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Around the Home: Handle the leftover bird with care

POSTED: November 23, 2011 1:00 a.m.

The aroma of a turkey baking in my oven brings back memories of wonderful family Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.

Once I completed my degree in home economics and had a few years of experience with Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, I was elected the official turkey carver and de-boner for my family.

Plus, they also knew that turkey is one of my favorite foods - I'm known to cook turkey any time of the year.

If turkey is on your menu this Thanksgiving, there a few safety concerns that you need to consider, depending on whether you choose a fresh or frozen turkey.

The USDA Meat & Poultry Hotline, 888-674-6854, is your definitive source for information about safely handling and cooking of turkey and poultry.

A food safety specialist is available to speak to you, in English or Spanish, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays year-round. The hotline is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

Online safety resources are also available at www.fsis.usda.gov. Type "turkey" into the search box to find everything you need to cook and serve turkey and poultry safely to your family.

Another source is the Butterball Turkey Talk Line: 1-800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372); for live chats and more, go to butterball.com

The National Turkey Federation also offers tips on buying, thawing, prepping and cooking the bird at eatturkey.com

Partnership for Food Safety Education's nonprofit website has info for the whole family. Go to fightbac.org and click on "Holiday Food Safety" at the bottom of the home page.

After boning up on safe turkey handling, cooking, and enjoying the fruits of your labor with family and friends, the next question is often "What to do with the leftovers?"

Not to worry, with a little planning you may continue that great holiday spirit by planning a variety of pleasing post-holiday meals with leftover turkey.

Turkey leftovers are easy to combine into a variety of scrumptious future meals. Think "planned-overs" rather than "leftovers."

Follow these food safety guidelines for handling your turkey leftovers safely:

• Plan ahead, clean out the refrigerator and make room for leftovers before the holiday feast.

• Debone turkey and refrigerate all leftovers within two hours of cooking.

• Why just two hours? Because bacteria that cause food poisoning can multiply to undesirable levels on perishable foods left at room temperature for longer than that. You'll also discover that slicing the deboned turkey meat is much easier than carving it from the whole bird.

• Large quantities should be divided into smaller portions and stored in several shallow containers. Food in small amounts will chill faster keeping it safer and fresher.

• Use leftover turkey within three to four days, stuffing and gravy within one to two days, or freeze these foods. See the holiday leftover storage chart below for storing other meal items.

• Store leftover meats and side dishes in separate containers to avoid cross contamination.

• When reheating turkey, reheat thoroughly to a temperature of 165 F until hot and steaming throughout.

• Keep turkey moist by sprinkling with a little chicken broth before reheating.

Refrigerator storage time for leftovers

Canned cranberry sauce: 5-7 days

Homemade cranberry relish: 5- 7 days

Roast pork: 2-4 days

Roast beef/veal/lamb: 3-4 days

Baked ham: 3-5 days

Meat with sauce or gravy: 1-2 days

Cooked vegetables: 3-5 days

Pumpkin pie: 2-3 days

Fruit desserts/pie: 3-5 days

*Seafood: 1-2 days

Gumbo: 1-2 days

Soups: 2-3 days

Restaurant carry-out entrees: 1 day

*including fish, seafood-rich soups, and entrees

Parts of this article were adapted from an article by Alice Henneman, MS, RD, UNL Extension in Lancaster County, Neb. 

Radon testing tips

Cooler weather signals the ideal time to test your home for radon, the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. Low-cost radon test kits are available through many area County UGA Cooperative Extension Offices.

Kits may also be ordered by mail using the mail-order form found at www.ugaradon.com.

Kits are $5 each if purchased at an Extension office or $6.50 by mail. Protect your family, test your home today and take steps to lower the level if it tests high.

Ginger Bennett is a Program Specialist II-Radon Educator with the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. Contact: 770-535-8290.



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