Tag Archives: Holidays

Beat the Bacteria Buffet

Spread cheer, not the worst foodborne illness of the year!

We love sharing foods this holiday season, but unfortunately, sometimes in the process we also share foodborne bacteria causing illness. Buffets and potlucks are particularly popular, but come along with certain risks. Make your hearty gatherings the most healthy (and happy!) by practicing these food safety tips from USDA.

Keep Clean
Wash hands, wash dishes, wash utensils, and clean kitchen surfaces. Wash well and wash often.  Invite your guests to also wash their hands as you welcome them.

Cook Completely
Cook foods to safe temperatures. Measure their temperature internally with a food thermometer, before removing from heat source. Cook beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to at least 145°F. All raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal needs to be cooked to no less than 160°F. Poultry must be cooked to a minimum of 165°F. You can cook any of these meats to higher temperatures, but not lower.

Store Shallow, Serve Small
To store cooked foods before serving, store them in the refrigerator or freezer in a shallow dish to encourage rapid, even cooling. Most foods, and especially all meats, poultry, seafood, casseroles, and soups must be reheated to at least 165°F before eating again; serve them in small portions and continually replace platters when empty. This way, foods stay a safe temperature for longer and growth time for bacteria is minimized.

2:02 is Two Too Much 
It is best to discard perishable foods after they sit out at room temperature for more than two hours.  Otherwise, keep them below 40°F or above 140°F. Of course, it’s okay to keep out foods that are stored at room temperature for longer times, like uncut apples and crackers.

Cold means Cold, Hot means Hot
Use chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays to keep hot foods at 140°F or warmer. Nest dishes in bowls of ice to keep cold foods at 40°F or cooler. Otherwise, keep swapping in foods from the oven or refrigerator.

Hidden in Handling
Remember that harmful bacteria capable of causing illness usually cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted. Three common bacteria found partying at food festivities are Staphylococcus aureus, Clostridium perfringens, and Listeria monocytogenes. If anyone does feel ill, please remind them to contact a health professional and describe their symptoms.

The information in this entry comes from the Holiday or Party Buffets Factsheet by the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.

From One Home to Another…

…how to get your homemade foods to loved ones’ homes.

Chances are that you have someone on your gift list that doesn’t live in your home, or even in your neighborhood, city, or state. But if you’ve made amazing food products then you probably want to share them with everyone you love- including those who are far away! You might have concerns not only about proper packaging, but also about food safety and shelf life. So, a few mail order tips for you to keep in mind, from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service:

Jams, jellies, and pickles will last a year if unopened, so the major concern is proper padding in shipping packages so that no containers break open. Remember to mark the package as “Fragile”.

If your homemade goodies have a suggested shorter shelf life, be sure to tell the recipient. For example, whether unopened or opened, dried fruits are recommended to be consumed within one month at room temperature, and six months if kept refrigerated.

If you’re dealing with perishable food items, then you’ve got more immediate food safety concerns. Ideally, send items as quickly as you can and mail them with overnight delivery. Let your lucky recipients know that the gift is on its way, and label packages with “Keep Refrigerated” to remind them. Send packages at the beginning of the week (or at least not the end of it) so that they do not sit in the mailing facility over a weekend.

Most meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products (like cheesecake, yum) are especially perishable and must be handled in a timely manner or else the risk of foodborne illness is very high. Generally, these items must be packed cold or frozen, packaged with a cold source (frozen gel packs or dry ice), and boxed in corrugated cardboard. If meat or poultry arrives at higher than 40°F, as measured with a food thermometer, then it should not be eaten. 40°F to 140°F is the “Danger Zone” for perishable foods, because if they are held at in this temperature range for longer than two hours, then dangerous pathogenic bacteria can grow rapidly.

Some meat and dairy products are exceptions, and do not require refrigeration when properly packaged and unopened. These items include hard salami, hard cheese, and country ham.

If you have more questions, whether you be the sender or the recipient, contact the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline with questions about meat, poultry, or egg products: 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), or the FDA Outreach and Information Center with questions about any other foods: 1-888-723-3366.

The information in this entry comes from the Mail Order Food Safety Factsheet by the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Plenty of Pumpkin Possibilities

Still have a pie pumpkin sitting around, or maybe you’re tempted by their sale price, but don’t know what to do with them? Although canning pumpkin butter is not recommended, there are plenty of other ways to prepare and preserve pumpkin. Just make sure that you are working with one of the smaller varieties of pumpkin, also called “sugar” or “pie” pumpkins. Otherwise, you’ll find the pumpkin flesh to be watery and stringy.

Cubed Pumpkin can be canned for future use in stews or sautées. It is also delicious roasted, perhaps with onion, garlic, and other yummy veggies. If you want pumpkin purée for soups, breads, pies, or pancakes, then get a few freezer bags ready for Freezing Pumpkin.  If you’re feeling adventurous, your inner child (or perhaps your actual child) will have fun drying and trying Spicy Pumpkin Leather. Here you’ll find recipes and instructions for each of these options.

Cubed Pumpkin (or Cubed Winter Squash)

If this is your first time canning, or if you could use a refresher of the basics, be sure to read Using Pressure Canners, and Principles of Home Canning before beginning.

Cubed pumpkin averages 2¼ pounds per quart jar, so decide your canner load: for 9 pints, you’ll need about 10 pounds, or for 7 quarts you’ll need about 16 pounds of pumpkin.

Procedure:

  1. Wash and remove seeds from pumpkin.
  2. Cut pumpkin into 1-inch wide slices, and peel.
  3. Cut flesh into 1-inch cubes.
  4. Boil 2 minutes in water (do not mash or purée!).
  5. Fill jars with cubes and cooking liquid, leaving 1-inch headspace.
  6. Adjust lids and process using the tables below.
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 min

11 lb

12 lb

13 lb

14 lb

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 min

10 lb

15 lb

 

 

Freezing Pumpkin

Select a full-colored mature pumpkin with fine texture.

Procedure:

  1. Wash, cut into cooking-size sections and remove seeds.
  2. Cook until soft in boiling water, in steam, in a pressure cooker or in an oven.
  3. Remove pulp from rind and mash.
  4. To cool, place pan containing pumpkin in cold water and stir occasionally.
  5. Package in freezer bags or a sealable plastic container, leaving ½-inch headspace.
  6. Seal and freeze.

Spicy Pumpkin Leather

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh pumpkin, cooked and puréed
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8  teaspoon powdered cloves

Procedure:

  1. Add honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to the cooked and puréed pumpkin. Blend well.
  2. Spray fruit roll liner tray with vegetable oil (for electric dehydrators) or line cookie sheet with plastic wrap (for ovens that register as low as 140-145°F). Spread mixture evenly on tray or sheet, at a depth of ¼ inch.
  3. Dry at 140°F for 6-12 hours. After 6 hours, begin checking for doneness by pressing fingertip near center of leather. It’s done when no impression is left.
  4. Cut leather into quarters then place each piece on a piece of plastic wrap that is slightly wider than the leather- this allows you to roll the leather together with the plastic wrap, twisting the ends of the plastic to seal.
  5. Seal in a freezer bag and keep in a cool, dark place for storage up to one month.

Pumpkin Leather

For original articles, go to “How do I?” “Can” and “Dry” on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.

Simple Cranberry Sauce Variations

The traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey with all the trimmings is now past for 2012. Your trimmings may have included the cranberry sauce just as they do for so many families. Cranberries are still in season, and provide a note of tart combined with sweet to compliment many foods as well as turkey and dressing. These weeks between our fall and winter holidays make a good time to still use cranberries. You can can a delightfully simple sauce to use with your holiday meals or for a homemade gift to show others you care. Especially good for beginning home canners, our cranberry sauce is very easy. Whether you prefer whole, crushed, or jelly-style, this cranberry sauce recipe has variations that will be a delightful trimming on the holiday menu and perfect for those delicious sandwiches made from leftover turkey.

Find the full recipe on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website, or view an abbreviated version below.

Here you’ll find three variations of a basic cranberry sauce recipe: whole, crushed, or sieved berries. Have no fear, each of these variations have been tested for safety, appearance, and deliciousness.

If this happens to be your first time canning, it’s recommended that you read Principles of Home Canning. Even if you’ve canned before, please refresh your memory and get up to date on the latest recommendations from USDA by reading Using Boiling Water Canners before beginning.

Cranberry Sauce

Yield:  About 4 half-pint jars (recipe may be doubled)

  • 4 cups cranberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp butter (opt.)

Make a Hot Pack – Wash cranberries. Cook berries in water until soft. To reduce foaming, add ½ teaspoon of butter (optional). Now here’s your choice: gently stir whole berries, crush with a potato masher or the back of a cooking spoon until desired consistency, or press through a fine sieve. Whichever you choose, add sugar and boil 3 minutes. Pour boiling hot sauce into hot jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner; refer to the table below to determine processing time.

Table 1. Recommended process time for Cranberry Sauce in a boiling-water canner.
Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 – 1,000 ft 1,001 – 3,000 ft 3,001 – 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot

Half-pints

Pints

 15 min

15 min

20 min

20 min

20 min

20 min

25 min

25 min


For original article, go to the National Center for Home Food Preservation website.