Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Handy tips from "How to Prevent Spoilage in the Grocery Store"

"How to Prevent Spoilage in the Grocery Store" is an undated staplebound booklet that was published by The Grocery Trade Publishing House1, located at 4925 West Erie Street in Chicago.

The price of the booklet was 15 cents.

The introduction states: "Every item in your store represents money. Your shelves contain 'package dollars.' Your bins, your canisters, your barrels, your cases in the 'back room' or in the basement — all contain goods paid for with hard-earned NET profit money. Most of those items are of a perishable nature. They deteriorate and spoil in time. This booklet tells you how to prevent spoilage — and thus save money. Read it carefully and see that everyone connected with the store reads it through. Keep it for reference. It will prove of great value to you in your business."

Here are some grocery-preserving tips from this decades-old booklet:
  • Pickles in bulk: Examine the barrels and kegs for leaks as soon as you receive them. ... It is absolutely necessary that pickles be kept at all times well under the liquor in which they are packed. Otherwise they will become soft and shriveled and will spoil quickly, the trouble extending through the entire package. ... Relish, chow chow, and other pickles of this kind should be stirred frequently in order to prevent stock from becoming dry on top.
  • Olives in bulk: Olives should be kept in a cool place and when opened should be kept away from odorous articles, such as kraut, salt fish, onions, etc.
  • Sauer kraut:2 All kraut will continue to "work" or ferment for a certain time and for that reason when a package is received it should be placed on end and the plug withdrawn. If this is not done, the pressure of fermentation will push the staves and heads out of shape, leaving the package in a leaky condition and with the appearance of being slack filled. Kraut should be brined at least three times a week while in dealer's hands, taking care not to use too much salt in the brine. Five ounces of salt to each gallon of water is the right proportion. When the package is opened to be retailed, a heavy weight should be placed upon the kraut so that it will be constantly covered with the brine.
  • Canned goods: Do not put canned goods on a dirt floor. ... If your cellar has a dirt floor, build a platform at least six inches from the floor on which to store goods.
  • Fish: If salt codfish is found upon arrival during hot weather to have on it red specks, it should not be sold as such specks are signs of deterioration. Notify at once the jobber from whom you purchased the goods. If the red specks develop later, they should be trimmed off to prevent their spreading.
  • Cheese: If you find that during the warm weather a cheese has become puffed or swollen, taking a fine wire and puncture the cheese in two or three places, then turn it upside down. In a short time the cheese will return to normal.3
  • A Good Way to Get Rid of Rats: Use a small size steel trap and secure the chain so you will find the rat where the trap was set. Lay one sheet of newspaper (after the trap has been set) over the trap and chain, to entirely conceal same; sprinkle shorts, corn meal, or, best of all, the soft part of graham bread, over the newspaper, just a little about the edges of the paper and a teaspoonful over the trap. If there is a rat about, you will have him sure next morning.
  • Will Prevent Breeding of Flies: Sprinkling a little borax in with the garbage will effectively prevent the breeding of flies.

1. Other titles issued by The Grocery Trade Publishing House, mostly from the 1920s through 1940s, included "The Grocer's Answer Book," "Food Buying Today," "The Handbook of Food Selling," "Food Buyer's Information Book," and "5000 Food Selling Phrases." Alexander Todoroff appears to have been the company's primary author.
2. Full disclosure: I love sauerkraut. But I'm the only one in my household who does. So I get most of my kraut from convenience stores and from small cans that I open and warm up when I'm least likely to offend others.
3. Ummm.

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