This is your friendly reminder to keep your friends and family safe this Thanksgiving. We speak a lot about food safety this time of year. Here are some tips to remember.
- Remember to wash your hands often. Use soap and wash for at least 20 seconds.
- Resist the urge to wash your turkey. Washing will not make it safer to eat and the splash of water from the turkey will cross contaminate other parts of your kitchen.
- The safest way to make stuffing or dressing is to cook it outside the bird.
- Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. In some families, the tradition is to leave food out on the table all afternoon so people can nibble a bit more. This is a recipe for food bourne illness. Leave leftovers on the table for less than two hours. The clock starts ticking on the two hours as food comes out of the oven or refrigerator.
- Cool leftovers quickly. Store them in shallow pans separated in the refrigerator or freezer. Storing leftovers on the back porch or garage is NOT a good idea. Store them in a refrigerator set between 32°F and 40°F. Closer to 32°F is best.
- Use separate cutting boards for raw meat, cooked meat, and vegetables.
- Keep that pumpkin pie in the refrigerator.
- Use a meat thermometer to know when your turkey is done. Cook to 165°F.
- Use or freeze your leftovers within 3-5 days.
- Call AnswerLine if you have any questions. We really do love to help.
Thanksgiving is the busiest time of the year at AnswerLine. Most callers eat turkey only one or two times a year and often do not’ feel comfortable preparing turkey for guests. We are always happy to talk turkey with callers.
We often get these questions:
- How large a turkey should I buy? You should plan on two and a half or three servings per pound. Buy a larger bird if leftovers are important to you.
- How soon can I buy a fresh turkey? Use your fresh turkey within two days. Call us for advice if you buy your turkey too early.
- How long does it take to thaw a turkey? Plan on 24 hours for each 4-5 pounds of turkey. Remember to thaw it in the refrigerator. Once thawed, use within two days.
- Oh my, I forgot to take my turkey out of the freezer. What can I do? You have two options. You can cook a frozen turkey, just remember to take the giblets and neck out of the cavity after an hour or so. Plan to cook the frozen turkey for one and a half times longer than a thawed bird. Or you can use the cold-water method. Thaw the turkey by leaving it in the plastic wrapper and place in a sink full of cold water. This method takes about 30 minutes per pound to thaw. Change the water every half hour. I was a bit skeptical the first time I tried this method, but it does work well.
- What temperature should I set the oven for turkey? 325°F
- If you want to cook the turkey the day before Thanksgiving, call us for advice.
These are the top turkey questions callers ask every year. Please call us with all of your questions. We love to help.
Callers often want to get ready for Thanksgiving as soon as possible. They often call to see just how far ahead of time they can begin preparing food. Here are some tips from AnswerLine staff to help you get ready and still keep your guests safe.
- In early November, compile your list of guests. Keep in mind any food allergies and favorite and least favorite foods.
- In that same period, begin putting a menu together. Do you want to have a traditional meal or would you enjoy trying something new?
- After deciding on a menu, gather recipes. If you want to try something new, you may want to make a dish in advance to ensure it will be what you expect on the big day. If you have a tradition of asking guests to contribute a dish, be sure to get them the recipe you have chosen so that they have time to buy the ingredients needed.
- Plan seating for your guests. Do you have enough chairs and tables? Do you need a larger tablecloth? Do you have enough place settings and serving pieces? If they are a bit dusty, consider getting them out and washing in advance.
- Plan the order of cooking for the foods you have chosen. Consider which dishes may be prepared ahead of time and frozen. If guests will be contributing a dish, think about how to keep it hot or cold before serving. Make room in your refrigerator ahead of time.
- Clean your house and set your tables a day or two in advance of the holiday.
- Cut up fresh vegetables the day before Thanksgiving. Peel your potatoes early Thanksgiving morning.
- When making foods with many ingredients, remember that you can measure out ingredients ahead of time so when the time comes to put a dish together, you can easily make it without measuring. Cut onions and celery for dressing the night before and take them out of the refrigerator on Thanksgiving to make that stuffing at the last minute.
- Follow your order of cooking and check your menu often on Thanksgiving so that everything is ready in time to serve.
- Remember that we are available to answer any questions you may have about Thanksgiving. Call from 9-4 the week of Thanksgiving. We will not be leaving the office those three days for lunch. You can email us or ask a question on our Facebook page.
If you grew gourds in your garden this summer, you may be interested in how to preserve them. If you just want to display them from now until Christmas, follow the first two steps. If you want to keep them indefinitely, follow all four steps listed below. Gourds dried completely will not retain their bright colors but will be great if you want to paint them or make them into a birdhouse.
- Pick gourds when they are fully mature. At maturity, the stem attached to the fruit begins to dry and turn brown. Cut the gourds from the vines with a hand shears, leaving a few inches of stem attached to the fruit. Handle the gourds carefully as the skin is susceptible to bruising or scratching.
- Gently wash the gourds in soapy water and rinse in a solution of water and chlorine bleach. This should destroy decay organisms, which could lead to fruit rot. Gently dry each gourd with a soft cloth.
- Dry the gourds by spreading them on several layers of newspaper in a warm, well-ventilated place such as a porch, garage or shed. Place the gourds in a single layer, spacing them so that they do not touch one another. Avoid sunny areas as colors may fade. Rotate them every 2 or 3 days, gently wiping with a dry cloth to remove moisture. Promptly remove any which begin to rot.
- Drying or curing may take up to several weeks. To hasten drying of large decorative gourds, make small holes in the bottom of the fruit with an ice pick or nail. The gourds will feel lighter in weight, and the seeds will rattle when the gourds are fully dry.
Once cured, the gourds can be used in their natural state. They may also be painted, waxed, shellacked or varnished for crafts.
These gourds will make a great Thanksgiving centerpiece or fun seasonal decorations around the house.
Now that fall has arrived calls the number of calls to AnswerLine on canning are slowing down. Some caller’s gardens are no longer producing, some callers have filled both freezer and shelves with canned produce, and some callers are just getting tired of canning. We are still getting calls on pickling, making sauerkraut and pickling other vegetables. Several years ago, the National Center for Home Food Preservation came out with this Fall Garden Relish. The recipe uses a few of several different vegetables, which helps you, use up those last few vegetables from the garden. Even if you are not a typical canner, you can make some to store in the refrigerator and use up within a few weeks. Enjoy.
It is time to put the summer things in storage and one of these things is the first aid kit that I store in our camper. We do not use it often but it is important to have it stocked with useful items. It is easy to find on-line lists of supplies to make up a kit and if you need several kits, it may be less expensive. I just use a plastic storage box for the kits we keep in the camper, concession stand, and out in our farm shop. We do not always consider that we may need to include other items in the kit. Emergency phone numbers like your doctor’s number or the emergency room number at the local hospital are a good idea to include. You may want to add the poison control number if you have small children. A copy of your insurance card or at least the phone number may be useful.
It is important to look through the kit and replace items used over the summer or any medications or creams that have expired. Looking through the kit when I put it away in the fall ensures that our kit is fully stocked when we need it next summer.
25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
1 adhesive cloth tape
A small tube of antibiotic ointment
A package of antiseptic wipes
A small bottle of ibuprofen
An instant cold compress
2 pair of non-latex gloves (size: large)
A small tube of hydrocortisone ointment
I am starting to notice Halloween decorations in town and at local stores. One of our co-workers brought in a picture of some decorations she made with her young nephews over the weekend. It looks like a fun project and she said that the boys all really enjoyed it.
I think this would work well with my own grandsons. They love to go to the pumpkin patch to choose pumpkins and they enjoy carving them. Once carved, the pumpkins do not last very long and often can attract gnats or flies. Some years, the jack o lanterns the boys carved rot outside even before Halloween.
To make these jack o lanterns, buy some foam sheets that have an adhesive backing. They are inexpensive and several sheets have enough space to create multiple face parts. These sheets are available in many colors; you may want to buy at least black and white sheets. If you want googly eyes on your jack o lanterns, be sure the eyes you buy have an adhesive back. Depending on the age of the children, you may want to cut pieces in advance or have older children draw their own pieces. Enjoy.
I have been thinking more about fire prevention week this year than I have for many years. When our children were young, we made a point of checking smoke detectors, looking at escape routes from the bedrooms, and choosing a meeting place for the family outside of the house. Since we became empty nesters, we have focused a bit less on these safety steps. Now that we have five grandchildren that live nearby and often spend the night, I am thinking more about fire safety at home.
I have spent some time reading the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) website and looking at their fire safety education ideas. I learned that the slogan for Fire Safety Week in 2018 is “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware – fire can happen anywhere.” This slogan fits nicely with suggestions from many other parts of society. We do need to be aware of our surroundings. Last night we attended at concert at CY Stephens auditorium on the campus of Iowa State University. Our seats were in the third balcony so we had to climb a significant number of stairs to get to our seats. While we were waiting for the event to begin, I looked at both exits from our seats. I planned a first and then second exit, should that have been necessary. Here in our office, we also have two planned exits should it be necessary for us to evacuate. I know the best exit from all the rooms in our home, and the second choice exit but I do not think that my grandchildren are aware of these exits. Two of our upstairs bedrooms contain a fire ladder and I know that the grandchildren do not know how to operate it.
The NFPA suggest these calls to action:
- Look for places fire can start
- Listen for the sound of the smoke alarm
- Learn two ways out of each room
Before my grandchildren’s next visit, I can look around my home for places a fire could start. I will clean out my dryer vent, make sure I do not have anything flammable near a heat source, and eliminate stacks of old magazines. I will check the batteries in my fire alarms to be sure they are all in working order. I plan to take the grandchildren on a house tour to demonstrate two ways out of every room, especially the upstairs bedrooms. We will also practice meeting up at our designated meeting spot, the big blue machine shed out in our yard. I know I will sleep better after putting my plan into action.
Now that harvest has started on our farm, I am thinking of all the work that I need to get finished before the first frost. I always grow some parsley and sage in my garden and I always dry some for the winter. I think that my fresh dried herbs really taste better than anything I can get at the store. I do have a dehydrator that I use for drying herbs. It does not take long to harvest the herbs and I have sometimes done it on the same day the first frost is expected. I cut nice, unblemished sage leaves from the sage plant and stems of parsley. I wash them well and place them on the racks of my dehydrator. Usually it takes an entire day or overnight for the herbs to be dry enough to package. I store them in zipper style freezer bags in my pantry. I always discard any leftover herbs from the previous year.
I know that this sounds easy, since I have a dehydrator, but I have not always had one. You can also dry herbs like these by laying them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and allowing them to dry naturally. If you would prefer to dry them more quickly, you can use your microwave or your oven. The microwave is really only suitable for drying herbs, but you can dry other produce with your oven. Thanks to the folks at the National Center for Home Food Preservation for all the great directions for preserving food.