When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin tucked into their first meal on the moon, it was foil packets of roasted turkey and all the trimmings. With their special packaging, they likely were not concerned about food safety, but it should be at the top of your to-do list for the holidays. Be sure that you purchase, store, prepare and serve food safely and handle leftovers appropriately.
The holiday season requires special consideration to keep food safe. Parties, dinners and special events mean feeding large groups over extended periods of time, and that adds to the need for extra care. Here is a quick refresher course from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Avoid the Danger Zone. Harmful bacteria can grow rapidly in the danger zone between 40° F and 140° F. Try to make food shopping your last errand before going home. At the store, select frozen and refrigerated foods just before going to the checkout register, and when you get home, store them promptly and properly.
Clean thoroughly. Make sure everything that contacts food is as clean as possible. Start with clean hands because they are the most frequently used utensil in the kitchen and can spread bacteria very quickly. Clean dishes and utensils thoroughly, launder dishcloths and towels frequently and sanitize work surfaces, cutting boards and sponges with a mild bleach solution between uses.
Store safely. Plan ahead so you will have adequate storage space in the refrigerator and freezer for all perishable items. This is a good time to clean out and throw away leftovers. Keep cold foods cold – 40° Fahrenheit or less in the refrigerator and 0° Fahrenheit or less in the freezer. Keep a thermometer in each area and remember to check it often.
Cook correctly. Cooking enhances the flavor of food, but its main function is to kill disease-causing microorganisms. To do this job effectively, the internal temperature of the food must reach the recommended level as shown on an instant-read thermometer: beef – at least 150° F; pork – 160° F; poultry – 165° F. Cook ground meats until there is no pink left and the internal temperature reaches 160° F. Reheat leftovers to at least 165° F to kill bacteria that might have multiplied in the cooling process. Cook meat, poultry, fish, egg dishes and casseroles thoroughly in one operation. Do not cook partially and plan to complete the cooking process later.
Separate. Keep raw and cooked foods and their juices separate at all times. Be sure that raw meats do not drip on other foods in the grocery basket, in grocery bags or in the refrigerator. Marinate meats on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to keep juices from spilling on other foods and do not reuse the marinade. Never use the same plate or utensil for cooked food that you used to prepare or transport the raw product.
Entertain safely. Keep the two-hour rule in mind when serving a large meal, buffet or reception. Do not leave perishables at room temperature for more than two hours in cool weather or one hour when it is warmer. Offer food in small serving dishes and replace them often, using a clean dish each time. Keep the replacement food in the refrigerator or oven to maintain the proper temperature until serving. To keep hot foods hot when serving them, consider using an electric serving dish, warming tray or chafing dish. Nest dishes in bowls of ice to keep them cold.
Manage leftovers. Refrigerate leftovers as quickly as possible, discarding any that have been at room temperature for two hours or more. Divide large quantities of hot foods into smaller containers so they will cool more quickly when refrigerated. Reheat all leftovers to at least 165° F and heat gravy to a rolling boil. Use cooked dishes within three days and stuffing and gravy within two days.
Finally, when in doubt, throw it out.
A brief history of Pie
At first blush, it might seem like a classic that has remained pretty steady and predictable over the years. Pie is pie, right?
Look a little closer. It turns out, we can sneak a peek into history and fads when we consider what types of pie were popular at the time. Consider these, from Taste of Home:
Earliest pies: Probably meat pies and fruit pies. As long as there have been apples, someone has put them into a crust.
* Icebox Pie. Nothing screams old-timey like the term icebox. This dessert came to prominence in the 1910s, when insulated boxes with ice were still a popular method of keeping food cold.
* Vinegar Pie. Though it sounds more like a punishment than a dessert, this custard-type pie, which emerged during the Great Depression when ingredients were limited, apparently has a mellow sweet-tart flavor.
* Jell-O Pie. A little Jell-O, a little fruit, a pie crust: boom. 1950s, anyone?
* Mini Pies. These took off in the 2010s. Are we more indecisive about fruit or cream pies? Do we just like to sample? Is it a by-product of a tapas phase? Who knows. And who cares, so long as they’re delicious!
* Allergen-friendly pies. Also a recent trend, pies today can be nut free, gluten free, dairy free, Keto, you name it. Again, so long as it’s yummy, bring it!
Scary mummies with devilish dipping sauce
This spooky twist on pigs in a blanket is fun to eat and even easier to make. Kids of all ages will be delighted.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
• 12-ounce package of crescent roll dough
• 10 hot dogs
• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 2 tablespoons maple syrup
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Red food coloring (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.
2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
3. Cut the hot dogs in half to make two shorter pieces (or you can keep them whole and make ten bigger mummies).
4. Unroll crescent roll dough and cut it into strips that are about half-an-inch wide.
5. Wrap the strips around each hot dog, leaving a portion unwrapped near the end to make the “face.” Place the dough covered hot dogs on the baking sheet.
6. Bake for 15 minutes or until the dough is golden brown.
7. While the hot dogs are baking, in a bowl combine all the dipping sauce ingredients.
8. Let the mummies cool for 5 to 10 minutes and then serve with the sauce. Enjoy!
Give your mummies eyes by using cream cheese and black peppercorns — or any other ingredients you have on hand. Happy Halloween!
How to pick apples like a pro: tips for visiting the orchard
October is National Apple Month, and there couldn’t be a better time to visit your favorite orchard. Are you ready to pick some apples? Make the most of your next visit with these tips.
• Do some investigating. Conduct a bit of research to find the orchard that can provide you with the experience you’re looking for. Do you prefer to pick organically grown apples? Are your kids eager to try a hay maze and tractor ride? Or perhaps you’d like to have a nice lunch first? Each orchard offers different activities, so find the one that best meets your needs.
• Decide how you’ll use your apples. Determine ahead of time what you’d like to do with your apples and choose the right type for your purposes. For example, Granny Smith and Cortland are best for making pie, McIntosh and Golden Delicious are ideal for cooking apple sauce and Honeycrisp and Gala are perfect for snacking on.
• Choose your fruit wisely. Always opt for shiny, blemish-free apples, and remember to be gentle when picking fruit off the branch. Simply point the apple towards the sky and twist. Never shake the tree and definitely avoid collecting fruit that’s fallen on the ground.
• Bring a little extra spending money. Apples aren’t the only thing for sale at the orchard. Bring some extra cash for buying apple cider doughnuts, fresh-pressed apple juice, apple butter and any other apple infused goodies.
Back at home, it’s important to store your apples properly. Keep those that will be eaten right away in a bowl and store the rest in their own drawer in the fridge. Apples produce ethylene gas, which is harmless but makes other fruits and vegetables ripen faster.
Taste the harvest
Fall’s here and soups, salads and hearty meals are now on the menu, chock full of delicious.
An array of vegetables are at their best at this time of year. Fill your basket with squash, pumpkins, garlic, mushrooms, beets, potatoes, cabbage and many other foods that ripen in the fall.
Many fruits are also ready to be enjoyed now. Don’t forget to head to your nearest orchard for
If you’d prefer not to do the cooking yourself, head to a local restaurant. Many are highlighting the best that autumn has to offer in their seasonal menus.
This fall, indulge in the amazing goods that you’ll find at the market, the farm, the grocery store and your local eateries. Bon appetit!
A brief introduction to canning
Do you have more produce on hand than you know what to do with? If so, canning is a great way to make sure your food keeps all winter long.
Preparing food for canning
Here are some ways of preparing produce before it goes bad.
• Cooking. Turn your fruit into jam, make tomato sauce or blanch your vegetables before canning them.
• Pickling. Vinegar helps produce become acidic enough to be canned in a water bath. Try cucumbers, carrots, green beans or even peaches in a brine of vinegar and water.
Methods of canning
Home canning involves using sealed glass jars to conserve your food. There are a couple of ways to do this.
• Water bath canning. This method uses boiling water to heat jars and seal them. Only foods with high acidity like berries, pickles and tomatoes can be safely canned this way.
• Pressure canning. This technique involves using high temperatures to can meat and vegetables that aren’t acidic enough to be safely water canned. You’ll need a pressure canner, which is similar to a pressure cooker.
No matter what canning method you use, make sure to sterilize your jars and always use rings that are free of rust and lids that are brand new.
Maple syrup makes this subtle twist on a fall classic an instant crowd pleaser.
Start to finish: 1 hour and 15 minutes (30 minutes active)
• 7 Cortland apples, peeled and diced
• 1/3 cup brown sugar
• 1/3 cup maple syrup
• 1tablespoon lemon juice
• 1teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 cups quick-cook rolled oats
• 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1 cup softened butter
1. Preheat the oven to 350 °F and butter a 9×13-inch baking dish.
2. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for the filling and transfer to the baking dish.
3. In another bowl, combine all the ingredients for the crumble topping.
4. Cover the apple mixture with the crumble topping, taking care to cover completely.
5. Bake for 45 minutes or until the apples are tender and the topping is golden brown. Let cool, then serve and enjoy.
For a dessert that’s ultra-decadent, serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.