How do you safely transport food and save those delicious leftovers from spoiling?
The key to food safety is time and temperature. The bacteria that make us sick thrive at temperatures between 40°f. and 140°f. Even in the refrigerator or freezer they don't die, but multiply so slowly that safe storage is prolonged, not eliminated. As a rule of thumb, follow the Two-Hour Rule “don't leave hot foods below 140° or cold foods above 40° for more than 2 hours”. After 2 hours, bacteria's exponential growth really takes off.
Remember that this includes transportation time as well as time on the table during the meal. If you are bringing perishable food to share, don't prepare it more than 2 hours before serving without plans for proper cooling and reheating. You can keep some dishes on the stove or in the refrigerator until ready to serve. And reheating means on the stove or in the oven. Simply microwaving food, such as gravy, until hot does NOT kill bacteria. It needs to come to a boil.
Remember to keep raw dairy/egg based desserts cold until serving, too. Keep eggnog and cakes with whipped cream/ cream cheese frostings refrigerated. Yummy desserts are delectable to bacteria as well!
We love leftovers, from turkey sandwiches to mashed potato cakes with breakfast. It's important to handle them right, too. Cool hot foods and refrigerate or freeze perishable leftovers within 2 hours of cooking.
A tip for fast cooling & easy storage: Store food in shallow containers, no more than 2 inches deep.
After storing, how can I use them?
When serving leftovers, reheat hot foods to at least 165°f. before eating. Bring leftover gravy or soup to a steady boil. Use stuffing and gravy within one to two days. Refrigerated cooked poultry, ham, leftover casseroles, and cooked vegetables should be consumed within three to four days. You can freeze extra for later. Desserts, including cream pies and cheesecake, MUST be eaten within two to three days (that one's easy!).
Turkey bones can become a delicious and nourishing soup base. Brown some chopped onion, garlic (if desired), celery and carrot in a bit of oil in a large pot, add the bones and water to cover. You can add a couple bay leaves if you like and ¼ cup of vinegar per gallon water. The vinegar will help leach calcium from the bones, making your broth more nutritious. Bring to a boil and simmer at least a couple hours. Remove the bones and add seasoning and vegetables, pasta or whatever you desire for a nourishing soup. The soup can be strained and broth canned in a pressure canner for future use, or soup with vegetables and other ingredients may be frozen.
A Ham bone with some meat attached can be the base for many things, particularly ‘Hopping John', a traditional Black-eye pea dish that brings good luck in the New Year when eaten on New Year's Day. In case you are unfamiliar with it, here's a link: https://www.southernliving.com/recipes/classic-hoppin-john-recipe
All meats can be sliced thin for sandwiches. Put some in the refrigerator and freeze some for later. Remember, the less air in the package, the less chance of drying or freezer burn. We love what we call ‘snibbles'. Small pieces of meat that are wonderful added to casseroles, pasta, soups or in
enchiladas or tamales. Ham in mac n' cheese, turkey served a' la king, Turkey or beef pot pie! The possibilities are endless. Snibbles can also be frozen for later use.
While we're on the topic of storage, how long can I store Home Canned food?
Home canned foods, processed as directed (Pressure Canning or Boiling Water Bath), once jars are cooled and lids tightly vacuum sealed, remove the screw bands, wipe the jars as needed to remove any residue, rinse, dry, label and date and store in a clean, cool, dark, dry place. Under those conditions the food is shelf stable, unrefrigerated, in the jar indefinitely.
Do not store food where the temperature is over 95°, near a heat source, under a sink, in an uninsulated attic or garage where temperature fluctuates, or in direct sunlight. In those conditions food can lose quality in a few weeks or months and may spoil. Dampness can corrode lids, leading to broken seals and contamination.
It's best to store canned or dried foods at temperatures between 50° and 70°. Nonetheless, quality and nutritional value still deteriorate over time. The sooner you eat it, the better the quality, and it's recommended to eat home canned food within one year. Over a longer time you can still eat it and it won't make you sick, but it is less appealing and nutritious. Organize your pantry to rotate food and eat the oldest first. Discard any food with leaking or a broken or bulging seal.
“Although food that has been properly canned and has a vacuum seal will keep indefinitely, over an extended period of time natural changes do occur. These changes may affect the flavor, color, texture and nutritional value of the product. Therefore, our recommendation is that home-canned food be consumed within one year”- Jarden (manufacturer of Ball & Kerr jars and lids)
By the way, your canning jars are good unless they chip, crack, or break and Jarden states that unused lids will last ”1 year, 3 years, 5 years. Of course, to ensure there are no sealing problems that might be attributed to “old” lids, we suggest you rotate your inventory of lids by using the oldest lids first, then newly purchased lids”
For more information on storing fresh or canned foods go here: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/store.html
Hoping you have a wonderful Holiday Season and here's to a bountiful year ahead!