Don’t wash raw poultry!

Washing raw chicken in the sink.  Please don’t do this!

The USDA sent out another press release a few days ago, reminding us not to wash raw poultry. This is a topic that comes up every so often with callers. Some callers resist our advice not to wash poultry. Washing raw poultry simply is not very effective. Splashing water and hands not washed well will spread bacteria from the raw poultry to many other places in the kitchen. This simply is not an effective method for ensuring a safe meal.

Callers often do not believe that they will end up with bacteria in their sink or counter tops that will not be easy to clean up. According to the USDA, 60% of people that washed raw poultry had bacteria in the sink after washing or rinsing poultry. About 14% still had detectable levels of bacteria in the sink after washing the sink. The researchers for the USDA also found that 26% of these people had also transferred bacteria to their ready to eat salads. Therefore, even if you try to clean up after washing poultry, there is no guarantee that you can remove it from the sink or be sure that it does not transfer to your salad. This is not an appetizing thought.

Even if participants in this study did not wash the raw poultry, 31% still managed to transfer bacteria from the poultry to their salad. Researchers speculated that this transfer occurred due to lack of handwashing and contamination of the countertop from the poultry. We often explain to consumers that it is hard to be conscious of the “little things” that we do to cross-contaminate in the kitchen. Consumers also tend to underestimate the value of handwashing.

We do remind callers to use a thermometer to check the temperature of poultry (and all other meats) every time. Thorough cooking will kill bacteria that is present on the meat. That is why we can tell callers that not washing poultry is safe. Cooking kills bacteria. Knowing we have reached the proper temperature inside the meat or poultry ensures a safe product.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Plan now for county fair 2020

Just picked green beans.

Now that both County fair and State fair are over, it is time to start thinking about projects for next year in 4-H. If there is an area that looked interesting, now can be a great time to time to look deeper into a project area. If you are interested in food and nutrition projects, think about exhibits you can prepare ahead of time for the fair in 2020. An easy make-ahead project area would be food preservation. Many foods are ripe and ready to preserve now that may not be ready again before the fair next year. Green beans and tomatoes are plentiful now and would make a great exhibit for the fair. Be sure to use an approved recipe from Extension and Outreach, the USDA canning guide, or So Easy to Preserve. If you choose to make a jam or jelly, the insert from the pectin package contains approved recipes. It is important to only use a tested recipe for a canning exhibit; old family recipes may not produce a safe product.  Those recipes will be disqualified if you bring them to the fair.  Follow the tested recipe directions exactly, adjust the recipe for altitude if necessary, and compose the write-up now while everything is fresh in your mind. You will be grateful next summer that you took time now to complete a fair exhibit.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds at my feeder in early September 2018

Last spring, in 2018, we saw the first hummingbirds ever at the home we have lived in for over 40 years.  We enjoyed watching the birds all summer and then were in for a surprise in September when they began massing at our home.  We had not seen more than a handful of hummingbirds at the same time all summer.  It was fascinating to watch them while we ate supper on our patio.  Although they do not tend to migrate in a flock like other birds, they do start preparing for migration in late August or early September.

I learned that the hummingbirds were eating more nectar in preparation for migration south for the winter.  I did a bit of research on hummingbirds last summer but I’m afraid that I did not remember to check early enough this spring for the date hummingbirds would return from the south. I got the feeder out in late May or early June this year but I have since learned that hummingbirds often arrive in April in central Iowa. I can put my feeders up but if a freeze is expected, I will need to take them inside for the night.

I plan to put a note on my feeders when I take them in this fall to remind me to get them out earlier next spring.  I’ve learned that hummingbirds have great memories and do return to a spot they fed at the previous year.  If they arrive and there is no feeder present, they may look elsewhere and not return.  My feeders will remain out until October this fall or until 2 weeks have passed without seeing a hummingbird.  I have enjoyed them this summer and miss having something to look at while I’m working in my kitchen. 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Jam and Jelly problems

Jar of strawberry jam

We have been getting a lot of calls and questions about problems with jams and jellies in the last few weeks.

We do have directions for remaking jams and jellies and often give this information to callers. The remade jam or jelly will be a slightly different flavor and texture as the directions call for adding more sugar and pectin but no more fruit or fruit juice. These directions will allow you to save the jelly or jam and still have a spreadable product.

Other callers have been concerned about jam that was too stiff to spread without breaking the bread. Their jam may have been overcooked or they may have chosen too much under-ripe fruit. The under-ripe fruit contains more naturally occurring pectin than ripe fruit and the extra pectin could make a stiff jel.

Jelly or jam containing many bubbles may actually be fermenting in the jar. This product may not have been heated enough before filling jars or it may have been under-processed during canning.

If you find crystals that seem like glass, especially in grape jelly, it would be tartrate crystals. Letting the juice stand overnight in the refrigerator and then straining the juice before making jelly can eliminate this problem.

Jam that appears to have a layer of jelly on the bottom and then floating fruit in the rest of the jar is a common problem. We often see this in strawberry jam. Floating fruit is due to a difference in density between the fruit and the liquid. If this your problem, try cutting the fruit into smaller pieces and using only ripe fruit to make jam.

We love to help callers with jam and jelly problems, please contact us and we will do our best to help.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Back to school time, again!

I can hardly believe that it is time to get ready for another school year.  The commercials are on TV, school supply displays are popping up in the stores, and summer activities are winding down.  It seems like just last week was the first day of summer. 

Most schools in Iowa will start in about three weeks.  This is a good time to set some goals for the upcoming school year.  If getting kids up, fed, and out the door always is a struggle, you may want to look for some easy changes to your routine.  Lost library books or assignments may be preventable when you designate a special spot for those items.  A little planning now may make weekdays a little easier throughout the school year.

If mornings are chaotic because your child takes forever to choose an outfit and get dressed, consider some options.  Some students choose their clothing for the next day at bedtime.  If it takes your child so long to make a decision that it delays bedtime, consider allowing them to choose a weeks worth of clothing over the weekend. 

Breakfast options are easy to plan ahead.  Allow your child to choose five or six different options that are nutritious, fast, and easy to prepare.  You can chart the options or the student can choose one before school. 

Take some time now, before life goes back into a difficult routine to make some changes.  You will be glad you did. 

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Foods for Iowa 4-H Fairs

It is County Fair time again and we have been getting many calls from county fair judges and 4-H members preparing for their fairs. Over the past few years, we have tried to explain what makes an acceptable exhibit for county fair and what projects would be better represented by only a write-up and pictures of the actual food product. It can be difficult for 4-H families, judges, and Extension and Outreach staff to all understand and remember just what foods are safe and acceptable to exhibit at County Fair.

We have a publication explaining this information that is updated every few years. This publication covers most common foods and the rationale for including or excluding a food for exhibit. Unfortunately, we cannot include every food product in this list. In an effort to make this publication user friendly, the information is presented in chart form. This format allows for the inclusion of only a handful of examples in every category. It can be frustrating for 4-H members unable to find their exact exhibit listed in the publication, but the “method notes” section lists some explanations of why an item is or is not considered acceptable for exhibit.

Even though many food products are not considered acceptable for exhibit at the fair these same foods could be exhibited by using a write-up only format. These foods could be prepared at home and photographed. The 4-H member can provide a self-evaluation of the product or an evaluation by family members, friends, or other 4-H members in the write-up. The pictures and evaluation would be included in the write up along with the goal statement, description of what I did, and what I learned information in the write-up. This very complete write-up would be entered at the county fair as the food and nutrition exhibit and would be judged at the same time as other food products are judged. A well-written exhibit has an excellent opportunity of being chosen to go to the Iowa State Fair.

If you are preparing for a fair, either call us at 1-800-262-3804 or email us at answer@iastate.edu. We are very happy to help.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Mice in the camper!

My camper is my happy place. It is my escape from stress and the best way for me to relax. Last week I discovered mice have invaded my happy place. I have always taken precautions when closing the camper for the summer before winter storage. I can only remember one other time that we had mice in a camper and that was after we had stored our tent trailer in a small shed with a dirt floor. Now we store our camper in a shed with a concrete floor. I noticed a couple of mouse droppings inside the camper after we had used it several times. When we moved our fifth wheel camper out of storage, I did not find any evidence of mice.

We have a permanent campsite on our farm, near our pond, and we often use the camper spontaneously. I like to keep food in the refrigerator and in the pantry so that we can relax any time we like.

I was putting away some groceries in the pantry when I noticed that a bag of croutons had a hole in the bottom and croutons were scattered all over the shelf. I knew that I needed to remove any food that would attract mice and I needed to remove anything that they could chew into and damage.

We bought a variety of products to kill mice as I was unsure which one would be most effective but I wanted to eliminate the mice as soon as possible. We set two traps on the top shelf, some glue traps among the canned foods and a mouse poison bait on the floor of the pantry.

So far, the traps have been the most effective. We caught a mouse the first night and again several days ago. One glue trap had a trace of mouse hair but all the glue was gone.

I have done a bit of research to keep our food safe from mice. I will store my food that is not in cans or bottles in smaller plastic totes. I hope that we caught all the mice sharing our camper but I am not sure that is true. I will be cautious and store any food that attracts mice in plastic for the rest of the summer.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Is it safe to eat rhubarb?

It is time to stop pulling rhubarb and picking asparagus. We often have callers asking if rhubarb is poisonous after the middle of June. Actually, it is safe to pull rhubarb all summer long but we stop in mid-June for the health of the plant. Rhubarb plants will feed their roots while growing the rest of the summer. It is safe to pull a small amount of rhubarb for an occasional pie or crisp throughout the summer as long as the plantings are well established. You should pull the thinnest, most tender stalks when harvesting later in the summer.

You will not be able to harvest asparagus throughout the summer as the stalks will grow their fern-like foliage and you will not enjoy eating it. The easiest way to keep the weeds out of the asparagus is to mulch it. I used some grass clippings on mine this summer.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Need to wash an quilt?

I have gotten a few calls lately from callers that needed to wash a quilt. We always need to get a bit more information when giving washing directions. It is important to know the age and condition of the quilt along with how the quilt was constructed and quilted. In addition, is the quilt actually soiled or does it need to be freshened?

Callers need to know that a hand pieced and hand quilted quilt is more delicate than one that was assembled and quilted by machine. It is important to know if the quilt has been washed before, as some unwashed fabrics will bleed into the wash water. Often red or other intense color fabrics will run and discolor other fabrics in the quilt. We would advise using cool to cold water to wash this quilt and the use of Shout brand color catchers in the washing machine. Color catchers will adsorb the loose dye preventing dye transfer into other parts of the quilt.

You may want to wash a hand pieced and quilted quilt by hand. Usually the bathtub will be large enough to immerse the quilt and gently agitate the quilt. Letting water out of the tub is easier on the quilt that the spin cycle of a washing machine. You should plan to rinse the quilt by adding clear water and draining the tub several times.

The stitching in a hand pieced or hand quilted quilt is easily broken so it is important not to use a dryer. Air-drying is the recommended technique. If you have access to a clothesline, make a sling of a bed sheet and place the quilt on top to dry is the best option. Never allow the quilt to hang by the wet weight of the quilt. That is a sure way to damage the quilt.

A newer, machine pieced and quilted quilt is safe in the dryer on a gentle setting. It may be best to remove it from the dryer before it is completely dry. Allow it to air dry on a bed.

Please call us if you have other questions about washing a quilt. We love to help.

 

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Blanching?

We are starting to get calls about freezing and blanching fruits and vegetables. We often explain to callers that blanching is a quality step and not a safety step. Blanching vegetables will kill the enzymes present that will continue to soften the food even in the freezer. Blanching will also protect the color of the vegetable. The directions for blanching are often confusing for callers.

We tell callers to blanch vegetables in small batches; work with a quart of product at a time. Start water heating on the stove and when it boils, add the vegetables. Wait until the food returns to a boil to begin timing the blanching time. When the time is up, remove the vegetables from the boiling water and plunge them into ice water. The ice water will stop the cooking process. Plan to cool the vegetables for at least as long as the blanching time. Cooling for a bit longer will not hurt the quality of the food and will help it cool much faster in the freezer. Callers can choose from freezing in a container or freezing on a tray and then transferring vegetables into a freezer bag or container after 24 hours. Tray freezing will allow the caller to enjoy any amount of vegetable at a time without thawing an entire container of food.

Happy blanching!

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

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