Tricounty News

Food safety after school

Where is the first place kids go when they get home from school? The kitchen. They rummage through the cupboards and refrigerator seeking a snack. The kitchen is not always the safest place if kids become ill from the food they eat. Children under age 15 are at a higher risk for foodborne illness as their immune system is not as developed as an adult’s.

When heading to after-school snack time, kids can help prevent foodborne illness by following these guidelines:

• Place backpacks, books, and sports equipment on the floor, or designated area. They carry germs that we don’t want on the table or counters where food is prepared.

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Homegrown tomatoes

“What’d life be without homegrown tomatoes, only two things that money can’t buy, that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes” (G.Clark 1983)

These song lyrics may reflect a Minnesotan’s anticipation of the first “homegrown” tomato of the season! Tomatoes are the most popular home preserved food. The variety of preservation methods and the versatility of preserving tomato juice, salsa, jam, dry tomatoes, pickled green tomatoes, and more, make it a treasured treat of summer and beyond.

We think of tomatoes as “high acid”, but research tells us that the acid varies by the variety, heat, moisture, soil, and ripeness. Current canning recommendations require that acid be added to (almost) all canned tomato products whether water bath processed or pressure canned.

So, when canning “plain” tomatoes:

• Quarts: add 2 Tablespoons bottled lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid

• Pints: add 1 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid

Bottled lime juice can be used in exchange for bottled lemon juice. Tomato products like salsa may use vinegar to acidify and add flavor. Acid can be added directly to jars before filling or after filling, prior to applying the lid.

Home-canners have asked if heirloom tomatoes are acidic enough to be canned without adding acid. Horticulture researchers have concluded the acidity of heirloom tomato plants is no different from the non-heirloom varieties. In fact, there are some heirloom varieties that are more low-acid than hybrid varieties. As a result, the same recommendations apply for adding acid when canning heirloom tomatoes.

See University of Minnesota Extension for preserving tomatoes and salsa information at http://z.umn.edu/g38.

Can vegetables safely

Are you planning to can green beans, carrots or beets? If so, know that safe home-canned vegetables require processing in a pressure canner.

The acidity in the food determines if fruits or vegetables are processed in a pressure canner or a boiling water bath canner. Low-acid vegetables and meats contain too little acidity to prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria and must be pressure canned.

Botulism is a food poisoning most commonly found in improperly processed home canned vegetables, such as beets, peppers, carrots, green beans, and mushrooms, as well as other low-acid foods canned at home, including soups, meats, fish and poultry. Because these bacteria grow only in the absence of air, they are harmless on fresh foods.

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Sweet corn is coming

It is sweet corn season in Minnesota – enjoy fresh corn on the cob, a summer tradition! Sweet corn is an excellent vegetable to store frozen. It is easy to freeze and produces a tasty, quality product when properly frozen.

When harvesting, do so early in the morning before the heat of the day. Plan to freeze the corn as soon as possible after harvest. Once husked, the ears are blanched in boiling water for four minutes followed by a complete cooling in ice water for about eight minutes. Drain and cut the kernels from the cob.

An electric knife is a handy tool for cutting off the kernels. Package the corn in freezer containers, leaving one-half inch headspace. Seal and freeze at 0°F or below to maintain quality frozen corn for up to one year.

Blanching, followed by chilling in ice water, are critical processes for producing quality frozen corn. The enzymes in corn need to be inactivated by blanching in boiling water for the recommended time prior to freezing to prevent loss of color, nutrients, flavor, and texture. The ice cold chilling process prevents the corn from becoming mushy because of overcooking the starch.

You can enjoy the great taste of summertime sweet corn all year long by following these simple, basic procedures for freezing vegetables.

Get reliable answers to food preservation questions

Strawberries are being picked. Vegetables are ripening. The Minnesota food preservation season is starting. Canning, freezing, drying or pickling fruits and vegetables allows us to enjoy the bounty of summer for months to come. Whether you’re making your first batch of salsa or you’ve been pressure canning green beans for years, you may have questions.

Where to go for answers? Call AnswerLine to ask a household expert questions about: Safely canning and freezing foods; cleaning stains and mildew from homes and clothes; and other household issues. AnswerLine is toll-free at (800) 854-1678 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and 1 to 4 p.m.

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