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Gifts for Canners

May 28th, 2015

 

 

Do you have family members that are interested in home food preservation?  Here are some great gift ideas that anyone would be interested in receiving! 

ball blue book1 

The 37th edition of Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving offers 200 pages that will guide you while you learn about preserving. This book provides information about equipment and step-by-step instructions for each preserving method. Also included are over 500 recipes for canning, pickling, dehydrating, freezing food, and much more!

 

So Easy to Preserve

 

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has now published a 6th edition of its popular book, So Easy To Preserve. The book is new as of September 2014. Chapters include Preserving Food, Canning, Pickled Products, Sweet Spreads and Syrups, Freezing and Drying. Ordering information is available on the So Easy to Preserve website.

 

clearjell1

 

Clear Jel® is a chemically modified corn starch that produces excellent sauce consistency even after fillings are canned and baked. Other available starches break down when used in these pie fillings, causing a runny sauce consistency.  Make sure that you are using the regular Clear Jel® and not the instant type.  It is not readily available in a grocery store but is available online.  A one pound package will make approximately 7-9 quarts of pie filling.

 

 

Complete book of home preserving

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving contains 400 tested recipes that are easy to understand with detailed instructions to preserve your foods safely.   It includes everything from salsas and savory sauces to pickling, chutneys, relishes and of course, jams, jellies, and fruit spreads, such as: Mango-Raspberry Jam, Damson Plum Jam Crab Apple Jelly, Green Pepper Jelly Spiced Red Cabbage, Pickled Asparagus Roasted Red Pepper Spread, Tomatillo Salsa Brandied Apple Rings, Apricot-Date Chutney.  Excellent for new to advanced canners.

 

preserve

 

Another possible idea is to print off these publications published by Iowa State Extension and Outreach’s Preserve the Taste of Summer.  Also available are hands-on workshops in several areas across the state taught by our ISU Human Sciences Extension and Outreach Nutrition and Wellness Specialists.

With these resources your canner will have tested, reliable information, equipment and recipes to preserve their foods.

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Food Preservation, Food Safety, Household Equipment, recipes

Healthy Grab and Go Breakfast

May 25th, 2015

Breakfast burrito Week days can be so hectic in the morning.  Sometimes I think I’m the only one who is so rushed that it is hard to get everything done before heading out the door.  This morning while waiting for a train, I looked at the car behind me and noticed the man in the car was eating and drinking.  I had just finished my own breakfast in the car.  This made me think that if breakfast in the car is a going to happen often for me, then I should find some healthy options.

The Spend Smart. Eat Smart website has so many healthy and easy recipes. I can search for some easy grab and go breakfast food.  My daughter keeps her freezer stocked with breakfast burritosBanana bread is easy to make and very portable. I can also find a healthy granola bar for breakfast if I take some time to read nutrition labels the next time I’m at the grocery store.

Another fast breakfast food is fresh fruit.  Bananas and apples are especially easy to transport and eat in the car.  I can toast some whole grain bread and spread some peanut butter on  it for a quick meal. There are so many options open to me if I just take some time to plan ahead.  You can bet that I will be doing that on my next trip to the grocery store.

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Food Preparation, Food Safety, Nutrition

Home Food Preservation Courses

May 21st, 2015

Preserve the taste of summer2There’s nothing better than fresh-picked produce right out of the garden.  Many times we grow more than our families can eat at harvest time and we preserve that extra food to enjoy when the weather turns cold.  During the summer months here at AnswerLine we typically receive hundreds of calls with questions about home canning and other methods of food preservation. Some of the more common calls include questions about what can or cannot be safely canned in a hot water bath canner vs. a pressure canner. We recommend using only recipes that have been tested for safety by a trusted source such as the University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation or the USDA.

Call or email the staff here at AnswerLine if you need advice or tested recipes. We can mail or email the information or read it over the phone if you need it immediately.

If you’re interested in learning more about home food preservation, there are courses available for both home and professional preservers in each of the three states covered by AnswerLine. Some of the courses are hands-on workshops taught by certified professionals and some courses are online that you can take right in the comfort of your own home.

For information and registration information about these courses, click on the link below for the state you reside in:

Iowa: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/humansciences/preserve-taste-summer

Minnesota: http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/courses/home-food-safety/

South Dakota:  http://igrow.org/healthy-families/food-safety/home-food-preservation-self-study-course/image

 

Here at AnswerLine we provide a valuable service to residents of Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota with toll free hotline numbers as well as residents of other states who wish to call our non-toll-free number.  It’s not too early to start gathering the information you need for the canning, freezing, and drying season and the staff here is ready and willing to assist you.

jill sig

Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety, Horticulture, Nutrition

Power Outage and Food Safety

May 18th, 2015

imageWe receive many calls during the spring and summer regarding power outages and freezer and refrigerator food safety. The callers may have experienced extreme weather conditions such as a severe storm or flooding, or other reasons.

What foods can you keep and what needs to be tossed?  That depends. If your freezer is full, your frozen food can remain safe for three days, but if it is on the emptier side and the temperatures are warm, it may not last as long.  Here are some guidelines for what to keep and what to dispose of and what steps to take in this situation:

Refrigerator:

  • Without power, refrigerators keep food cool for four to six hours.
  • Place block of ice in a container in the refrigerator to keep food cooler.
  • Do NOT open the refrigerator.

Freezer:

  • If power is interrupted, do NOT open the freezer unnecessarily.
  • If the freezer is full and you keep the door closed, the food will stay frozen about two-three days.  If the freezer is not full, group packages together so they stay cold longer.
  • If you anticipate the power going off, turn the freezer control to the lowest temperature setting. If you have several days without power, act quickly. Get dry ice and put it in the freezer before the food starts to thaw.  For a 20-cubic-feet, full freezer, 50 pounds of dry ice keeps food frozen for four days.  To use dry ice, place cardboard on top of the food.  Put the dry ice on top of the cardboard.  Handle it with gloves and have the room well ventilated.  Caution: be certain of good ventilation in the room. Carbon dioxide gas can accumulate and cause loss of consciousness/asphyxiation.
  • If power will be out more than a few days, transfer foods as quickly as possible to another freezer or a commercial locker.
  • Do not put food out on the snow-the sun may cause warming.

After Power is Restored:

  • Check food temperatures. If food is above 40 degrees, you need to determine how long it was at 40 degrees. If food items were above 40 degrees longer than two hours, throw away the food.
  • For frozen foods, look for ice crystals and check temperature.
  • Throw away perishables such as meat and poultry leftovers.

Do Not Refreeze:

  • Food that has thawed completely and is less than 40 degrees, especially meat, poultry and seafood.
  • Prepared, cooked foods such as pizza, hot dishes, stews and soups.
  • Foods with off colors or odors.
  • Creamed foods, pudding or other low-acid foods that have thawed.

Safe to Refreeze:

  • Foods that still contain ice crystals.
  • Bread, cake, cookies, doughnuts.
  • Nuts, flour, cereal.
  • Raw meat and poultry that is 40 degrees or less.
  • Cheese, butter.

For more information, call us here at AnswerLine and our staff will be happy to assist you.

jill sig

Resources:

http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/safe-meals/power-outages/

http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/flood/home/safe-handling-of-food-and-utensils-after-a-disaster

http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/disaster/documents/handling_food_through_flood_000.pdf

http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/flood/home/safety-of-frozen-foods-after-a-power-failure/

http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/safe-meals/preparing-food-without-power/

http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/storage/cold-storage-times/

Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety, Home Environment, Household Equipment

Tips on Selecting Home Canners

May 4th, 2015

boiling water bath cannersHome canning can be a fun and rewarding way to preserve the produce you are growing in your garden.  The only way to safely preserve food is to process it in either a boiling water bath or pressure canner.  The boiling water bath canner is used for foods that are high in acid or are acidified like fruits, pickles and salsas.  The pressure canner must be used to can vegetables and meats, things that are low in acid.

A boiling water bath canner can be anything from a stock pot with a lid to a granite ware canner.   It just needs to be tall enough so that the water is at least one inch above the top of the jars and has a rack on the bottom so the jars are not sitting directly on the heat source.  The advantage of the granite wear canner is they come with the rack included.

When you are shopping for a pressure canner there are two types that are safe to use.  One is a dial gauge and the other is a weighted gauge.  Make sure that you are purchasing a pressure canner and not a pressure cooker.  A pressure canner must be able to hold at least 4 quart sized jars.  If you are purchasing a 16 quart or larger canner it should be big enough.  A pressure cooker or saucepan is smaller and not intended for home canning.  They heat up and cool down faster than a pressure canner and could cause spoilage and botulism risk in the foods.

A dial gauge canner has a dial that shows the pressure.  The pressure must be maintained the entire time.  If the pressure goes below the recommended level, bring the canner back to pressure and start over from the beginning with the time.  In order for the food to be safe it must maintain the correct pressure for the correct length of time.  Dial gauge canners are a great choice if you live at higher altitude since pressure adjustments based on altitude are easy to make.  The disadvantage is that they should be tested yearly for accuracy.  In some states canner testing is not readily available.

A weighted gauge canner has weights of 5, 10 or 15 pounds.  Each canner will give instruction on how often the gauge should rock or jiggle.  If the rocking or jiggling stops, pressure must be returned, and the food should be reprocessed for the entire time.  These canner do not need to be tested yearly so if you live in an area where testing isn’t available this may be a better choice for you.

Electric multi cookers are now showing up on the market.  The tested recipes that we provide have not been tested in these cookers and therefore are not safe to use in them.  Remember to use tested recipe in any of the canners you purchase and use.  This is the only way to ensure that you are preserving your food safely.  Do not use old family recipes, internet untested recipe or even old out of date leaflets from your canner.  Make sure that you have the latest publications based on current research.

To make sure that you are using tested recipes and safe methods give us a call at AnswerLine.  We are here to help!

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Food Preservation, Food Safety, Household Equipment, recipes

Hunting for Morels

April 30th, 2015

morelsMy family tells me that it is morel mushroom hunting time!  They have been out in the fields and have spotted some of the delectable treats.  Growing up I only attempted morel hunting once and we didn’t find any but I am told that they really do exist!

Many people are very secretive about the spots where they find them but a common theme that I hear from everyone is to look for them around dead and dying trees, especially Elm but also Cottonwood, Sycamore, Apple and Ash.  When you start hunting is more dependent on the weather and soil conditions than by a certain date on the calendar.  Morels don’t emerge all at once so if the weather conditions stay favorable you can actually hunt them for several weeks.

While true morel mushrooms are fairly easy to identify and safe to eat, there are some false morels in the woods that are dangerous to eat. Both the true morel and dangerous false morels have a cap or top that looks similar to a sponge. However, the true morel has a hollow stem and top. If the interior has chambers, or cottony mass, it is likely a false morel and should not be eaten. According to Dr. Mark Gleason, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Plant Pathology Specialist, a good way to remember if it is safe to eat is: if the stalk isn’t hollow don’t swallow!  It is always a good idea to go with someone that can positively identify the edible, true morel during your first few hunts.

Remember to bring a basket, paper or mesh bags with you to carry your harvested morels.  They are very delicate and moist can be easily crushed.  They can also spoil if they are left in plastic bags for very long.  Morels can be kept as picked (not washed) in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, three days at the very most for safety’s sake.     They are best cleaned by using a mushroom brush right before you cook them.  If you want to clean them with water do a quick rinse.  Do not soak them in water.

So once you find them here is information on how to prepare them.

COOKING

Most people cut in half or slice, rinse, dip them in beaten egg, and dip in flour or cracker crumbs. Fry in small amount of margarine or butter. They usually are crisp and brown in 3-4 minutes.  Serve immediately.

FREEZING

Prepare as for a meal (noted above).  Put them on a tray and freeze individually and then package in freezer bags or boxes. To prepare them for eating, place on a baking sheet and heat in the oven.

Morels can also be blanched (anywhere from 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the size of the piece), chilled in cold water, drained and frozen.  Mushrooms frozen using the blanching method would be best used in soups, stews and casseroles.

WILD MUSHROOMS CAN NOT BE CANNED SAFELY.

So strap on your boots and head out to the woods. You will have enjoyed the day outside and the time spent with family and friends. If you are lucky enough to find some morels you will also enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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Food Preservation, Food Safety, recipes

Natural Dyes for Easter Eggs

April 2nd, 2015

If you have small children (or grandchildren) it may be time to think about dyeing some eggs for an Easter egg hunt.  Here are some tips for preparing those eggs.

Older Eggs peel more easily: Eggs stored in the refrigerator about 10 days will peel more easily after cooking than very fresh eggs.  Sometimes eggs that have been stored for a few weeks will float.  There is no need to be concerned.  This tells us the egg is not real fresh, but there is no safety problem with it.  In fact, it should peel easily.

Hard cooking eggs: Put eggs in single layer in a saucepan; add cold water to cover with 1 inch of water.  Cover the pan. Bring just to boil and turn off heat, leave on burner, for 15-17 minutes for large eggs.  Adjust the time up or down by about 3 minutes for each size larger or smaller.  Cool in ice water or cold running water and then store in the refrigerator.

Keep those eggs safe: As with other foods, eggs should not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours at any point in time.  If you will need to leave the eggs out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours for use as a centerpiece or for hiding, it would be a good idea to dye 2 batches.  Keep 1 batch in the refrigerator to be eaten and leave the other out for decoration only, to be discarded later.

Make sure the eggs you color aren’t cracked.  If any crack during dyeing or while on display, discard them along with any eggs that have been out of refrigeration for more than 2 hours.  Keep eggs in the shell for only one week in the refrigerator.

If you want to try some fun experimentation with the kids, use some natural dyes this year.  Experiment with some new colors.

Natural Dyes:

Simmer eggs in water to cover for 20 minutes with 1 tsp. of vinegar and one of the following:

Apple peels, yellow delicious apples give a green-gold colored egg

Fresh beets, cranberries, radishes give a pinkish red egg

Fresh oregano or mint leaves give a beige egg

Red cabbage leaves make a blue egg

Blueberries also make a blue egg

Strong coffee will turn eggs brown

Walnut shells make a buff colored egg

Spinach leaves will turn eggs a grayish gold/pink color

Carrot tops will turn eggs greenish yellow

Onion skins make yellow/orange eggs

Orange peels will provide a delicate yellow color to your egg

Celery seed or ground cumin will also turn eggs a delicate yellow

Turmeric, (ground) provides a stronger yellow color on eggs

Strong brewed coffee turns eggs into light beige to brown color

Dill seeds    brown-gold

Chili powder makes eggs turn brown-orange

Grape juice makes a gray colored egg

Older children might enjoy using this as a science experiment.  They can make predictions about what things affect the strength of the colors on the eggs.

Enjoy!

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Food Preparation, Food Safety, Holiday ideas

Create Lasting Family Memories

March 30th, 2015

eggs easter color dyeSpring is here and with spring brings the Easter celebration.  My youngest child is in college now but one activity that the whole family has enjoyed doing since they were little is getting together to dye Easter eggs.  Not only did they enjoy it as kids but it is still a fun activity for the whole extended family!

Here are a few things to remember when handling eggs safely.

  • Make sure that everyone washes their hands before handling the eggs and make sure that the counter is covered to keep dye from staining it.
  • After cooking and cooling the eggs put them in the refrigerator unless you are dying them immediately. Eggs should be out of the refrigerator for no longer than 2 hours.
  • Use a food safe dye if you are planning on eating the eggs.
  • To make your own dye with food coloring to ½ cup of water add 1-2 teaspoons of vinegar and 20 or so drops of food coloring. Add more if you want a darker color. Leave in the water mixture until it is the desired color. (For additional tips on making your own natural dyes look for out April 2nd blog post!)
  • Try wrapping rubber bands around your eggs before placing them in the dye. Just be sure the egg is dry before removing them!
  • Use a crayon to draw a design on the egg. The wax will keep the dye off the design while the rest of the egg will be colored.

If you plan to hide your eggs remember that they should be out no longer than 2 hours.  According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service don’t eat eggs that have been lying on the ground.  If there happen to be cracks in the shell, bacteria can contaminate the eggs.  They should be hidden in places that are protected from dirt, moisture, pets and other sources of bacteria.  If you follow all of these rules the “found” eggs should be washed, re-refrigerated and eaten within 7 days of cooking.

If you want to keep your eggs from one year to the next, or if you want to use them for decorating you will need to blow out the eggs.

  • Make sure that the eggs you are using do not have any tiny cracks in them.
  • Use a long needle to make a small hole in the small end of the egg and a larger hole in the large end.Carefully make the hole larger (on the large end) so that you are able to stick a needle into the yolk to break it.
  • Shake the egg over a bowl until the contents come out. Rinse the shell in cool running water and stand it on end to let it drip and dry.
  • You can also press the bulb of a kitchen baster (that has been squeezed to expel the air) in the larger hole made in the egg. Release the bulb to siphon out the shell contents. Rinse and let dry.
  • Remember the eggs will be very fragile so you might want to save an egg carton to store them in!
  • Try making your own Easter grass by shredding or thinly cutting colored paper. Crush it in your hand to give it the correct grass texture. It makes the perfect nest for your blown out eggs or for the inside of an Easter basket!

Enjoy the fun times spent with your family!  With our family these are memories that last a lifetime!

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Food Safety, Holiday ideas, recipes

Egg Safety

March 26th, 2015

pasteurized egg cartonToday I wanted to answer some questions that we often receive about eggs.

Salmonella is something that we have heard in the news in recent years.  People have gotten sick from eating uncooked or under cooked eggs.  This includes using raw eggs in recipes for homemade ice cream, sauces or even leaving your yolks runny when making fried eggs.  Your only option to continue to make these recipes is to use pasteurized eggs.  Pasteurized eggs have been heated to a temperature high enough to kill the bacteria but not cook the egg.  Pasteurized shell eggs are now available at some grocery stores. Like all eggs, they must be kept refrigerated to retain quality and safety. Unfortunately pasteurizing eggs at home is not an option. The equipment to pasteurize shell eggs isn’t available for home use, and it is very difficult to do at home without cooking the egg. Liquid eggs are also pasteurized and can be used in uncooked recipes.

Did you know that older eggs are easier to peel? That’s because the air cell, found at the large end of the shell between the shell membranes, increases in size the longer the raw egg is stored and as the moisture inside the egg evaporates through the shell. As the air cell enlarges, the shell becomes easier to peel.  Also just because an egg floats in water doesn’t mean it is bad. As the air cell increases it will make the egg become buoyant. It means the egg is older but it may still be perfectly safe to use. A spoiled egg will have an unpleasant odor when you break open the shell, whether it is raw or cooked.

Here are a few other tips from the Food Safety and Inspection Service on handling eggs in dishes.

  • Egg mixtures are safe if they reach 160 °F, so homemade ice cream and eggnog can be made safely from a cooked egg-milk mixture. Heat it gently and use a food thermometer.
  • Dry meringue shells are safe. So are divinity candy and 7-minute frosting, made by combining hot sugar syrup with beaten egg whites. Avoid icing recipes using uncooked eggs or egg whites.
  • Meringue-topped pies should be safe if baked at 350 °F for about 15 minutes. Chiffon pies and fruit whips made with raw, beaten egg whites cannot be guaranteed to be safe. Instead, substitute pasteurized dried egg whites, whipped cream, or a whipped topping.
  • To make a recipe safe that specifies using eggs that aren’t cooked, heat the eggs in a liquid from the recipe over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 160 °F. Then combine it with the other ingredients and complete the recipe.
  • To determine doneness in egg dishes such as quiche and casseroles, the center of the mixture should reach 160 °F when measured with a food thermometer.
  • Eggs and egg dishes, such as quiches or soufflés, may be refrigerated for serving later but should be thoroughly reheated to 165°F (74°C) before serving.

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Food Preservation, Food Safety, recipes

Valentine’s Day Treat Storage

February 12th, 2015

You may be surprised to learn that Valentine’s Day started with the Romans. There are two theories about the origin of Valentine’s Day. The first is that the day derives from Lupercalia, a raucous Roman festival on February 15 where men stripped naked and spanked young maidens in hopes of upping their fertility. The second theory is that while the Roman Emperor Claudius II was trying to bolster his army, he forbade young men to marry (apparently single men make better soldiers). In the spirit of love, St. Valentine defied the ban and performed secret marriages. For his disobedience, Valentine was executed on February 14.

Either way, Americans love to celebrate the holiday as a symbol of love and romance, and with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you might be wondering how to store some of the goodies that come with the holiday.

Here are a few guidelines on cookie and chocolate storage from StillTasty.com, a website for food storage guidelines using research-based information.

Store boxed chocolates at a moderate room temperature. Stored at these temperatures, most types of boxed chocolates will retain their quality for at least 6 to 9 months, even after they’ve been opened. (The exception to this is premium gourmet, handmade chocolates. They will usually remain at peak quality for only about 2-3 weeks at room temperature.)

  • Ideal temperature for storing chocolates is generally between 60⁰ and 70⁰ Fahrenheit – much warmer than that, and the chocolates’ texture and appearance can begin to suffer.
  • In hot, humid conditions – or for longer-term storage refrigerate or freeze chocolates.
  • Refrigeration can extend the shelf life of your chocolates by at least 25%, while freezing can prolong it by 50% or more. Place the original box in a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag, seal and refrigerate for up to one year, or freeze for up to 18 months for best quality. Thaw frozen chocolates in the refrigerator.
  • If the climate in your home is routinely above 70⁰ Fahrenheit and humid – or if you can’t polish off your entire box of chocolates within a few months – your next best option is to refrigerate or freeze your boxed chocolates.
  • Chocolate absorbs nearby odors like a sponge. So it’s important to keep your boxed chocolates well-covered, no matter where you’re storing them. For maximum taste and freshness, place opened boxes in a heavy-duty plastic freezer bag and seal it tightly.

Bakery or homemade cookies can be stored at room temperature 2 – 3 weeks or 2 months in the refrigerator.  Cookies retain their quality when stored in the freezer for 8 to 12 months.

The best way to store cookies is in an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag with the air pressed out.

Baked cookies are best stored separately according to their type, crispy or chewy. For long- term cookie storage, freeze them.  Thaw at room temperature in their wrappers.

Moist bars, such as cheesecake and lemon bars, can be refrigerated for 7 days.  For best quality, store bars in the freezer for up to 2 to 3 months.

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day!

jill sig

Food Preservation, Food Safety, Holiday ideas, Uncategorized