The holiday season is a prized time; it’s that festive season that seems to be here before you know it, and you wonder how you will find the time to do everything you need to do to celebrate properly with family and friends. The holidays are also when we share favorite, treasured foods with our loved ones.
Whether you are making a favorite recipe for a party, holiday dinners, or mailing goodies to a lucky friend or family member, follow these food safety tips to make the most of your time when preparing your special holiday treats.
This is a good time to clean your refrigerator so that you have room for holiday foods. You’ll also want to clean and clear off your kitchen counter so that you have room to work. Cooking can be a messy business and you don’t want to splash or spill juices from raw meat or poultry, or mixtures that contain raw eggs on clean dishes, kitchen towels, your children’s homework or decorations.
Make a plan
Many holiday dishes and treats contain perishable foods such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products. If you are preparing a complicated food that takes some time to make (e.g., egg rolls, lumpia, pasteles, alcapurrias and ravioli), make sure that the perishable foods stay hot or cold until needed. It may be helpful to divide up the different stages of the recipe. For example, if you are making lumpia, you can prepare the filling one day, and keep it in the refrigerator until you roll and package the lumpia.
If you are making a large batch of a favorite food (such as jams or jellies, pickled vegetables, sofrito) make sure you have all the ingredients and equipment you need before you get started so the food doesn’t sit at an unsafe temperature and allow bacteria to multiply.
Pack it Up and Hand it Out for Gift Giving
Once your goodies are prepared it’s time to pack them up for gift giving. Label with the name of the product, how it should be stored, and a ‘best by’ date if needed. (e.g., “Grandma’s Ravioli. Keep Frozen. Use by April 2018”). Not sure how long your item will last in the pantry, refrigerator or freezer? Download our FoodKeeper app to find out.
Store your goodies in a safe place (a cool, dry place for baked goods, the refrigerator or freezer for perishable foods), until time to deliver or serve. If you are presenting perishable foods be sure to tell the lucky recipient that the item must be kept in the refrigerator or freezer. Avoid leaving perishable gifts on a doorstep or handing them out at a workplace if there is no refrigeration.
Serve it Up
If you are preparing your family favorite for a dinner or party you can make it up to 4 days in advance. If you are making a large quantity of food, store it in several small or shallow containers, which will cool down faster than a large container. When it is time to serve, rather than having a large amount of food sit out on the serving table, put out one portion and keep a batch warm in the oven or cold in the refrigerator until you need it.
Taking it on the Road
If you are delivering your special treat or traveling to an event, remember to keep it out of the “Danger Zone,” the temperature range between 40 and 140°F. Pack perishables in a cooler on ice to keep them safe while you travel. If you are mailing perishables, see Mail Order Food Safety for tips on mailing food.
Consumers with questions about food safety can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist in English or Spanish at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.