Have you ever forgotten a bag of groceries in the car during the winter months when you are unloading your car? If you have you may have wondered about the safety of canned goods that have frozen. The problem that happens in canned goods is that when liquids freeze they expand. If you notice that the cans are swollen, and you are sure the swelling was caused by freezing, the food may still be usable. Put the cans in a container and put them in your refrigerator and let them thaw naturally before opening them. After you open it if there is anything questionable in the look or smell of the food throw it out. DO NOT TASTE IT! If the seams of the can are rusted or burst, throw out the cans immediately.
- Keep cold foods cold. This may mean setting that bowl of chip dip into a larger bowl containing ice. The dip will remain safe for the entire game if it is kept cold in this way.
- Keep hot foods hot. Those little sausages in barbeque sauce will be safe—for as long as they last—if you serve them from your crock pot. Remember to keep the crock pot hot.
- Disposable plates and cups make it easier to host your party and clean plates can eliminate fresh food being in contact with the remains of food eaten during the pre-game introductions.
- If you plan to serve several different hot foods, consider staggering the serving time throughout the game. This way you don’t need to worry about food cooling off and becoming unsafe.
Enjoy the game! Knowing that the food you are serving is safe.
Did you know it is important to wash all fruits and vegetables, even if you plan on peeling them? Fruits and vegetables can pick up dust and soil as they are being harvested, handled, packed, and shipped. They may also have trace amounts of chemicals and bacteria on the outer tissues that can be removed by washing. The following are suggestions for safe handling of fruits and vegetables:
Wash all fruits and vegetables in clean drinking water before eating. The ideal water temperature to use for most produce is between 80 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash the produce just before you plan to use it, not when you put it away. Lettuce, on the other hand, can be rinsed before refrigerating to help maintain crispness. Produce used in salads, such as lettuce, radishes, carrots, etc., should be washed in the coldest tap water available to maintain crispness. To get maximum crispness, immerse the greens in a mixture of ice cubes and water about a half-hour before serving.
The best method for washing ripe or fragile berry fruits—strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries—is by spraying with a kitchen sink sprayer. Use a colander so you can gently turn the fruit as you spray. If you do not have a sink sprayer, berries and soft fruit should be placed in a wire basket or colander into a 5 to 8 quart pot of warm water. Move the basket in and out of the water several times. Change the water until the water remains clear. Do this process quickly. If the fruit absorbs too much water, it will lose flavor, texture, and aroma.
Do not use detergent when washing fruits and vegetables. The detergent residues will be left on the fruits and vegetables. Since produce items are porous, they might also absorb the detergent. If you would like to make your own fruit and vegetable wash, follow this recipe: 1 quart water, 2 T. baking soda, 2 T. grapefruit or other acidic juice and 1 tsp cream of tartar. This mixture can be refrigerated for up to 2-3 weeks and is safe for human consumption.
There are more fruits and vegetables on the market every day. Wash them well and enjoy the goodness of the season!
We talk a lot about food safety at holiday time. This graphic was developed by the Partnership for Food Safety Education and the National Turkey Federation this year just before Thanksgiving. All of the information is still very pertinent for Christmas celebrations. Actually, the section with tips for shopping applies all year long and is just as important to follow all year long.
It is important to remember to practice safe food handling techniques while we prepare holiday meals. Often we are serving the elderly, very young, pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems. These people are the most susceptible to any food borne illness.
Hand washing, refrigeration, and clean surfaces are important considerations. We should take care not to cross contaminate surfaces—no raw fruits or vegetables on the same cutting board that held raw meat.
It is so easy to lose track of how long those leftovers have been stored in the refrigerator. When we have company in the house it is easy for things to travel to the back of the refrigerator or to be put in places in the refrigerator that we would not typically store them. Labeling leftovers with a date they should be discarded would be a good habit for the New Year.
The 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:
- Always let cookies cool completely before packing.
- Drop and bar cookies are recommended, avoiding cookies that are fragile, crumbly or frosted.
- Chocolate-covered cookies tend to melt and should be avoided.
- A sturdy container should be used for mailing, including boxes, coffee cans or tins.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Now that Thanksgiving has arrived, and we have enjoyed a big meal with family, it is time to think about the leftovers. That fabulous dinner you prepared usually provides leftovers for several more meals. Remember to refrigerate those leftovers promptly; within 2 hours of serving the food. Package the food into smaller containers so that the food cools rapidly. A general rule of thumb is to use or freeze leftovers within 4 days. You can also package the leftovers by the plate full to enjoy the food at a later date.
We have talked about how to safely thaw your turkey but now it is time to cook it. Remember to remove the neck and giblets from the turkey cavity before cooking. These should be cooked separately. Follow these steps for a wonderful product.
- Set your oven temperature no lower than 325° F.
- Place your turkey on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.
- Tuck the wings under the shoulders of the bird.
- Add ½ cup of water to the bottom of the pan.
- For the first 1 hour to 1 ½ hour cover with the lid of the pan or a tent of foil. Remove after this time for the turkey to get a nice brown color.
- Check the temperature of the turkey to make sure it has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Use your meat thermometer to measure the temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast.
- Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before carving to keep the meat juicy.
- If you are stuffing a turkey mix the ingredients just before stuffing it. Stuff the turkey loosely; do not pack it tightly. It will take additional baking time for a stuffed turkey and it is important to check the temperature of the stuffing as well to make sure that it reaches the 165° temperature.
The following chart will help you determine how long to cook your turkey.
Unstuffed turkey (time in hours)
- 4 to 6 lb breast..1 ½ to 2 ¼
- 6 to 8 lb breast..2 ¼ to 3 ¼
- 8 to 12 lbs……….2 ¾ to 3
- 12 to 14 lbs……..3 to 3 ¾
- 14 to 18 lbs……..3 ¾ to 4 ¼
- 18 to 20 lbs……..4 ¼ to 4 ½
- 20 to 24 lbs……..4 ½ to 5
Stuffed turkey (time in hours)
- 8 to 12 lbs……….3 to 3 ½
- 12 to 14 lbs……..3 ½ to 4
- 14 to 18 lbs……..4 to 4 ¼
- 18 to 20 lbs……..4 ¼ to 4 ¾
- 20 to 24 lbs……..4 ¾ to 5 ¼
We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Thanksgiving is just around the corner and it’s time to start thinking about thawing your turkey. There are three safe ways to thaw a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave oven. Notice that thawing on the countertop is not a safe option! If left on the countertop for more than two hours the outer layer of the turkey could be in the “Danger Zone”, temperatures where bacteria multiply rapidly even though the center may be still frozen.
After you bring your turkey home from the grocery store put it immediately in the freezer. Do not leave it in your garage, back porch, in the car trunk or anywhere else the temperature cannot be monitored.
To thaw in the refrigerator plan on approximately 24 hours for each 4 to 5 pounds. Put the turkey in a pan near the bottom of your refrigerator so there is no chance of the uncooked juices dripping and contaminating other foods. The following chart will help you determine how many days in advance you will need to take your turkey out of the freezer.
- 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
Once thawed, your turkey can remain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days before cooking.
To thaw a turkey using the cold water method, allow 30 minutes for each pound. The turkey needs to be in a sealed leak proof plastic bag to prevent cross-contamination and to keep the turkey from absorbing the water. It must be submerged in cold tap water and the water should be changed every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed. Here are the suggested times to defrost, based on the size of your turkey.
- 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
Cook the turkey immediately if you are using this method to thaw.
Microwave thawing is safe if the turkey is not too large. Follow the manufacturer’s instruction for the size turkey that will fit in your oven, the minutes per pound, and the power level to use for thawing. Remove all of the outside wrapping and place it in a microwave safe dish to catch any juices that might drip. It must be cooked immediately after thawing.
By following these thawing steps, and cooking it correctly, you can feel confident that your turkey will be safe and enjoyed by all of your guests this holiday.
It seems that we get busier with every passing year. A hot topic at AnswerLine this time of year is make-ahead food. Often we get calls from folks that want to enjoy their company and the holiday without the extra burden of preparing complex recipes.
Some general guidelines for make-ahead food:
- Food safety is key!
- Consider how advance preparation will affect the quality of the food.
- The freezer is your friend.
- Partially cooking food and holding it is not a good idea.
- Handle your “pre-prepared” food safely-remember the 2 hour limit (keep hot things hot and cold things cold).
- Some foods just need to be prepared at the last minute.
When in doubt please contact us-we are ALWAYS glad to help.
Now that school has been in session a couple of months you might be looking for a few new school lunch ideas.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are always an easy and nutritious choice to put into a lunch box and using seasonal fruits and vegetables is an easy way to teach your child about seasonal growing. When you don’t have fresh produce to use you can turn to dried or packaged fruits and vegetables. Remember, variety is important so try to change the selection on a regular basis.
Lean meats, cheeses, nuts, yogurts and peanut butter provide an excellent protein source for the lunch box. Hummus and hard boiled eggs are also easy, nutritious foods high in protein that children usually enjoy.
If introduced at an early age, whole grain breads and crackers are usually accepted by children of all ages and are always a healthier choice than the alternative. So many new products are on the market today that include whole grains. You might consider using whole grain flour tortillas to make wraps on occasion to bring variety to the lunch box.
Healthy beverage ideas for the lunch box always include low fat or skim milk, water and 100% fruit juices. High sugar drinks should be avoided except for special treats whenever possible.