Keeping it Safe for the Holidays

foodsafety-agimpage1My first read of the morning is always the Food Safety News (FSN) e-newsletter. Started by Bill Marler, one of the most prominent and powerful food-safety attorneys in the country, FSN is a rich compendium of information warning readers about food recalls, foodborne illness outbreaks, food science, technology, food policy, and more. It provides such a wealth of information, in fact, that as a regular subscriber, you might start to get paranoid that there is mayhem lurking in a food chain at every step the moment you enter, which ultimately finds an inevitable home in your broccoli.

Between tracking Hep A outbreaks in Hawaii and Virginia to smartly editorializing on Chipotle’s public relations woes, one of FSN’s most valuable sections as we approach the holidays is the Food Safety Guide. In just a few minutes, you’ll learn key facts on how to ensure safe cooking temperatures and avoiding dangerous cross-contamination and foodborne pathogens, both highly uninvited guests at your Thanksgiving table.

As normal as it is to see the obligatory food safety column around the holidays, it’s even more important not to ignore the advice, if you’re preparing foods and enjoying them. A good place to start is the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Tips for Healthy Holidays, which has useful sections on cleaning, separating, cooking, chilling (the food), and using care with stuffing. Several years ago, stuffing emerged as a fraught issue, due to increasing food-borne illness, leading to a debate between the do-not-stuff vs. the stuff-the-bird traditionalists. For the record, here’s the background and science behind not stuffing your bird. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also frowns upon it, so with the scales tipping in the safest direction, the debate has been put to rest.

foodsafety-agimpage2For even more helpful tips, the Illinois Department of Health has a useful holiday food safety guide, and the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases (NCEZID) is hosting its fourth  annual Holiday Food Safety twitter chat on December 7, from 2:00 – 3:00 pm. Get in the know by chatting with featured food safety experts and guest foodies who will share tips on planning and preparing holiday meals that are not only safe and healthy, but also memorable. Follow @CDCgov and @CDC_NCEZID on Twitter and search #CDCFoodChat for messages. In the meantime, you can also check out the CDC’s holiday food safety tips here.

An article on holiday food safety wouldn’t be complete without a recipe, so here’s a particular favorite of mine, from Laurie Colwin’s More Home Cooking. – it’s beautiful, it’s easy, and it redeems the cranberry from mere relish status to the center of the plate. Try it out this Thursday, and I guarantee it will captivate your heart and your stomach.

Nantucket Cranberry Pie
Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Instructions:
Spread the cranberries, walnuts and 1/2 cup of sugar in the bottom of a 9″ or 10″ cake pan (or skillet).  Mix the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl to form a batter. Pour the batter over the cranberry mixture and bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for around 40 minutes.  Cool a bit in the pan and enjoy.

Notes:

  • Pecans are a good substitute for walnuts, depending on your taste
  • I sometimes use Madagascar vanilla extract (the good stuff) instead of almond extract
  • This is a rustic dessert, so don’t expect perfect slices. Just embrace the mound of cranberries and cake that fall onto your plate.

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