GAL­LEY BA­SICS

No fridge? No prob­lem. Here’s how to keep the crew well fed

SAIL - - Contents - By Carolyn Shear­lock

Get­ting the most out of your boat re­frig­er­a­tor means be­ing able to have the foods you want on board, having cold drinks, be­ing able to find what’s in the re­frig­er­a­tor and us­ing as lit­tle power as pos­si­ble in the process. Some­what coun­ter­in­tu­itively, all that starts by tak­ing some of the con­tents out.

“What!” I hear you say­ing. “I’m al­ready frus­trated that I can’t put as much in there as I want to!”

Bear with me for a minute. By know­ing what doesn’t re­ally have to be re­frig­er­ated and re­mov­ing it, there will be more room for the things that do need to be kept cold, the cold air will cir­cu­late bet­ter and it’ll be much eas­ier to or­ga­nize and find the con­tents.

In homes, we tend to re­frig­er­ate a lot of pro­duce that does just as well un­re­frig­er­ated. There are a num­ber of al­ter­na­tives to dairy prod­ucts, for ex­am­ple, that don’t re­quire re­frig­er­a­tion un­til they are opened. Since th­ese can take up a lot of space in the re­frig­er­a­tor, they are there­fore prime can­di­dates for re­moval.

STOR­ING PRO­DUCE

When it comes to stor­ing un­re­frig­er­ated pro­duce, if pos­si­ble buy vegeta­bles and fruit that have never been re­frig­er­ated. Oth­er­wise, lay them out to warm up and wipe off any con­den­sa­tion be­fore stor­ing them; items must be dry or they will rot. Be very picky when buy­ing and don’t ac­cept any with blem­ishes or bruises, as they will go bad much more quickly. Ven­ti­lated bins are great for most items. Cre­ate “dark­ness” by plac­ing a dish towel or old T-shirt over the con­tents.

To­ma­toes: Buy them in vary­ing stages of ripeness, in­clud­ing those that are still green. Ei­ther store them in a dark place, wrap them with pa­per tow­els or news­pa­per or stick them in tube socks—they need dark­ness to ripen. Un­wrap when ripe and use within two days. By buy­ing in var­i­ous stages of ripeness, you can have a sup­ply for two weeks or more.

Car­rots and Cel­ery: Wrap th­ese in alu­minum foil, but don’t to­tally seal the packet. In­stead, leave lit­tle open­ings at the end for mois­ture to es­cape. Oth­er­wise, they’ll rot. They may dry out some, so re­ju­ve­nate in wa­ter. Both car­rots and cel­ery will eas­ily last one week, of­ten two weeks or more.

Mush­rooms: Place mush­rooms one or two deep in a ven­ti­lated tray or bin and they’ll last up to a week, of­ten longer than they last in a re­frig­er­a­tor. They may dry out a lit­tle, but will re­main ev­ery bit as good when cooked.

Cab­bage and Brussels Sprouts: Keep cool. Even in the trop­ics, cab­bage will last sev­eral weeks as long as you pro­tect it from bruis­ing too much. Let­tuce does not keep well even in the re­frig­er­a­tor, so cab­bage be­comes the “salad sta­ple” for cruis­ers. Napa cab­bage is a good al­ter­na­tive that’s closer to the tex­ture of let­tuce and will last at least a week. If the cut edge of ei­ther turns black, just trim it off. Brussels sprouts gen­er­ally last a week with­out re­frig­er­a­tion.

Squash and Zuc­chini: Small sum­mer squashes last much bet­ter than larger ones and will keep 10 days or some­times longer in bins. They don’t

need any spe­cial treat­ment be­sides re­mov­ing the plas­tic wrap. If they start to wilt, use them in a cooked dish in­stead of eat­ing raw—you won’t no­tice that they’re not crisp. Hard squashes, like spaghetti and acorn squash, will last a month or more with no spe­cial treat­ment other than pro­tect­ing them from bruis­ing. Once cut, the en­tire squash must be used.

Cit­rus Fruit: Or­anges, grape­fruit, lemons and limes all last sev­eral weeks to a month if you wrap each one in­di­vid­u­ally in foil and pro­tect them from bruis­ing. Store away from other pro­duce, as cit­rus will cause other fruits and vegeta­bles to ripen and rot more quickly.

DAIRY PROD­UCTS

Again, car­ry­ing enough milk for break­fasts and sour cream for happy hour dips takes up a lot of re­frig­er­a­tor space, which you’ll be­grudge if you’re out for more than just a few days. An­other bonus of us­ing non-re­frig­er­ated al­ter­na­tives is that you don’t have to worry about food go­ing bad.

In­stead of try­ing to find space for mul­ti­ple large car­tons of milk, buy boxed UHT milk in Tetra Paks that only have to be re­frig­er­ated once opened. Boxed milk also usu­ally comes in quarts, so it doesn’t take up much space even when it does go in the fridge. Boxed milk can some­times be tough to lo­cate in gro­cery stores, but most do carry it; it’s of­ten in the Latin foods aisle or with bak­ing sup­plies or cof­fee. Al­mond and soy milk are also sold in Tetra Paks.

You can make your own sour cream from non­re­frig­er­ated in­gre­di­ents by adding one or two tea­spoons of white vine­gar, lemon or lime juice to one 8-oz (250 ml) can of me­dia crema (sim­i­lar to half and half and sold in the Latin foods aisle of most gro­ceries). Stir well, re­frig­er­ate for half an hour, then use as you would reg­u­lar sour cream.

OR­GA­NI­ZA­TION

Having less in the re­frig­er­a­tor alone will greatly im­prove things by mak­ing it eas­ier to see what’s there and find the items you need. How­ever, by tak­ing just a few more sim­ple steps you can im­prove the sit­u­a­tion fur­ther still. The key is to have an or­ga­ni­za­tional plan and al­ways put the same cat­e­gories of items in the same places. This, in turn, will both help you find items and re­duce the time the fridge is open, greatly less­en­ing the power re­quired to run it. Get­ting cold drinks out, for ex­am­ple, is the rea­son be­hind the ma­jor­ity of times the re­frig­er­a­tor is opened on our boat. So we don’t just put “drinks” in one area, but go a step fur­ther and al­ways put beer, wa­ter, so­das and iced tea in the same or­der, from left to right, and al­ways put the warm ones in the back, so there’s never a doubt as to which are the cold­est. Bins are almost im­per­a­tive in large top-load­ing re­frig­er­a­tors, since by us­ing sev­eral lay­ers of bins, it’s easy to re­move the top ones to quickly get to items be­low. Bins will also help pro­tect frag­ile items, such as greens and eggs. Keep drinks (and meats, if nec­es­sary) in the bot­tom layer where it’s cold­est and pro­duce on the top where it’s warm­est and won’t have any­thing fall­ing on top of it. Al­though I now have a front-load­ing re­frig­er­a­tor, I find that bins are still use­ful to keep like items to­gether and or­ga­nized so that I can get things out quickly and not lose any more cold air than ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. Bins also make it easy to see if I’m get­ting low on some­thing. I have a sep­a­rate bin, or drawer for snacks, pro­duce, eggs and med­i­ca­tions. Drinks are in des­ig­nated spots, as is ev­ery­thing else. Even left­overs are al­ways put in the same place! My pref­er­ence is bins with solid bot­toms and ven­ti­lated sides, so that any­thing that spills is con­tained but cold air can still cir­cu­late. If you can’t find any the right size, get solid ones and then use a drill or Dremel tool to make ven­ti­la­tion holes. Us­ing bins also helps when it comes time to de­frost the re­frig­er­a­tor. You can sim­ply re­move the bins and put spare pil­lows and blan­kets over them to keep the con­tents cool.

frost gets over ¼in thick on the evap­o­ra­tion plates will sig­nif­i­cantly lessen the power used. Small boat re­frig­er­a­tors (par­tic­u­larly front-load­ing ones) are also sub­ject to more tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions than home re­frig­er­a­tors, as there is less cold mass and less cold air over­all in­side. For this rea­son, meat, poul­try and seafood are best kept in the freezer (if there is no room in the freezer, put in the cold­est part of the re­frig­er­a­tor, which is usu­ally the low­est area). Be­fore cast­ing off, I re­move the meat from any bulky pack­ag­ing in may have come in, bone it if nec­es­sary and repack into pack­ages that con­tain just enough for a sin­gle meal. Ev­ery day, I then re­move that evening’s meat from the freezer and let it de­frost in the re­frig­er­a­tor sec­tion.

CON­CLU­SION

Once I re­fined how and where I kept ev­ery­thing, we could eat well with plenty of fresh meat and vegeta­bles. Even with a tiny 3-cu­bic-foot re­frig­er­a­tor, we can eas­ily go two weeks with­out a re­pro­vi­sion­ing run. And that means that we get to spend more time in won­der­ful but out-of-the-way places! s

Carolyn Shear­lock has lived aboard and cruised for 10 years on two very dif­fer­ent boats: a mono­hull Tayana 37 (with a top-load­ing re­frig­er­a­tor) and now a Gem­ini 105M cata­ma­ran (with a front-loader); cur­rently based in the Florida Keys, she’s the au­thor of the­boat­gal­ley.com, where you can also pur­chase her book, Stor­ing Food with­out Re­frig­er­a­tion

Cab­bage lasts for weeks Wrap cit­rus fruits in foil Eat your sprouts in­side a week Squash will keep a month or more

Or­ga­ni­za­tion is the key to get­ting the most out of your fridge

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