Dear Lisa: I cannot keep the bananas in my puddings from turning dark. This is the old time cooked custard poured over sliced fresh bananas and sealed with a cooked meringue. I have dipped them in lemon and lime juice and still by the next day the slices are dark.
Please help. -- Glenda Griffith
Dear Glenda: You are definitely doing the right thing by treating the banana slices with citrus juice. The ascorbic acid helps to create a barrier, which slows the oxidation that causes browning.
Similar treatments include using commercial preparations such as Fruit Fresh, or mixing a crushed vitamin C tablet with water to make a dipping solution. Even the pudding helps protect the banana slices from exposure.
Refrigerating the finished pudding is necessary to keep it food-safe, but the cold temperature actually causes chill damage to tropical temperature-loving bananas, hastening browning.
So despite our best interventions, bananas just want to turn brown. They can't help it.
They simply don't have keeping quality.
We just have to accept that beautiful banana pudding is ephemeral, so we have to eat it as fast as we can.
Lisa Fritz, a longtime Bryan food and nutrition educator, answers readers' questions about food, cooking and recipes. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.