Archive for the ‘Food Preservation’ Category

Hotline Resources

January 27th, 2014

Sometimes, even in this day of Google searching and networking, it is hard to find the answer to a question.  I’ve listed hotline numbers for Iowa and Minnesota that may be helpful.  Remember that AnswerLine is only a phone call away if you don’t see a resource for the question that you have.



Hotlines available for all
Iowa Concern (800-447-1985)

  • Financial questions, legal issues, family transitions
  • Phones are answered all hours, all days
  • TTD (Telecommunications Device for Deaf Persons) (800-735-2942)
Teen Line (800-443-8336)

  • Personal and health-related information and referral
  • Phones are answered all hours, all days
  • Teen Line is an information/referral hotline
  • TTD (Telecommunications Device for Deaf Persons) (800-735-2942)
Farm On (877-BFC-1999)

  • Program to match beginning and retiring farmers
  • Hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
BETS OFF (800-BETS-OFF) (800-238-7633)

  • Gambling a problem? Call to be connected to a treatment program
  • Concerned about a family member or friend? Call for information.
  • Need an informational packet for a training? We can send one free of charge.
  • Answered everyday, all day.
Hotlines available to Iowa Residents Only
AnswerLine (800-262-3804)

  • Questions relating to home and family
  • Relay Iowa (TTY) 800-735-2942
  • Hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m.
  • Email questions to
Iowa Healthy Families (800-369-2229)

  • Health Information and Referral, Confidential
  • TDD (Telecommunications Device for Deaf Persons) (800-735-2942)
  • Phones are answered all hours, all days.
Hortline (515) 294-3108

  • Hortline provides assistance to home gardeners on lawn, garden, and ornamental questions
  • Hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and 1-4:30 p.m.
  • Email questions to
PORKLine (800-808-7675)

  • Available to assist Iowa pork producers in all aspects of pork production
  • Hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Email questions to


The MN Bed Bug Hotline 612-624-2200 or 1-855-644-2200
The bed bug hotline at the University of Minnesota can:
 Provide information on bed bugs
 Suggest ways to reduce the number of bed bugs in your home
 Provide advice on selecting a Structural Pest Control Company
 Recommend steps you can use to avoid bed bugs in your everyday
life and while traveling.

Search: Lets Beat the Bug @letsbeatthebug


Minnesota Farm Information Line  800-232-9077

Minnesota agriculture and small acreage farm questions

Referrals made to local Extension Agriculture Personnel when available

Will answer some horticulture questions

Available: 8:30-1:30 Monday through Friday

Water Resources Center 800-322-8642

General water information and research information about water quality, shorelines, drinking water, and sewage and septic system questions.



Cleaning, Consumer Management, Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Home Environment, Housing, Laundry, Nutrition

Soup Time!

January 6th, 2014
Chili made to enjoy later.

Beef Butternut Chili


This is the time of year that I crave  soup for dinner. It is especially convenient to prepare this soup in a slow cooker. Coming home from work and stepping into the house, it is wonderful to be greeted with the aroma of freshly cooked soup ready to be dished out and put on the table.

 I prepare heartier soups during the winter, usually accompanied by freshly baked bread. I bake several loaves of bread at a time, slice, package and freeze. When we need it I just thaw out as many slices as needed, toast and serve with our soup.


2013-05-19 20.05.54A small bowl of fresh, in season fruit rounds out the meal. Clean up is easy – one soup crock and a few serving dishes! We usually have enough leftover to provide for several more meals. I freeze one or two containers and eat the rest for dinner the next night.

One of my favorite soups, Beef Butternut Chili uses a small amount of beef stew, rounded out by a larger amount of vegetables; butternut squash, carrots,onions and beans. Feel free to add whatever you like or have on hand.



Food Preparation, Food Preservation, recipes

Preparing for blizzards and power outages

December 30th, 2013

BlizzardBlizzard warnings headed your way?  Here are some steps to take if you live in an area where you frequently lose power.


Before the storm arrives:


  1.  Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer.  This will help you know just how warm it is getting inside those appliances.  Freezers should be 0°F or below, refrigerators below 40°F—nearer 32°F.
  2. Use the cold temperature outdoors to freeze jugs of water to cool your food if the power goes off.
  3. Freeze normally refrigerated foods like milk or meat—this will keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  4. Learn where you may buy ice or dry ice locally—before the storm hits.
  5. Have a cooler on hand to store refrigerated food if the power is off for more than 4 hours.



After the storm:


  1. Keep the doors of the refrigerator and freezer shut as much as you can.  The food stored inside will remain cold longer if you do.
  2. Know that you have about 4 hours to keep cold food safely—as long as the door remains closed.  The freezer, if it is full, will hold a safe temperature for about 48 hours.
  3. Toss perishable foods like meat, poultry, fish, soft and shredded cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers, deli meat after 4 hours—or store them in the cooler before the 4 hours have elapsed.
  4. Food may be safely refrozen, as long as: it is still mostly frozen, the food still contains ice crystals, or it is very cold-as if it has just been removed from the refrigerator—below 40°F.
  5.  NEVER taste a food to see if it is still safe. 
  6. Use your refrigerator and/or freezer as a cooler; add some ice or dry ice to cool the food inside.  Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days.
  7. Check the food inside the appliances as soon as power returns.  That will help you determine if a food should be refrozen, saved, or tossed.

 Remember, if you have questions about the safety of you food we can help you decide which foods are safe and which foods should be tossed.  We are as close as a phone call, email, or facebook post away.



Consumer Management, Food Preservation

Mailing Holiday Cookies

December 12th, 2013

Preparing cookies for mailingThe holidays are rapidly approaching, making me think about the cookies I want to bake this season and for whom I will bake them. When thinking about mailing cookies, it is important to remember these things:

  1. Always let cookies cool completely before packing.
  2. Drop and bar cookies are recommended, avoiding cookies that are fragile, crumbly or frosted.
  3. Chocolate-covered cookies tend to melt and should be avoided.
  4. A sturdy container should be used for mailing, including boxes, coffee cans or tins.
  5. Line containers with foil or plastic wrap. Seal cookies in an airtight bag; wrap individually or in pairs, back-to-back, separated by waxed paper. Place a layer of filler (tightly crumpled waxed paper or popped corn) on the bottom of the container. Arrange cookies in rows and place a layer of filler between each layer and on top before closing the lid. Cookies should also be no closer to the edge of box than 2 inches. Make certain there is no movement in carton, once filled and lid is in place.
  6. If packing several kinds of cookies, place heavier cookies on the bottom. Irregularly shaped containers should be placed in a box and cushioned before wrapping.
  7. DON’T send high moisture foods (brownies or quick breads).

Assuming you have chosen your recipe(s) wisely and wrapped the cookies with care, in good time your loved ones can look forward to receiving goodies in the mail from you.


Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety, Holiday ideas

Squash is ready!

October 24th, 2013

Butternut squash

One of the best parts of fall, to me, is the ready availability of squash.  This year we have had a number of callers ask when they should harvest their squash. 

This is what Richard Jauron and Linda Naeve from Iowa State University Horticulture Extension would advise callers. “Mature winter squash have hard skins (rinds) that cannot be punctured with the thumbnail. Additionally,most mature winter squash have dull-looking surfaces. When harvesting, leave a 1-inch stem on the winter squash. Store in single layers to allow air circulation and reduce fruit rots. Acorn squash can be stored for 5 to 8 weeks. Butternut squash will keep 2 to 3 months. Hubbard squash can be stored for 3 to 6 months. Squash stored at higher temperatures may become stringy”.

If you want to keep the squash longer, you may choose to can or freeze it.  Remember when canning squash it must be cubed–pureeing squash and canning it will not produce a safe product.


Acorn squash

Acorn squash

Acorn squash is a family favorite.  We cut the squash in half, remove the seeds, and place the cut sides down in a large pan. Add an inch of water and bake for one hour at 350°  When the squash is fork tender; mash and season with butter, salt, and pepper.


Hubbard squash

Hubbard squash

Hubbard squash is a another variety of squash that you often see at the grocery store. They may weigh as much as 20 pounds. The skin is hard, thick and warty–very hard to cut. It has a thick, deep-orange flesh which is well known for its smooth texture, rich flavor and very high vitamin A content. Hubbards may be deep green, pale green, blue or orange on the outside.




Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety

Storing Home Canned Jars

October 14th, 2013

storing canned goodsOur summer has been filled with growing nutritious fruits and vegetables and our fall spent safely canning those items. Now it is time to make sure we are storing them correctly! 

Here are some tips to help you keep your jars safe on your shelves.

• Remove the screw bands before storing to prevent them from rusting on to the jars.
• Wash the outside of the jars. Label the contents on the lid as well as the date when it was canned.
• Store them in a clean, cool, dark, dry place. The best temperature is between 50°-70°F.
• Avoid storing by a furnace, near warm pipes or in direct sunlight. Loss of quality can happen within a few weeks or months. Certain heat loving spoilage bacteria (thermophilic) can survive the canning process and if stored at too high a temperature can cause spoilage.
• Keep your canned goods dry. Moisture can corrode the lids and could damage the seal.
• Use your home canned items within one year of preserving, two at the most.

Enjoy the taste of your home canned goods all year round! Then you will be ready to do it all over again next year!

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Food Preservation, Food Safety

Apple season is here!

October 7th, 2013


It’s that time of year again; apples are in plentiful supply.  Whether you have your own tree, pick them at an orchard, buy them at farmers markets, or just shop at the local grocery store; there is an amazing selection of apples available.  Which varieties make the best pies? 

Check out this site from the University of Minnesota Extension service.  The site provides pictures of the different apple varieties along with a description and best use for that apple.


Some tips for buying and storing apples—no matter what variety.


                1.  Apples should be firm and have a good color for the variety.

                2. Skins should be smooth and bruise free.

                3. Avoid over ripe apples, bruised areas, and soft mealy flesh.  Brown and tan areas

                   should also be avoided.

                4. Handle apples gently; bumps and bruises can cause dark spots.

                5. Apples like cool temperatures and high humidity.

                6. Store apples in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator or a plastic bag with holes

                   poked in for ventilation.

                7. Store apples separately from other foods so they do not pick up “off” flavors.

                8. Freshly harvested apples will remain fresh from 3-6 months.

                9. Apples purchased at the grocery store will remain fresh for up to one month.

              10. Use the largest apples first as these usually lose quality and show signs of

                     internal breakdown first.




Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Nutrition


October 4th, 2013

Preserve the taste of summerHave you noticed that all the tested recipes for home canned pie fillings call for ClearJel©?

What is ClearJel© and why do I need to use it?  This is a question we have been answering a lot the past few weeks.  ClearJel© is a starch that has been modified to perform differently from other more common starches. 

ClearJel© can thicken acidic foods without breaking down; losing the ability to thicken.

It can also thicken without interfering with the canning process. Products thickened with ClearJel© will not get so thick that it slows the rate of heat transfer.  This is important as it affects the ability to kill bacteria during canning.

ClearJel© was selected as the modified starch to use in canning recipes because it has little to no aftertaste, it produces a smooth product, and foods prepared with ClearJel© may also be frozen.

Instant ClearJel©, ClearJel©A, or any other form of ClearJel© is not recommended as a substitute for ClearJel©.

At the time pie filling recipes with ClearJel© were developed it was assumed that ClearJel© would be sold alongside other canning supplies.  At this time, you must plan ahead as only a few specialty shops and the internet carry this product.


Food Preservation, Food Safety

So do I have to toss my eggs after the date on the carton?

October 3rd, 2013
Sell by date

Sell by date

We get this question, or some variation of it quite often. Actually, the date on the end of the carton is a “sell by date”. The store must sell the eggs by this date or remove them from the shelves. You have a month from that date to get the eggs used before you, too, should discard them. 

You may choose to freeze the eggs if you are running out of time to get them used.

Follow these procedures:

  • Whole eggs: Break the desired number of eggs into a bowl. For every 12 eggs, add ½ to 1 tablespoon light corn syrup OR ½ to 1 tablespoon of sugar OR 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • Egg whites:   Pour desired number of egg whites into freezer container, cover, label, and freeze.  If desired, these can be beaten to a stiff foam if allowed to thaw and reach room temperature for 30 minutes first.
  • Egg yolks: For every cup add ½ to 1 tablespoon light corn syrup OR ½ to 1 tablespoon of sugar OR 1 teaspoon of salt to give a smooth product when thawed. Stir gently to blend, but do not whip air into the yolks.
  • Thaw your frozen eggs in the refrigerator.  Stir or shake the eggs before pouring.  They can be refrigerated for 3-5 days.




Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety

Ripening Tomatoes and Green Peppers Indoors

September 30th, 2013

Green Tomatoes before a frost

When frost is in the forecast and you still have a garden filled with green tomatoes and peppers, follow the guidelines below to ripen as many of these vegetables as possible:

Selecting and Picking

  1. Pick ripe, nearly ripe and mature green fruits before frost occurs. Mature green tomatoes are those with a glossy, whitish green fruit color and mature size.
  2. Select fruits only from strong, healthy vines and pick only those fruits free of disease, insect or mechanical damage.
  3. Remove stems to prevent them from puncturing each other.
  4. If dirty, gently wash and allow the fruit to air dry.


  1. Store tomatoes and peppers in boxes, 1 to 2 layers deep, or in plastic bags with a few holes for air circulation.
  2. If you have a cool, moderately humid room, simply place them on a shelf.
  3. Keep fruit out of direct sunlight. They may be stored in the dark.
  4. As tomatoes ripen, they naturally release ethylene gas, which stimulates ripening. To slow ripening, sort out ripened fruits from green tomatoes each week. To speed up ripening, place green or partially ripe fruits in a bag or box with a ripe tomato.

Ripe tomatoes keep in a refrigerator for about 1 week but will lose their flavor. Green peppers keep for 2 weeks. Green, mature tomatoes and peppers stored at 65-70 degrees will ripen in about 2 weeks. Cooler temperatures slow the ripening process. Temperatures as cool as 55 degrees will slow ripening and results in inferior quality.

If tomatoes and green peppers are stored where the humidity is too high then the fruit molds and rots. If the humidity is too low, the fruit shrivel and dry out. Since homes vary in humidity levels, you will need to learn by trial and error what works best.

Tomatoes and green peppers are ripened indoors are not as flavorful as vine ripened fruits. However, compared to store bought, you will be delighted with your own home ripened tomatoes.




Ref: Info U and UMN Extension service 2009

Food Preservation