A change of pace — With so many hot issues to choose from and very little left of a full and eventful day to do them justice, I’m making an abrupt detour to offer a tip for lovers of fruit, especially berries, instead.
Who hasn’t bought a basket of luscious strawberries that begin to spoil before they can be eaten? Whether ruby raspberries picked under the hot summer sun or blueberries from a hothouse that are nevertheless welcome in the dark of winter, there is a simple way to make them last until every one of them can be enjoyed.
It’s called thermotherapy — treating them not with chemicals, but with heat. As counterintuitive as it sounds, a brief hot bath goes a long way towards killing the mold spores that thrive on the damp skins of berries, stone fruits and grapes.
Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries: douse them in hot water, swishing them in their baskets, 125º for 30 seconds. Let them dry on towels, repack them and refrigerate (or not, if they are to be consumed within 24 hours). This works even on bruised berries, making the mold disappear.
Blueberries have thicker skins, so they can stand 140º for 30 seconds. The hot water will melt the whitish wax and leave them deeply blue.
In “The Curious Cook,” Harold McGee writes that after reading about a dozen test reports, he conducted experiments with different temperatures, from 113º to 145º, for a few minutes to 12 seconds at the hottest temperature. He tested every batch against a control, and in every instance the number of moldy berries was markedly higher in the untreated samples.