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Steps to Safely Fry a Turkey

November 24th, 2014

Have you ever thought about deep frying a turkey? It gives you very tender meat with a nice crispy texture, but in order to keep yourself and your food safe you need to follow some precautions.

  • Completely thaw your turkey or use a fresh turkey. Be sure to remove the neck and giblets bag before cooking.
  • Make sure that your surface where you are frying is flat and in a safe outdoor location that is far away from garages, decks and house siding.
  • Do NOT stuff your turkey.
  • Use a turkey that weighs 12 pounds or less.
  • Make sure your frying pot is large enough for your turkey to be covered by 1 to 2 inches of oil and that there is at least 3-5 inches space between the oil and the top of the pot, so the oil does not boil over the sides.
  • Heat the oil to 350° F. After it has reached this temperature slowly lower the turkey into the hot oil. Constantly monitor the temperature of the oil and never leave it unattended.
  • It will take approximately 3 to 5 minutes per pound for the turkey to cook.
  • Use a meat thermometer to see if the turkey has reached a minimum internal temperature of 165° F. in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
  • If it has not reached that temperature return the turkey immediately to the oil to finish cooking.
  • When the turkey is finished cooking remove from the oil and place on a sturdy tray lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.
  • Let rest for 20 minutes before carving.
  • Be sure that the heat is turned off and the pot is put in a spot where nothing will disturb it.

By following these precautions your guests will enjoy a juicy turkey and you will have a safe Thanksgiving!

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Food Preparation, Food Safety, Holiday ideas, Household Equipment

Time to Thaw the Turkey!

November 20th, 2014

 

If you have not done so already, it is probably time to start thinking about thawing your turkey. There are three different ways to thaw your turkey, four if you count cooking it from the frozen state.

The first method is thawing the turkey in the refrigerator. This is perhaps the easiest method.  It is best to put the turkey on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator in a pan or cookie sheet.  This will turkey thawprevent drippings from the thawing bird contaminating other foods; especially ready to eat foods like fruits and vegetables.  Expect the turkey to thaw at a rate of 5 pounds for every 24 hours.  Plan to have the turkey thawed for no more than 2 days before cooking.  If you find your turkey thawing much faster than expected, you can refreeze overnight then continue thawing.  We never advise just setting the bird on a counter top for thawing.

Refrigerator Thawing Times

  • 4 to 12 pounds — 1 to 3 days
  • 12 to 16 pounds — 3 to 4 days
  • 16 to 20 pounds — 4 to 5 days
  • 20 to 24 pounds —5 to 6 days

If you suddenly realize you were supposed to begin thawing the turkey several days ago and find yourself running out of time to thaw it, use the cold water thawing method. For this method, you will need to allow 30 minutes per pound of turkey. Be sure the turkey is in a leak-proof plastic bag; this keeps the turkey from absorbing water.  Place the turkey in a sink full of cold water.  Change the turkey thaw2water every half hour—the water will get very cold—until the turkey is thawed.

Cold Water Thawing Times

  • 4 to 12 pounds — 2 to 6 hours
  • 12 to 16 pounds — 6 to 8 hours
  • 16 to 20 pounds — 8 to 10 hours
  • 20 to 24 pounds — 10 to 12 hours

Not enough time for the cold water method? Try defrosting in your microwave. Follow the directions that came with your microwave.  Plan to cook it immediately as the turkey may have developed hot spots while defrosting.

Call us at AnswerLine if you have further questions about getting that turkey thawed.

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Food Preparation, Food Safety, Holiday ideas

Pumpkin Pie–Do I Need to Refrigerate It or Not?

November 17th, 2014

 

Pumpkin pie ready for bakingOne of the questions we are asked a lot before Thanksgiving is “Do I need to refrigerate my pumpkin pie or not?” Probably the main reason for the confusion is seeing all the pumpkin pies at the grocery store just sitting on the shelves—stored at room temperature.  The main difference between the grocery store bakery pies and the ones that you make at home is the ingredients.  Those bakery pies are made with shelf-stable ingredients which can include preservatives and anti-microbials that won’t allow the growth of bacteria. If you read the label on the pie you may see a notation of RT; indicating the pie can be stored at room temperature. Leftover pieces of these pies should be stored in the refrigerator.  Remember to use the pie within 2-3 days.  If you need to store it for a longer time, consider freezing the pie.

When you make your own pie from scratch, you should refrigerate it as soon as it has had a chance to cool. Homemade pies have ingredients like milk and eggs which provide a great medium for bacterial growth. If you prefer a warm piece of pie, you can always warm the pie just prior to serving.

Enjoy!

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Food Preparation, Food Safety, Holiday ideas

Tips for teaching your kids to wash their hands

November 3rd, 2014

We hear it on the news almost every day. Remember to wash your hands, or hand washing can prevent the spread of disease.  But is it really that important?  The Center for Disease Control has a long list of the science behind the importance of hand washing.  It really can be a simple procedure; yet not everyone knows how to effectively wash their hands.  Below are some tips for teaching your children.

image1. Wet—get your hands wet with clean, running water. Using a basin filled with water can contaminate your hands even further, so turn on the faucet.  It doesn’t matter if the water is warm or cold, either is effective against germs but warm water is more comfortable and may make it easier to wash hands for the required time.

2. Lather—teach your children to rub their hands together with the soap. Lathering the backs of hands and in between your fingers is important.  Don’t forget to lather the nails—on children this area is often neglected. Teach them to sing Happy Birthday twice while they scrub to be sure they lather long enough.

3. Rinse—use plenty of water, remember warm is often more comfortable for children.

4. Dry-use either a clean towel or airs dry your hands.

 

It is also a good idea to review with your children when it is necessary to wash their hands. Below is a list from the Center for Disease Control listing appropriate times to wash hands.

  1. Before, during, and after preparing food
  2. Before eating
  3. Before and after caring for sick people
  4. Before and after treating wounds
  5. After using the toilet or changing diapers
  6. after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  7. after touching pets or handling their food
  8. After touching garbage

These tips may help cut down on sickness in your home this winter.

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Child Development, Food Safety

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!
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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.

 

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety