Archive

Archive for the ‘Food Safety’ Category

HALLOWEEN SAFETY

October 30th, 2014

Halloween Safety

I have such fond memories of special Halloween celebrations with my two kids, who are young adults now. We would make “scary” treats, homemade costumes, attend school parties, trick-or- treat on beggar’s nights, etc.  I’m not sure who had more fun – the kids or me?

Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control to help make the festivities safe and fun for all:

alphabet letter sSwords, knives, and other costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible.

alphabet letter aAvoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.

alphabet letter fFasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.
alphabet letter eExamine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them. Limit the amount of treats you eat.

 

alphabet letter hHold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you. Always WALK and don’t run from house to house.
alphabet letter aAlways test make-upExternal Web Site Icon in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.
alphabet letter lLook both ways before crossing the street. Use established crosswalks wherever possible.
alphabet letter lLower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.External Web Site Icon
alphabet letter oOnly walk on sidewalks whenever possible, or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.
alphabet letter wWear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls.
alphabet letter eEat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers.
alphabet letter eEnter homes only if you’re with a trusted adult. Only visit well-lit houses. Never accept rides from strangers.
alphabet letter nNever walk near lit candles or luminaries. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.
Keeping these suggestions in mind while planning and celebrating your holiday will help ensure everyone enjoys themselves and makes it home safely.  Happy Halloween to all!
jill sig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Child Development, Consumer Management, Food Safety, Holiday ideas, Textiles

Freezing Eggs

October 6th, 2014

Callers often ask if it is possible to freeze eggs.Yes, you can easily freeze eggs for later baking or scrambling. You have the choice to either freeze whole eggs or separate the eggs and freeze yolks and whites by themselves.

Whole eggs inside the shell should not be frozen.  If you have an egg freeze accidentally, discard eggs that crack. You can safely use a whole, frozen, uncracked egg.  Just store it eggs1in the refrigerator until you need it. It may be best to hard cook that egg as the yolk may become thick and syrupy; this change makes it difficult to use in baking.

If you would like to freeze eggs at home, you will need to add either sugar, corn syrup, or salt to the egg yolks or whole eggs. Add 1/2-1 Tbsp. light corn syrup OR 1/2-1 Tbsp. sugar OR 1 tsp. salt to every dozen eggs you freeze. Addition of the salt or sugar prevents the yolks from thickening and allows you to use them in baked products. The end use of the eggs will help you determine which ingredient (salt, corn syrup, or sugar) to add to the eggs.

Blend the mixture gently; avoid whipping air into the mixture. Package the eggs and freeze. Add the previously listed amounts to either whole eggs or egg yolks that have been separated. If you choose to freeze the whites alone, they do not need to have any salt, sugar, or corn syrup added.

Thaw any of these frozen eggs in the refrigerator. Stir or shake them before using. You must use the thawed eggs within 3-5 days.

 

FE4A7395F74D75DAF68D70AF51D28FD2

Food Preservation, Food Safety

Preserving Winter Squash

October 2nd, 2014

winter squashIf you have winter squash and are wanting to preserve it remember that you can NOT home can pumpkin or winter squash puree. If you want it pureed then you should freeze it.  If you want to can it, it must done in a pressure canner and only when cut into 1 inch cubes.

According to the Elizabeth L. Andress, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Extension Food Safety Specialist, Department of Foods and Nutrition, home canning is not recommended for pumpkin butter or any mashed or pureed pumpkin or winter squash.  In 1989, the USDA’s Extension Service published the Complete Guide to Home Canning that remains the basis of Extension recommendations today, found in the September 1994 revision. The only directions for canning pumpkin and winter squash are for cubed pulp. In fact, the directions for preparing the product include the statement, “Caution: Do not mash or puree.”

Some of the factors that are critical to the safety of canned pumpkin products are the viscosity (thickness), the acidity and the water activity. Pumpkin and winter squash are also low-acid foods (pH > 4.6) capable of supporting the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria which can cause the very serious illness, botulism, under the right storage conditions. If the bacteria are present and survive processing, and the product has a high enough water activity, they can thrive and produce toxin in the product.

To process using a hot pack, wash pumpkin or squash and remove the seeds. Cut into 1 inch slices and peel.  Cut the flesh into 1 inch cubes.  Add to a saucepot of boiling water, boil 2 minutes.  Pack the hot cubes into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace.  Fill jar to 1 inch from top with boiling hot cooking liquid.  Remove the air bubbles.  Wipe jar rims, adjust lids and process.

Table 1. Recommended process time for Pumpkin and Winter Squash in a dial-gauge pressure canner.
Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time 0 – 2,000 ft 2,001 – 4,000 ft 4,001 – 6,000 ft 6,001 – 8,000 ft
Hot Pints 55 min 11 lb 12 lb 13 lb 14 lb
Quarts 90 11 12 13 14

 

Table 2. Recommended process time for Pumpkin and Winter Squash in a weighted-gauge pressure canner.
Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time 0 – 1,000 ft Above 1,000 ft
Hot Pints 55 min 10 lb 15 lb
Quarts 90 10 15

s signature - Copy

Food Preservation, Food Safety

Are my old cans still safe to eat?

September 29th, 2014

One of the questions we hear a lot at AnswerLine is: How long can I keep cans of food? Often, these callers are doing some spring cleaning or moving an elderly relative into a new home. They discover a number of cans that are several years old and wonder if it is still safe to use those cans.

photo 4The way cans are stored will affect the life of the food inside the cans. If foods are stored in a cool, dry place with a stable temperature they will last longer than cans stored in places where the temperature fluctuates widely. Damp storage areas can cause the can to rust which will also shorten the shelf life of the can.

Acidic foods, like fruits, have a shorter shelf life than low acid foods such as meat or vegetables. Dented, swollen, or rusty cans are an indication that the food inside the container is no longer safe to consume. This may also be an indication that the botulism bacteria, Clostridium botulinum, are present. Even a tiny exposure to these bacteria could be deadly. Discard these cans safely, in a spot where no other person or animal will be tempted to eat the food.

I was surprised to find this can in my own pantry.  The best if used by date was February 15, 2010.  Generally speaking, commercially canned food will be at good quality for photo 22-5 years after the best if used by date.  This can was peach pie filling, so the acidic nature of the filling shortened the shelf life of the product. We would advise you to use home canned foods within the first year or two at the most.

If the lid or inside of the can appears corroded when you open it, the food inside should still be safe to eat. Acid foods can cause this reaction during storage time. The taste, nutrition, and texture of foods will decline over long storage times. Remember to bring the older cans to the front of the shelf as you put groceries away after a shopping trip. This kind of inventory control can help prevent food waste.

FE4A7395F74D75DAF68D70AF51D28FD2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Safety

Tips for Storing Furits and Vegetables

September 15th, 2014

fridgeAre you wondering what should be stored in the drawers of your refrigerator?  It is important to know how to best use them to keep your produce at top quality for as long as possible!

Refrigerator drawers are designed to help you adjust the humidity level so it can be different from the rest of the refrigerator.  Many drawers have a control that allows you to increase or decrease the air flow coming into them.  Less air flow means higher humidity.  Since different produce require different levels of humidity it allows you to tailor the drawer to the produce inside and it will last longer.

Here are a few tips to store your fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator:

  1. Vegetables typically like high humidity and fruits like lower humidity.
  2. Leafy greens like high humidity (85-95%) and cold temperatures(32-40°F).   This includes lettuce, spinach, chard, collards, mustard greens and watercress. Bulbs like green onions, leaks and endive should also be stored here.
  3. Apples, grapes, cherries, apricots, nectarines and other tree fruits like less humidity and cold temperatures (32-35°F).
  4. Don’t put ripe fruits and veggies in the same crisper drawer since fruits give off ethylene gas.   Apple, pears, plums, cantaloupes and peaches are all high-ethylene producers. This can cause green vegetables to turn yellow, lettuce to get rust colored spots, potatoes to sprout and carrots to turn bitter.
  5. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons and grapefruit can be stored in the main part of your refrigerator since they prefer even less humidity.
  6. Some fruits and vegetables do better outside of the refrigerator. Tomatoes, potatoes and onions prefer a cool, dark, dry place. (65-70°F).
  7. Wash your fruits and vegetables before eating, not before storing them.

By storing your foods properly you save money since your fruits and vegetables will remain fresh as long as possible!

s signature - Copy

Food Preservation, Food Safety, Household Equipment

Storing Garden Vegetables

September 11th, 2014

tomato plantIt’s time to think about harvesting vegetables as the gardening season winds down. After you have spent hours choosing seed, planting, weeding, and watering your garden it only makes sense to store the vegetables carefully. You have many options for storing vegetables. Canning, freezing and drying are not your only choices. Many vegetables benefit from moist storage in a cool, dark area. If you are fortunate enough to have basement storage that can be heated without being overheated, you can build shelves and bins for vegetables. A small room that can be insulated from the rest of the basement with shelves and separate ventilation works even better. Plans for such a room are available.

FE4A7395F74D75DAF68D70AF51D28FD2

 

Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety

Safe School Lunches

August 18th, 2014

 

Lunch BoxIt’s time to start thinking about school again and packing those school lunches.  Much has been written about the safety of packing a lunch for school.  Here are a few important points to consider.

  1. Use the right style of lunch box. It is important to have an insulated lunchbox to keep perishable foods like sandwiches cold enough to prevent bacterial growth. It is tempting to buy a lunch box based on a TV show or character. Make a wise decision based on food safety and don’t be tempted to give in to a popular style just because your child prefers the look of a lunch box.
  2. Wash the lunch box and containers daily. Use hot sudsy water and rinse well. This is another way to prevent bacterial growth in a lunch.
  3. Tell your child to dispose of uneaten food. Bacteria can grow in that half a sandwich leftover from lunch that is eaten on the school bus ride home.
  4. Include hand sanitizer or wipes in the lunch. Make it easy for your child to eat with clean hands.

Following these tips won’t guarantee a safe lunch but will increase the odds your child does not become sick from food borne illness.

FE4A7395F74D75DAF68D70AF51D28FD2

Food Safety, Nutrition

Why did my canning jar break?

August 14th, 2014

There is nothing more frustrating than taking the time to pick, prepare, and can something and open the canner to find broken jars and wasted food.  Here are the top 12 reasons your jar might break boiling water bath cannersinside the canner.

  1. Using old jars. Antique canning jars are attractive but perhaps not the best choice for a product that is very labor intensive to prepare.
  2. Nicks or small cracks in the jar. Always check for small nicks or hairline cracks before filling jars.
  3. Not releasing trapped air bubbles inside the jar.
  4. Using metal utensils to release trapped air—this can cause scratches or weak spots inside the jar.
  5. Overfilled jars.
  6. Fluctuating pressure inside a pressure canner. Watch the gauge or listen to the “jiggle” of the weight to maintain a constant pressure.
  7. Reducing pressure too quickly. Resist the impulse to run cold water over the pressure canner after the processing time is up. That is a quick and easy way to destroy all your hard work.
  8. Placing hot jars into a canner of cold water.
  9. Forgetting to add water to the pressure canner.
  10. Forgetting to put the rack into the bottom of the canner. Jars bouncing around during processing are at a high risk of breaking.
  11. Setting your hot, already processed jars into a draft to cool.
  12. Screwing the bands onto the jars too tightly. Remember, finger-tight only.

Following canning directions carefully will help you avoid jar breakage.

FE4A7395F74D75DAF68D70AF51D28FD2

Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety

Top 10 Canning Questions

August 11th, 2014

During August, we get many calls and emails with canning questions. Here is our own top 10 list of canning questions.

  1. Someone in our family can’t have salt, is it ok to leave the salt out of home canned vegetables? YES the salt in these recipes does not help preserve the food.
  2.  Someone in our family is diabetic; can I leave the sugar out of canned fruits? YES, fruit can be sweetened with artificial sweetener after the jar has been opened—if needed.
  3.  I’ve opened a jar and discovered discoloration on the bottom side of the lid; is the food safe to eat? YES, probably. Acids and other compounds present in food can eat away at the underside of the lid and leave a dark spot. These foods are safe to eat.
  4.  If my jar doesn’t seal, what should I do with the food?  You have several options during the first 24 hours after canning. You can reprocess (open jars and refill to proper headspace, reprocess for entire recommended time), freeze the contents, or eat the food within 3-5 days. Refrigerate the jar until ready to eat.
  5. Is it really important to fill the jar according to the recipe? Is headspace really important? YES, the headspace is determined by the amount of expansion of the food inside the jar. Different foods have different headspace requirements. Too much food in the jar can cause loss of liquid inside the jar. Too much headspace can cause food darkening at the top of the jar. Either situation can cause failure of the jar to seal.
  6.  How long can I store my home canned food? For best quality use your food within the first year after canning. Storage in warm spots, sunlight, or damp areas decreases food quality faster.
  7.  Do I have to sterilize my jars? NO, if the canning process lasts longer than 10 minutes sterilizing jars before filling them is not necessary.
  8.  My jars lost liquid during canning, should I open them and refill them?  The lost liquid should NOT be refilled; food inside the jars remains safe but food outside the liquid will discolor over time. Choose to use these jars first. If more than half the liquid has been lost, refrigerate and use these jars in the next few days (2-3).
  9.  I know that the jars are reusable, but can I reuse the bands and lids?  YES for the bands, no for the flats (lids). The sealing compound will not seal well during a second use. Discard old lids.

And, finally one of the most popular questions we get every summer:

  1. My mom taught me to can using the open-kettle method; can I use this method today? NO, that method has not been recommended for over 40 years. You will not produce a safe product using this method. Choose scientifically tested recipes to produce a safe product.

Enjoy canning this summer.  Remember that we are ALWAYS happy to help with your canning questions and problems.

FE4A7395F74D75DAF68D70AF51D28FD2

 

 

Food Preservation, Food Safety

Preparing meals for the freezer

July 24th, 2014

freezing leftover

 

 

Do you struggle with what to make for dinner?  Families today have very busy schedules and often we don’t think about what’s for dinner until it is time to eat.  With a little planning you can have wonderful home cooked meals ready to take from the freezer, put in the oven and your family can be eating a in about an hour!

 

Here are a few helpful tips for preparing meals for the freezer.

  • Pre cook meats and place it in freezer bags for quick meals like tacos or maid rites.
  • If you are making casseroles freeze them before baking, especially when all of the ingredients are cooked.
  • Undercook starchy ingredients like potatoes, rice and pasta when using them in a meal for the freezer.
  • Freeze meals in portion sizes for the number of people in your family.  If you have leftover freeze individual size meals in freezer bags for quick lunches.
  • Freeze meals in the containers you plan to cook them in.  Glass containers work well.
  • Don’t freeze meals that include items that don’t freeze well such as boiled eggs, sour cream and mayonnaise.
  • Seasoning intensity can change during freezing so season lightly.  Cloves, pepper, garlic and celery become stronger upon freezing.  Remember you can always add more seasonings when reheating.
  • Make double batches and freeze one for later use.
  • Let your family help!  Many hands will make meal preparation go more quickly.  Assign tasks to family members according to their age.  You will help develop life-long skills and talents.
  • If you are baking your casserole before freezing, cool it quickly.  Also remember that shallow baking pans speed freezing and thawing of casseroles.
  • To thaw casseroles before reheating, allow the casserole to stand in the refrigerator overnight.  Then cook as directed in the recipe.  If it is not completely thawed you may need to add 15 to 30 minutes to the cooking time.
  • Fully cooked casseroles should not be thawed, but baked at 400°F for the time according to the recipe.
  • Use frozen casseroles within three months for best quality.  Be sure and label all of your meals with the cooking directions and the date that you put it in the freezer.

Planning ahead helps you to take control of your family dinners making meal time enjoyable for everyone!

s signature - Copy

Food Preparation, Food Safety