Transporting perishable gifts on a plane
October 24, 2007 6:09 AM   Subscribe

Help me get important, perishable gifts home through 18 hours of plane flights! (Cream/Cake thing, Chocolate truffle thing, and hard-cider-like thing!)

I'm taking some perishable gifts home to my family, and am hoping to maximize my chances for success on this endeavor. The gifts have some personal meaning, and so "Just pick other gifts!" is unfortunately not as good of an option as it appears.

The three in question are:

Gift A: A Pariserspitz, which is a chocolate truffle covered in hard dark chocolate. I'm considering freezing this with gift B and putting them together into a freezer-insulated bag (one of those big silver plastic shopping bags with an insulating layer).

Gift B: A Napoleon, which is a layered cake of sweet cream and sheet-dough. After getting warned at the bakery that there's no way this is going to get home without spoiling, I've decided to freeze it and put it in a freezer-insulated bag. I realize this may compromise the texture of the cream, but this is the most important gift, so if you have any better ideas, give 'em here.

Gift C: Sturm, or young wine, resembles hard apple cider made from grapes. They sell it here in *not-air-tight* bottles with warnings that one should not tip it over (or it will spill through the top), and to keep it in the fridge. I'm considering moving it to smaller sealable water bottles and leaving, say 1/3 of it empty so that there's room for the CO2 to collect without rupturing the bottle. Alternatively I could move it to smaller bottles (with some room for expansion) and then freeze it. This is perhaps the hardest one, as I really have no idea how this stuff behaves when you mess with its environment. (Do frozen carbonated drinks stay carbonated when they thaw? Does hard cider die out when frozen? Does hard cider turn deadly when unrefridgerated for a day? Does it produce an unlimited amount of CO2 until whatever container it's in explodes? What are some likely reasons for the top of the bottle to be intentionally not-air-tight, and what's likely to happen if I move it to an air-tight container?)

Many thanks

Oh yeah, can I assume that inside the plane cargo area will be (very) cold? Isn't it very cold up there usually?
posted by anonymoose to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Frozen carbonated beverages definitely do not stay carbonated. I ate a lot of Coca-cola ice cubes as a child, and while they were interesting, they definitely were no longer carbonated.

Re: the Napoleon -- Would it be possible for the bakery to package the layers separately from the cream, and then you could assemble the whole thing when you got home? Freezing plain whipped cream, BTW, doesn't work that well, but you can always re-whip it. Napoleon cream might be more like [American] pudding, so it might or might not freeze well. The cake, sans cream, should be good.
posted by amtho at 6:30 AM on October 24, 2007

I would see if you can bring the 2 sweets on as carry ons. I don't think the freezer bag will cut it - I think you would need to put them in a sturdy cooler to prevent crushing and smashing, and carrying it yourself would insure that it won't get tipped over, ruining the appearance of the sweets. Freezing them and then sticking them in a small, hard-sided cooler would probably be the best way to keep them cold enough & safe.

If it wouldn't get through security, then what about international overnight mail? (I assume that 18 hours means an international flight) It would be expensive, sure, but it will get your gifts there and in one piece.

As for the sturm, I don't really know much about it, so hopefully someone else has some info.
posted by tastybrains at 6:34 AM on October 24, 2007

I wouldn't freeze the sturm. I brought a bunch of schnapps back from Vienna last year and the way I protected them was by putting the bottles inside sealed plastic bags and then inside layers and layers of socks. Then I put them all in the center of my suitcase surrounded by clothing. There was so much padding, no way anything was going to break them.

As for the cakes, I hand carried a sachertorte on the plane. I didn't trust it in cargo. I wasn't given any problems at all by anyone, actually when the customs guys saw that it was just a fancy chocolate cake they decided to uncheck "food" on the customs form so I wouldn't have to go through any extra screening.

Good luck.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:36 AM on October 24, 2007

Gift A should keep fine. Take it on the plane.

Gift B will not withstand freezing and thawing, it will be a disgusting soggy mess. I don't think there is any way of keeping Gift B presentable, I would just take it home as normal and give the recipient a little "well it's the thought that counts" smile as you hand it over.

C seems easiest to me. It will keep well, all you should do is pour the contents into a regular sealable bottle and pack the original bottle as normal.
posted by fire&wings at 6:37 AM on October 24, 2007

Is this an international trip?
posted by winston at 6:53 AM on October 24, 2007

Assuming you're crossing a border during those 18 hours, I would figure out whether customs at your destination will allow you to import the foods before figuring out how to transport them. For example, it appears that the cream in the Napoleon cannot be imported to the US without a permit.

Unsealed bottles of wine, or bottles your sealed yourself, also strike me as likely to cause problems.
posted by backupjesus at 6:54 AM on October 24, 2007

This is a trip from Austria into California. I honestly have no idea how customs works, as I've never declared anything before, so some experience on that front would be useful.

Seems a little weird for them to confiscate my slice of cake and chocolate truffle. A little less weird on the unsealed bottles of wine front, though.
posted by anonymoose at 6:59 AM on October 24, 2007

If you're flying into San Francisco international, don't worry about the wine (or the cream). The customs officials here are more concerned with people accidentally importing fruit and meat (which will be discarded at the airport).

I've flown into SF regularly with spirit 'bottles I've sealed myself' and unpasteurized cheese without any problems.
posted by Arthur Dent at 7:17 AM on October 24, 2007

Fedex ship them?
posted by mazienh at 8:02 AM on October 24, 2007

I wouldn't put the Sturm in a sealed bottle. As you know the bottles are not sealed because the CO2 needs to be able to escape, or the bottle will explode. Also keep in mind that while the plane is pressurized, the pressure is equivalent to being about 2500 m above sea level. This would increase the risk of the sealed bottle exploding - increasing pressure on the inside and decreasing pressure on the outside make for an even bigger pressure difference.
posted by amf at 8:03 AM on October 24, 2007

Don't put them in the cargo hold and be careful about putting them in the overhead storage bins. You might have to put them all on your lap.

There is no possible way I'd be able to sit still, staring at those sweets for 18 hours and not succumb to the temptation to start picking at them with my fingers.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:20 AM on October 24, 2007

Are the napoleons from Austria different than the ones in the US? That seems like the one thing that is really going to be the worse for wear, and I've had quite good ones here.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:09 AM on October 24, 2007

I have a bad feeling about the napoleon...assuming it's made as it is here (with puff pastry dough and pastry cream) it seems freezing would be the worst thing, as the dough would be completely soggy upon thawing. I would try carrying it on in an insulated bag and hoping for the best.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 11:16 AM on October 24, 2007

The truffles will do fine if you keep them cool and unsmushed.

The Napoleon... It's fucked. I can barely transport them from the bakery counter to the car without shifting. Putting it on the x-ray belt, having the customs dudes poke it, none of that will be good for it.

The wine, also, is fucked. There's no way you're going to be able to transport that. You can't carry it (war on moisture) and you can't check it (explosive decompression).

posted by Netzapper at 4:57 PM on October 24, 2007

Alrighty: Thanks for suggestions, all. Course of action is:

A+B: Packed together in a rigid tupperware with tons of padding and an ice pack. Not freezing them (Thanks for warning!)(Customs: Allows "baked goods".)

C: In 2 half-liter plastic water bottles, tops sealed, in protective plastic baggies. (Customs: Allows 1L of Alcohol). Left a sample bottle out all day in one of these bottles and the bottle didn't even deform. Methinks they're going to make it OK, will report in later.

posted by anonymoose at 12:30 PM on October 25, 2007

Success. No problems at customs.

Wine got there bubbly and tasty, chocolate was fine, and Napoleon was not quite as pretty as the day before, but worked fine.

Thanks for tips, glad I didn't freeze it :)
posted by anonymoose at 12:52 PM on November 3, 2007

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