It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. ~ Mark Twain
When George Gershwin composed the song It Ain’t Necessarily So, he was onto something. I’d love to have a nickel for everything I was taught or told or just accepted as fact in the course of my life. From food preservation to gardening to animal husbandry to medicine to finance, there have been a lot more ‘not-so’ things than ‘so’ things. A while back I did a post on not needing to waterbath jams and jellies; I got more than 100 comments corroborating my “not-so” position. At which point it occurred to me there are lots of other not-so things out there, and shazaam, I had an ongoing blog topic. Here’s the latest “it ain’t necessarily so” (IANS).
All ‘perishable’ foods must be refrigerated. In a few cases, this is right on. In others, it’s a ‘not-so.’
If you are raising your own eggs from healthy hens, they can sit out on the counter for at least a week. A hen covers her eggs with a special protective coating (over and above the shell) at the time they are laid. It’s called the bloom or cuticle. If you’ve ever picked up a just-laid egg, you may have felt the slightly moist texture — that’s the coating. The coating is semi-permeable, as the egg needs to breathe, but it keeps bacteria from getting inside the shell. This is because birds lay only one egg every day or two. The hen waits until she has several in her clutch before she starts to incubate them, so nature developed this mechanism to keep the eggs in good shape. Now, you can’t use this method with store-bought eggs, as they have been washed and disinfected so that the cuticle no longer exists (which is one reason why store-bought eggs are more likely to carry salmonella).
Butter can be kept at room temperature for at least a week if it’s covered (and it’s a lot easier to spread). If it’s submerged in water, you can keep it for up to a month. Old-style butter-keepers have two pieces: a smallish bowl to put the butter in and a large bowl into which you put water. Fill the small bowl with butter and turn it upside down in the water.
Leafy greens with stalks — like chard, collards or kale — and herbs do just fine in a vase of water outside the fridge. If you’re going to keep them more than a couple of days (remember, they’re more nutritious when freshly harvested), first thing each morning, cut off the bottom ½ inch of the stalks and change the water.
Some perishable foods – like tomatoes, avocados and melons – absolutely shouldn’t be refrigerated. Keep them at room temperature (but do try to use them within four days).
You can keep ketchup and mustard on the shelf pretty much indefinitely. Ditto honey, which will last for decades if not hundreds of years. Although I personally haven’t tried this one, I understand that people who sail the ocean (which I don’t, being susceptible to seasickness) have found you can keep commercial mayonnaise at room temperature almost indefinitely, as long as you are careful to only use a clean spoon or knife each time you take out mayonnaise.
Take a Missouri Approach
Missouri is the “show me” state. The mental attitude of “you’ll have to prove it to me” is a good one. Use your common sense. When your experience or that of people you trust is contrary to accepted scientific wisdom or expert recommendations, odds are very high the scientific wisdom and the experts are out to lunch. Ask the old homicide lawyer’s question, “Cui bono?” Loosely translated as “Who benefits?” what it actually means is “To whose profit?” I remember the cigarette companies’ “research” that showed cigarettes didn’t cause lung cancer. I also remember that eventually it became very obvious that those companies falsified or suppressed research that made it quite clear tobacco in any form increased the risk of cancer and a bunch of other nasty diseases. When big bucks, company survival or professional reputations are on the line, ethics quite often take a back seat. Circus entrepreneur PT Barnum was the one who coined the sucker-born-every-minute rule. Don’t be a sucker and remember: it ain’t necessarily so.