Tuesday, September 27, 2011

WFMW - Can you tell if your food is safe?

My husband needed a glass jar for the bees. None of the glass jars under the sink would fit their new feeder, which was sized for a narrow mouth canning jar. If I am canning, which is a rare occurrence, I buy the wide mouth kind because they're easier to fill.

To save myself a trip to town to buy a case of jars for the bugs, I decided to hunt through the pantry and see if there was something I could either eat or sacrifice. I did find something, but after turning over the half filled jar and shaking the jar and still being unable to figure out what those gelatinous black discs were (sweet pickles?), there was NO way I was opening it, not even to throw out the contents.

I recently read that you should throw away the entire contents of your refrigerator if the power is out for more than four hours. That the cost of replacing everything is far less than the medical expenses from a potential illness.

I don't know about you, but our power goes out fairly often. Usually for brief periods, but we have at least a couple of outages a year that would put us in the "throw everything out" category if I listened to that particular website. I don't want to add up the cost of replacing the complete contents of our refrigerator and freezer even once a year.

A lot of the things we refrigerate don't need to be in there at all. Some of the things we refrigerate can go bad and kill you even if they're kept at the proper temperature -- and I'm not talking about the obvious ones like milk and raw meat.

Do you know the safety rules?

One of the most educational things I've ever invested my time in was the thirty hours I spent becoming a Master Food Preserver. It was ten years ago and I don't claim to remember everything I learned there, but if I quickly review the details, I know how to freeze it or dehydrate it or pickle it or can it with either a pressure canner or in a water bath. And I should know what to do with it if the power goes out. That same knowledge also comes in handy on road trips when all of the ice in the cooler has melted.

Classes through our extension office were free as long as the participants committed to volunteer a set number of hours after receiving the training. In my case, I was able to answer the food preservation hot line from my own living room. As soon as my kids are old enough, I want to get them signed up for the classes - even if it means taking them again myself.

Don't tell anyone, but I still thaw meat on the kitchen counter. I didn't always rush straight home from the grocery store with the produce in the air-conditioned back set. (How exactly are you supposed to do that with kids in all of the seats? Guess that's one of the advantages of the minivan not having a trunk.) And I'm not giving up fried eggs with runny yolks or raw cookie dough.

There are chances I'm willing to take, and things that are not ever going into my kids' mouths, even if it hurts a loved one's feelings. Salmon canned by someone who didn't have the gauge on the brand new pressure canner checked? Unpasteurized cider from the pumpkin patch? Ain't gonna happen!

I don't do much canning. These days, my food preservation is limited to putting it in a plastic bag and carrying it out to the chest freezer in the garage. But I do know how to do it right if the urge strikes. It's a good thing to know. You should check with your extension office and see if you can get the training yourself.

By the way, the USDA website has lots of great information about what is and isn't safe.

For more WFMW post, visit We are THAT family

1 comment:

Linda said...

Our power went out two different times in as many weeks for 7 hours each time. And I had also read about the 4 hour rule, but I didn't throw anything out and thankfully no one got sick.


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