Are you following food safety practices?
Tips from grocer to table
By Beth Krueger
Ensuring that your food preparation is safe and sanitary is not just a hot weather concern. Here are some considerations for safely handling food, from the trip to the grocery store to table.
Statistics show why these procedures should not be treated casually or just when convenient. If you think that food safety illnesses are few and far between, this data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention paints a sobering picture: nationally, food-borne ailments strike one in six in the nation annually, equaling about 48 million, with 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Usually, illness occurs in one to three days of consuming the food, but it can strike within 20 minutes or up to six weeks later. Food poisoning is especially problematic for children under five, older persons, those with compromised immune systems and with diseases, such as cancer.
In the bag: Let’s start at the point you head to your car to pick up the grocery items on your list. Do you use reusable grocery bags? If so, think safety before you grab those bags. The New York State Health Department warns that if they are not properly washed and dried, you may be transporting E. coli or Salmonella as well as your food items. For cloth bags, use the washing machine with laundry detergent and then put them in the dryer or air dry. Scrub plastic bags with hot water and soap and air dry. Don’t be in a hurry to store or put them into use again – wait until they are thoroughly dry. Store them in a cool and dry place. While keeping them in your car or car trunk may be convenient, that can also be hot and humid – a breeding ground for Salmonella or other germs. Keep your reusable bags exclusively for your groceries; don’t use the bags for other purposes.
OK, you have clean, reusable bags, and you are ready to load them up. Designate one bag for the meat/fish/poultry items, one for fruits and vegetables, and one for other dry goods. While you are going green with the bags, as a safety step, use a plastic bag for each meat/fish/poultry item to keep the juices from getting on the other items and on the bag. Remember to dispose of those plastic bags when you are storing items at home – don’t reuse them. Whether you are using reusable bags or not, it’s good to keep the meat/poultry/fish, fruit/vegetable and dry goods categories of items separate in your cart and at the checkout counter, too.
One other tip to keep in mind when you are planning your shopping trip: Cold items should be refrigerated within two hours of leaving the grocer or one hour if the thermometer is hitting 90 degrees or higher. It’s best to plan the grocery visit last when you are doing errands.
Clean hands when handling food: Take the time to thoroughly wash your hands (not just the palms) with soap and running water before handling, preparing or eating food – and do again after handling raw meats, poultry, seafood and raw eggs. Hand-washing should be for at least 20 seconds – yes, singing Happy Birthday is a good timekeeper – followed by rinsing and drying with a clean towel or air.
Making room in the fridge: Make a habit of ridding your refrigerator of food no longer safe to eat – not just when you need to make room for more items. That way you and your family members will be safe when they go foraging for something to munch on. Remember these tips when doing your inspection: It’s never a good idea to taste the item to “see if it’s still good” and may not tell you what you need to know. The appearance, smell or taste of the food may not be affected when food-borne bacteria is present. There’s a handy chart on storage at the U. S. government website foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/storagetimes.html.
Not on the counter: The kitchen counter is great for food prep but keep it sanitary (not with a used cloth) and remember these three no counter pointers: This is not the place to (1) drop after-school or after-office book bags or other such items that may not be clean; (2) thaw meat or (3) marinate a meal you will be cooking or grilling. Marinating time should be spent in the refrigerator, not the counter. Leftover marinade? Make sure that you boil it before using it on other food. Thaw food in the refrigerator (put a dish underneath to catch any juices), or submerge in a watertight plastic bag in cold water (change the water every 30 minutes to keep it cold), or microwave (follow your machine’s instructions).
When cleaning your counter, paper towels are recommended; if you use a cloth, don’t use it to wipe up elsewhere (you’ll risk spreading the germs) and put the cloth in the hot cycle wash after use.
To wash or not to wash produce and meats: Yes, wash your fruits and vegetables under running tap water (no soap or detergent). That includes produce that you intend to peel because bacteria on the peels can be transferred to the inside when you are removing that skin. Remember to remove bruised spots. For produce with a rough surface, such as some melons, it’s best to scrub with a clean brush, as well. So if washing is good for produce, how about meats? Don’t wash off meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs as the water may splash and contaminate other surfaces.
Separate plates, boards, and utensils: Speaking of cross-contamination, don’t use the same plate that held raw meat when serving up the cooked or grilled results. Use separate, clean cooking boards, knives, and other utensils when preparing meats and produce or other food items. Otherwise, the germs from the raw items may linger on the plate or utensil, ready to contaminate the cooked meat.
What’s cooking and how long? Of course, it is necessary to cook food on high enough temperatures and for a sufficient length to kill bacteria and ensure the item is fully cooked. Get a good food thermometer to check the temperature. A chart for cooking various foods and important rest time for the food before eating can be found at the website: foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html.
School days: The start of school may signal the return of packing lunches for your off-to-school children. Make a practice of cleaning the lunch box or bag before packing the lunch the next day. Include a few packaged wet towelettes for your child to use before munching on the lunch. If you are packing food that needs to be kept cold, use an insulated bag or box and use two cold sources, such as frozen gel packs, frozen juice boxes, or frozen bottles of water, placing one cold source below and one on top of these food items. You may wish to check to see if the school has a place to refrigerate lunches and direct your child to the fridge (the bag or box should be opened to let the cold in).
Don’t forget food safety tips (all of these, not just lunch packing) when your son or daughter is going off to college. Picture the potential ill effects of last night’s food left unrefrigerated in the dorm room or meals prepared or packed unsafely. That’s why it’s important to teach kids from a young age about proper food handling and the “yuck” that can ensue if they don’t bother. A refresher before heading to college for the first time may prompt eye-rolling but help prevent illness.
Having a meal or snack should be a pleasant and satisfying event. Taking the time to put these safety precautions into action can help keep it that way and avoid health problems.
What’s your flavor
An overview of beer types and styles
By Dani Testa – Sgueglia
Beer is as diverse as the people that craft it. Each region and period has produced beverages that chronicle their people and history. To chart every beer style would be akin, and perhaps more complex than the periodic table of elements.
Each beer is classified using three grading points:
• Alcohol Content, measured by, Alcohol by Volume (ABV)
• Bitterness, measured in International Bitterness Units (IBU)
What follows is a very brief overview of what our area offers. The creation of beer is as limitless as the creativity of the brewer and the bounty of the region.
IPA – Extra Hoppy and super popular, this style can range in bitterness and character based on the type of hops and additional ingredients used. Moderate to strong ABV.
Brown Ale – Light in flavor with malty tones. Lighter in color and flavor than a porter or stout.
Red Ales / Amber Ales – Amber colored, evenly balanced between malt and hops.
Pilsner – Light bodied with gold coloring. Traditionally all pilsners are lagers and cold fermented.
Porter – Dark, well hopped and made from brown malt.
Stout – Very dark, roasty creamy ale with moderate bitterness.
Pale Ale – Pale to golden in color with a varying degree of bitterness.
Barley Wine – Strong Ale with high alcohol content. Sweeter and maltier than a typical beer.
Hefeweizen – German style, wheat beer with fruity tones and cloudy appearance.
Cask – The process of aging any beer in whiskey oak barrels that changes the character of the origin beer by adding complex notes of the whiskey and typically smooths out the bitterness. Usually used with porter or brown ales.
Lager – Cold fermentation process that typically takes more than three weeks. Lagering requires specialty equipment and cold storage.
Ales – Any beer using a warm fermentation process. Ales are prominent in our area as they don’t require specialty fermentation rooms and the process is quicker, usually only taking 1 – 2 weeks.
Fruit / Seasonals – The sky (or rather the branches) are the limit with this segment of beers. Seasonal recipes can range from apple, pumpkin and harvest flavors for the Fall to island flavors of coconut and citrus in the Summer and Spring.
Craft beer growing a family legacy
For nearly 200 years, the Sanford Family has been living on and working the 180 acre farm that is now S&S Farm Brewery. On the day I visited the brewery, the early August thunderstorms left the mist rising off the rolling hills, accentuating the soul of the land where they grow their beer.
Aficionados often speak of terrior when discussing characteristics of wine and other “foodie” indulgences. Between the weathered, reclaimed wood of the tasting room (formerly the milk barn), the cow ear tags that number the mug club hooks and the photos that chronicle the families’ history on this land, S&S Farm Brewery and its’ brews certainly have a soul.
This land and this family serve as a timeline for many New York State farmers. Nestled in the foothills of Columbia County, the farm was an egg producer with the patriarch delivering fresh eggs; and later a dairy farm, producing staples for the residents of Albany and the surrounding area. Most farmers will tell you, that having the ability and willingness to adapt to an often volatile market is essential. Low milk prices forced the family to sell off their dairy herd in the late 1990’s, and the farm produced hay and some beef cattle to ensure the farm stayed in the family.
Growing Beer in New York State
The rollout of the 2013 Farm Brewery Bill revitalized the Sanford farm and other New York State farms who, like the S&S team, planted barley and hops looking to produce world class beers with local ingredients. The bill requires that at least 20% of hops and at least 20% of additional ingredients used in beer production be New York State grown. Both of these requirements will ramp up to at least 60% at the end of 2018 and at least 90% by 2024.
The demand for craft beer and the trend towards purchasing local products has fueled opportunity for these farm breweries. Infrastructure has kept pace with the booming industry with malt houses, and hops and barley producers popping up all over the state.
The beers produced across our region are great, full of flavor and hard to beat. Each establishment has their own taste profile, and niche.
S&S Farm Brewery, the collaboration between the Sanford family and son-in-law, Addam Sentz, serves ten rotating beers weekly. The names of their brews reflect the history and bucolic setting from which they come. The core of their offerings includes Brown Chicken Brown Ale, Farmhouse Ale, Eternal Sunshine IPA, Hayfield Blonde, Lame Llama IPA, Old 82 Ale, Bale Kicker Ale and 4:00 Porter Coffee Porter. They get creative and seasonal with other brews like Aloha Summer Ale (with Pineapple and Mango), Raspberry Wheat, Rhode Island Red and Honey Meadows Saison.
Collaboration with other ingredient producers is key to this community-focused brewery. The coffee featured in the porter is from a roaster in Saratoga County, and the honey from their saison is from a local apiary. The family is also ramping production and will soon inaugurate a new brewing facility. This new line will more than double the brewery’s current output.
Beyond collaboration, the brewery is a community gathering spot. On any Friday or Saturday evening, you and your family can drive to the farm along the pastoral winding roads. Pull up a stool or straddle a bench at the picnic tables in the beer garden. Enjoy tidbits and nosh from local food trucks, listen to the ever-changing music performers and sample a pint or two. The kids can play in the adjacent play yard or check out the small beef cattle herd grazing in the fields. Breathe in the crisp air and watch the fireflies dance in the meadow.
This movement towards neighborhood supported producers and purveyors is happening all across our region. Local breweries with beer gardens, music, and family-friendly atmospheres are becoming a must-have in any locale. Make sure to find yours or make the trip to S&S Farm Brewery. Either way, support your local producer and enjoy the bounty of our Capital Region.
What is new and growing in coffee (and what’s not)
By Vikki Moran
We love our coffee, and consumption continues to be very strong. What is changing, however, are the favored trends in roasting coffee beans and brewing our favorite cup.
What we like best
The same old cup of “Joe” continues in popularity. However, how we prepare and serve Joe is changing. New trends include:
• Cold-Brew – This took off in 2017 and is still growing, but not at the rate of espresso-based coffee concoctions which continue double-digit consumption growth. Cold brewing takes twice as much coffee and has not caught on in homes as of yet.
• Nitro-Coffee – This is created by adding nitrogen to cold-brew coffee. The coffee resembles Guinness (without the kick of course!) Nitrogen is added to the finished coffee and served as a bar tap.
• Single-Serve – Pod type coffee makers (like Keurig) are in about 31% of homes – but not growing. What is developing is the use of single-serve coffee brewers that prepare coffee by the cup using grounds, hot water, and a filter. The flavor of this method of brewing is richer and the cost much lower.
Up and coming
• Home roasting – This is new and beginning to grow. It is a process and if one has the time, can be done at home. For tips: thrillist.com/home/how-to-roast-coffee-at-home-a-basic-guide-to-diy-coffee-roasting
• Purchasing artisan, freshly roasted coffee – The bags of coffee on the supermarket shelf were likely ground months ago. The secret to great coffee is to buy coffee that was roasted within the last five days, and that will mean buy local from a roaster or roast your own. The flavor is at the peak; the coffee is richer and more flavorful. Roasting at home can be costly at first for equipment and cumbersome. Buying local roasts might cost a bit more than normal brands, but is so worth it!
And not “hot”
• Chia (coffee with added Chia seeds) was very popular when it hit the market, but the demand is dropping in favor of new coffee innovations.
• The old drip coffee maker – A staple in kitchens for years, the drip coffee maker makes a pot of coffee then sits and is kept warm. The manufacturers are coming out with new and innovative versions to improve on the concept. Stay tuned.
Click the link below to view our coffee product guide