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I need to cut up a large amount of fruit for use in a pavlova dessert tomorrow night - although the same question would no doubt apply to a fruit salad or other fresh fruit item.

Anyway, I won't have time to do this between dinner and dessert, so I'll need to prepare the fruit a few hours in advance, and I'd like to keep it looking and tasting super-fresh.

What can I do to preserve the appearance, texture, and flavour of the fruit for as long as possible after it's been cut up?

The fruits in question are apples, kiwis, and possibly a few bananas. I'd also be interested in knowing how to preserve strawberries, raspberries, and similar items.

I'd especially appreciate a complete breakdown of the process, i.e. is the freshness after a few hours going to be affected by how it's cut, storage vessels, air flow, temperatures, etc.?

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4 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I've preserved cut fruit for at least 6 hours before using just lemon juice. Lemon juice inhibits the oxidation of the fruit which prevents browning as well of a loss of crispness.

One lemon should be enough juice for a 1.5 quart bowl of cut fruit. Simply squeeze it over the fruit and toss gently to prevent bruising.

Since you'll be working with apples, kiwis, and bananas I think your best bet will be to keep them separate. The lemon juice will benefit both the apples and bananas, but might only be marginally effective if unnecessary for kiwi -- since kiwi brings plenty of its own citric acid to the table.

The fruit should be stored in the refrigerator to additionally inhibit oxidation. In my experience covering it with plastic wrap with a few holes poked in it works great. Aluminum foil should be fine as well. I find that the covering is primarily to protect your fruit from picking up other odors from within your fridge, and the holes permit the fruit to "breathe" releasing the buildup of ethylene gas that will occur if it is completely sealed.

If lemon juice is undesired you can use other citrus juices including: lime juice, orange juice, and pineapple juice. Obviously they will all bring their own flavors. If this flavoring is altogether undesired, then you should consider getting a commercial product called Fruit-Fresh. It's basically a powdered citric-acid, and kosher to boot.

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Is this method useful for chopped vegetables as well? –  MissesBrown Dec 4 '11 at 11:41
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Lemons. Just lots of freaking lemons.

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This isn't a good answer - part of the question asks about preserving the flavor of the fruit, and if you use "lots of freaking lemons", you'll just wind up with everything tasting like lemons instead of all the varieties of fruit you cut up. (Additionally, this answer would be better if it explained how/why lemons would keep the fruit fresh) –  Laura Sep 20 '13 at 15:17
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It is often best to use a less noticeable acid source such as fresh orange or pineapple juice. Using lemon juice or ascorbic acid will be very noticeable

Lightly brush the acid source on to the exposed fruit surfaces, do not soak the fruit in it or it will become too wet, and not very useful for Pavalova decoration

Let the fruit drip and dry on a rack for a while, and then cover (mesh netting etc.). Keep in a cool area. Avoid putting the fruit in the fridge if you can, unless the ambient temperature is just too warm

Fruit should not go in the fridge, it's is just too cold for it. Fridges cause discolouration, flavour, and texture loss. Remember fruit often grows in a very warm climate; kiwi fruit and berries grows at 20+°C, bananas often at 30+°C

You don't need much fruit to decorate a Pavlova, just enough for a little taste contrast with each slice. See the picture in What is the best way to making a great pavlova base?

It is common to use soft fruit. Hard fruit such as apple maked it difficult to eat combined with the very soft texture of the Pavlova base

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What about just diluting some lemon juice, say with 2 parts water? Not sure if I want orange-flavored apples. –  Aaronut Sep 30 '11 at 15:46
    
@Aaronut Use whatever citrus you like. Probably best not to dilute lemon juice, in general it has less ascorbic acid than oranges! Lemons have a stronger taste than orange or pineapple (the least noticeable), but that is not just ascorbic acid causing that. Also some Pineapples have a very low ascorbic acid content and may not work well –  TFD Sep 30 '11 at 21:19
    
Lemons are more acidic than oranges, it's just citric acid, not ascorbic. –  Aaronut Sep 30 '11 at 21:59
    
@Aaronut Yes lemons are more acidic that oranges. Ascorbic acid is generally a better preservative than citric acid (by volume and therefore bitter taste level). So you will find orange juice generally performs better at this –  TFD Oct 1 '11 at 0:31
    
@Aaronut Not all fruit are the same, so best to check you local supplies. Cut some apple and banana slices and brush with you local fresh lemon, orange, and pineapple juice. Let dry and taste and visual test after a few hours –  TFD Oct 1 '11 at 0:36
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In addition to lemon or other citrus juice, you can use Vitamin C - ascorbic acid - crystals. I don't, however, have any suggestion for how much to use. For a small bowl (about a cup), I've used just a pinch and it will actually reverse the browning of apples. For the amount of fruit you're dealing with, I'd mix some crystals and water and use it much the same way as lemon juice.

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