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Food Storage Tips: Storing fats (not on your body)

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Some fat is important in our diets. Traditional people who ate protein and no fat suffered something called rabbit starvation. Even Weight Watchers is now calling for their dieters to eat some healthy oil each day. Fats are especially important in the diets of young children.

But fats are tricky to store. Butter needs to be refrigerated or frozen. Some oils need refrigeration, or go rancid within months.

Coconut oil is an exception. Coconut oil stores well at room temperature for at least two years. Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat. It is solid at 76 degrees F and lower. Because it is saturated, that means it is more stable and doesn’t become rancid as quickly as other oils. This is the kind of oil that movie theaters traditionally cooked popcorn in. It has a high smoke point, which makes it good for frying.

There is a little bit of a health controversy about this oil. Back in the 1990s coconut and palm oils (tropical oils) were vilified for their saturated fat content. Now some people think coconut oil is a super health food. I’m not sure which is which; health information can be controversial and I’ll let you do your own research.

According to the Weston Price people linked above, coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is also in breast milk. Coconut oil seems like a healthy fat to have in storage for babies and young children, who need fat in their diets for proper brain development.

There are two different kinds of coconut oil: “virgin” and refined. Virgin coconut oil smells like coconut, which is delicious for some things and not desirable for other things. I made a chocolate cake with virgin coconut oil once, and the chocolate and coconut tastes did not blend together well. Virgin coconut oil is also outrageously priced at my health food store (about $16 per pound). Some people think it’s healthier though.

I buy LouAna coconut oil, which is “refined.” The LouAna coconut oil has a neutral smell and taste. It’s white like shortening. Because it melts over 76 degrees, it’s liquid in the summer at my house and solid the rest of the year. I find it at Super Wal-mart next to the shortening. At Super Wal-mart its price is comparable to the price of butter.

Olive oil is a healthy fat. This fat stores well too. It also has an expiration date of two years from manufacture. It stores best out of the sunlight. After it is opened it can go rancid faster, so small bottles may be best.

If you are not opposed to trans fats, there are other options here. Shortening is shelf stable. Margarine may be too, depending on the margarine. I remember hearing that in World War II margarine was white sticks with a bubble of yellow food coloring on top that people would use to color the margarine. Solid margarine without milk ingredients, like Nucoa, would probably store about as well as shortening on the shelf, though this is probably against the manufacturer’s instructions.

Vegetable oils have an expiration date of about 12-18 months out. Like olive oil, once opened it can go rancid faster.

Clarified butter, or ghee, is shelf stable. Making ghee involves melting the butter and skimming off the milk solids, then storing the remaining liquid in a jar. This is a common fat in India. Here is an article about making ghee, with pictures.

Also, last year I saw Red Feather canned butter for the first time at Macey’s grocery store in Utah Valley. I haven’t used it yet, but perhaps someone here can give us a review!

Other high-fat “storable” foods include peanut butter, mayonnaise, salad dressings, and tuna in oil.

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