The perishable foods include milk and milk products, meat, fish, poultry, fruits, and leafy vegetables. One criterion for selection of perishable foods is that these must be fresh. In practice this means milk freshly drawn, fish freshly caught from a river or sea, meat soon after slaughter, eggs just laid, vegetables just harvested from the garden and fruits just picked from the tree. As far as possible perishable foods should be used fresh or must be kept under refrigeration till further use to maintain their quality. Purchase perishable foods last and take home quickly to refrigerate.
Selection criteria for milk and milk products
Following points should be considered while choosing good quality milk and milk products:
- Fresh milk has a slightly sweetish odour and flavour, is white in colour and has a faintly acid reaction to litmus. Stale milk has a sour odour, flavour and curdles when heated. Do not choose milk which tastes sour or bitter.
- Any sample of milk, buttermilk or curd having a frothy, bubbly surface, rope formation; discolouration and fat separating out into clumps should not be purchased.
- Smell gives a good idea of quality of milk and milk products. The milk and milk products therefore should bear their characteristic smell.
- Good quality butter is made from high-quality fresh, sweet cream and has delicate, sweet flavour, with a fine, highly pleasing aroma and smooth, creamy texture with good spreadability. Butter tasting rancid should be discarded.
- Good quality paneer shall have a soft texture with a natural white colour. It should not have off flavour or show any signs of spoilage like mould growth and slimy surface etc.
- Cheese and curds with off-flavours, mould growth and slimy surface should not be chosen.
- Fresh khoya has a sweet delicate aroma and taste. Stale khoya has a rancid odour and a flat taste. Buffalo milk is preferred over cow’s milk in preparation of khoya, as the former gives it soft body and smooth texture.
Selection criteria for meat, poultry and fish:
The kinds and forms of flesh foods available include lamb, mutton, poultry, pork and fish. The general considerations which are to be kept in mind while buying meat are as given below:
- When shopping, place packaged raw meat, poultry and fish in plastic bags and keep from contact with other foods.
- Meat: Meat is selected on the basis of conformation or form, finish and quality. Conformation or form refers to the shape or build of the animal. Good form consists of short, thick, compact build, with large muscles, which have high proportion of meat to bone. Finishindicates the amount and distribution of fat. An even layer of fat on the outside of the carcass and even distribution of fat in the lean part are indicators of a good finish. In good qualitymeat, three aspects are observed, such as, lean meat is bright red in colour, when cut surface is exposed to air; it is fine grained and smooth to touch, and the fat is firm, brittle and creamy white in colour. Meat prices vary according to the cut, quality and kind. Selection is made according to the intended use in preparation.
- Meat should be bought from a clean and hygienic shop and should be free from bad odour.
- Meat should be refrigerated after slaughter, until it is sold/ preserved.
- Slime on the surface of meat indicates deterioration.
- Meat should have deep red colour with white or creamy fat. Very dark brown or green colour and yellow fat are the signs of poor quality meat. When the meat is greenish and smells bad it is of poor quality and not safe for eating.
- Poultry: In poultry, there is a relatively high proportion of waste from live weight to edible portion. Edible portion is only about 55 per cent of live weight. Selection is made on the basis of intended use of the poultry. In a young bird, the skin and breast-bone are pliable, soft and tear easily. Older birds have hard calcified breast-bone and may have a lot of long hair. Weight is not necessarily related to the age of the bird. In young birds sex difference is not significant, but older male birds are less fatty and are inferior in flavour to female birds. Poultry which is dressed, should be properly refrigerated.
- Good quality poultry is full fleshed, meaty legs and breasts and has a good layer of fat. The skin is smooth, without tears and discolouration or pin feathers.
- In general, while buying chicken ensure that the skin of the chicken is soft and tear easily
- The breast bone should bend easily. If one twists the wing it should break at the shoulder joint. Select female birds, as they are juicier and less tough.
- Eggs: Eggs are sorted according to size. Large eggs are preferred for table use. When eggs are used in preparation, size is not important and selection is made in terms of price in relation to size. to purchase fresh, clean and unbroken eggs.
- It is advisable buy fresh, clean eggs with unbroken shell.
- A fresh egg will sink in water.
- Pork: The best quality of pork has muscle that is grayish white to pink in young and deep rose in older animals. The flesh is firm and fine grained and the bones are soft and red. It has a minimum of fat. Lower quality pork is heavier and contains more fat.
- Fish: It should have firm flesh and bright skin with a lot of well adhering scales. It must have bright, clear and unsunken eyes and red shiny gills like fresh blood.
- Disagreeable colour and flesh that leaves a dent when pressed and dry skin in fish are signs of spoilage.
- Skin should have little shine and body must be stiff.
- As a rule, if placed in water, the fish will sink and it is considered good.
- Stale fish would float on water, so avoid them.
- Be sure to purchase fish, which has been refrigerated or stored on ice, and is not slippery or slimy to touch.
- Frozen fish should be frozen solid when purchased, and should have no odour. It should be wrapped in water proof packaging material. It should be kept frozen until use.