now lack of servants.  Houses then had 'kitchenettes' instead of the larger ones.

It was the mention in the book about the keeping quality of canned food that I found enlightening.  As canning foods had begun in the 19th century, some of the first used for 'Iron rations' in the Crimea, and widely used in expeditions, with Parry's Arctic expedition of 1824 proving that a cache of canned goods found 8 years later by Sir John Ross, but not opened until 1911 - EIGHTY SEVEN YEARS LATER - the contents (roast and boiled beef, vegetables and soups) were eaten and enjoyed. They were perfectly fresh.
Cans of food that Scott took with him on his South Pole expedition in 1910 is another example.  These too opened recently (just before the book was published) and found to be in prime condition.

It could be said that the above canned foods kept well because they were probably solid frozen all that time, but later in the book, in the 'question and answer' pages, the reply to "how long will canned foods keep?" was "Properly processed, they will keep indefinitely without spoiling, as long as nothing happens to make the can leak".

Coincidentally (or would this be a bit of serendipity?), yesterday also flicked through an old copy of Home and Freezer Digest (dated Oct. 1985) where a reader had sent in a query.  Her letter said: "I've discovered a can of salmon hidden away in my cupboard and I'm not sure how long I've kept it - a couple of years at least. Is it safe to eat?".  The reply given was: "Yes, indeed, as long as the can is undamaged, you could carry on storing it for up to 20 years.  A cool, dry cupboard will help to keep canned food in good conditions".

At the end of the reply was the suggestion that is we wish to get further information about canned foods, then write to the Canned Food Advisory Service.  Today am sure that they will have a website giving details of canned food 'shelf-life', storage etc.

Unfortunately, today it seems we are supposed to abide by the dates on cans and packets, but with many (and certainly canned foods) it is only 'best-before'.  From the earlier quotes given above, it seems that 'best-before' doesn't really apply, for however old the can is, the contents will remain as good as 'before', so why the need to put on dates anyway? 

Mentioned some years ago on this blog (but worth mentioning again), I once went into a local grocers who had very recently moved from selling over the counter (as in the old days) to letting customers take a small basket and help themselves from what was on the shelves.  At that time this was lots of fun, and I used to enjoy seeing so many different foods on display.  Helping myself felt almost naughty!
One day I saw a small tin of luncheon meat (or pork - a bit like Spam) for sale, only the one tin, but bought it because the tin had details of a free gift if you sent away proof of purchase or something. When I got home and began to read the details, noticed that the 'offer' ended some three years PREVIOUSLY.  This meant the meat had been canned several years before this, so wrote to the manufactures to complain they were still selling this 'old' meat, and they wrote back to say the grocer must have bought some old stock from some supplier, but they assured me the meat was still fit to eat, and would be for many years to come.  So opened the can, and of course the meat was perfectly OK.

Yet, why is it the Foodbanks insist of having food donated that still has months to go before the 'date' on the cans has been reached?  They say they cannot give foods to people that have gone over that date, even by just a day or two.  Who decides this?  Another 'jobsworth' person who can't wait to get more food into that waste bin? 

Myself sometimes feel that behind all these food 'quangos', there could be food companies who don't want people to store food, because if they did they would probably sell a lot less.  Once cans are dated (and very few have been given more than a couple of years shelf-life - which is pure nonsense), then brain-washed people will throw out the older (still perfectly usable) out-dated ones, and buy more new to replace them. 

In Prue Leith's book (mentioned yesterday), which I've now finished reading, in the later chapters plenty of mention of the larger catering industries taking over more reputable smaller ones, and the quality of meals went down whilst the prices went up.  As always with business - and especially food - it seems to be a case of who cares what the customer wants, we care only what profits we can make.   
In the paper yesterday read that (was it?) 69% of the money we pay certain supermarkets for our food goes into their coffers.  That's over two-thirds of our food budget.  If we also are supposed to be throwing away food costing about one-third of our budget, then it seems we have become like puppets, the food companies pulling our strings in every direction to get as much money from us every which way they can.

Surely this means the sooner we get back to cooking as much as we can from scratch, the better off we will be, and perhaps luckily this 'horsemeat' debacle has made customers think twice now before buying any processed foods.  I've even seen a lady (or two) on TV saying they now will only buy their meat from their local butcher, but still not buying minced beef.  So maybe this will see a rise in sales of domestic mincing machines, so we can buy our beef/lamb/pork... in the piece, and mince it ourselves.  As I often do, but usually 'mincing' it in the food processor, which works well when the 'pulse' button is used.

Am hoping all the above has given 'food for thought', and would very much like to hear what you have to say about this.  Everyone has their own opinion, and not always in agreement, so it would be good to hear all sides.  

Because of time limitations today will now be signing off.  With Norma the Hair coming tomorrow, it might be an early start, or a later one.  Either way, hope to be back as normal, even if only for a short while.  Hope to see from you then AND also 'hear' from you.  TTFN.