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Jul 3, 2006 07:27 PM

Storing Dairy.. but not in the Fridge???

I've just read an article which made me seriously reconsider all I knew about temperature modes of dairy storage.

Specifically, the author claims that the French... do NOT put their eggs (or butter, or cheese) in the fridge. Supposedly, the former are porous and thus will "soak up all the smells" and the latter is going to be "suffocated".

Well, last time I checked storage guidelines, you *were* supposed to put eggs in the fridge. Are there any French people in the forum to clarify the situation? In a related question, should I assume the worst when I visit a French restaurant?

Thank you

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  1. Eggs do not have to be refrigerated, especially if they have not been refrigerated before sale. They just age faster if unrefrigerated. It is common to sell eggs unrefrigerated in parts of Europe. You buy them as you need them. And use them.

    Butter and cheese do not have to be refrigerated. Actually, cheese can suffer in the 40F temperature of a refrigerator; it's really meant to be kept at an old-fashioned cellar temperature. Butter is perfectly fine if kept out of the light and away from heat; it softens at temps over 68F.

    Eggs, butter and cheese are all ancient foodstuffs, long antedating modern refrigeration. Butter and cheese are in fact ancient ways of extending the life of milk/cream by short-term preservation.

    It may help to remember the climate in certain parts of France is much different than many parts of the US, and central climate control is not as universal. So room temps can be cooler than many homes in the US.

    American storage guidelines take into account (1) the climate conditions common in many parts of the US, and (2) the American consumers' preference to stock up in quantity when there are sales rather than buying food as needed on a daily or similar basis. They also reflect a bit of obsessive compulsiveness about food handling, but I'll forego the rant on that subject.

    1. I should add that I agree completely about not putting certain foods in the fridge: for example, uncooked tomatoes should never be subjected to temps below 55F if you can help it -- it damages their flavor. This is also true for certain other products.

      1. I lived on a farm when I was young. We had our own chickens and never put their eggs in the fridge. The only time we refrigerated butter was in the summer, as we lived in an old, un-airconditioned house.

        1. All this is true unless you:

          -live somewhere very warm. I used to leave things out all the time in San Francisco, but wouldn't dream of doing it during this 90 degree heat wave we're having in SF (edit: not SF, I now live in sweltering LA).

          -don't get things fresh. Like mentioned above, if you're going to eat dairy, eggs, or butter fairly quickly you can leave them out. Supermarket products have been shipped cross country, left in warehouses, refrigerated, unrefrigerated, refrigerated again, and who knows what else. By the time they reach you they could be a month old already.

          I don't refrigerate eggs if I buy them at the farmers' market, and I leave out a few tablespoons of butter at night if I know I'm going to need them the next morning. Again, this does not apply during a heat wave.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Pei

            It's 90 degrees where you are in SF? Where?! All I can see is fog and would love to get the sun back that we had several weeks ago. Enjoy the 4th in your hot, little micro-climate, I am jealous and freezing in mine!

            1. re: rabaja

              oops, I mean I used to live in SF, now it's 90 in LA.

          2. I never refrigerate eggs, and I'd prefer not to refrigerate butter, but I find it does go off a lot faster when left out. Someone I used to know had a butter dish where you put the butter into a cup, then invert that cup into a slightly larger cup containing water. The water acts as a seal and prevents spoilage, and you still don't have to refrigerate. But I've never seen one of these things anywhere. Anyone here have any experience with these?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Kagey

              I use only unsalted butter as that's what I use in baking (and now don't like the salted butter they give you in restaurants), so I do refrigerate it as it goes off faster.