Have a Safe, Healthy, Georgia Grown Thanksgiving
Monday, November 7th, 2011
Georgia Agriculture Commissioner reminds Georgians about incorporating food safety and local products into the Thanksgiving bounty
Thanksgiving is fast approaching and as consumers across the state begin to check off those holiday lists of items in preparation for the big day on Nov. 24, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black reminds everyone to put food safety and local products at the top of the list.
“As we remember all we are thankful for on Thanksgiving Day, one of the main focuses of this celebration is the meal we share with our loved ones. This year, why not try to create a Georgia Grown Thanksgiving bounty?” challenges Commissioner Black. “And while you’re preparing and appreciating that meal with your family and friends, always be sure to keep in mind the important food safety tips that help ensure everyone fully enjoys the meal and leftovers.”
This year, when heading to a local grocery store or supermarket to purchase all the items that go into a delicious Thanksgiving meal, think for just a moment: Who grew that food? How was it harvested? Who loaded and delivered it to the store? Commissioner Black encourages consumers to consider the local farmer who picked the apples you’ll use in that perfect stuffing or dessert. Picture the Georgia producers who grew and picked peas and green beans, turnips and collards, sweet potatoes and pecans – all of which offer a healthy, locally produced addition to your meal.
“When you purchase a seasonal item, the nutritional value and flavor of the commodity is at its prime. For example, sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, helping protect your immune system, while pecans and leafy greens provide heart-healthy antioxidants,” said Melanie Hollingsworth, Nutrition Coordinator and Outreach Specialist with the Department of Agriculture. “Be thankful for the food you have available to you, and for the hands that have prepared it – all the way from the farm to the table. Experience local flavors and their healthy benefits as you purchase seasonal items this year.”
After the items have all been gathered and are ready for preparation, from the side dishes to the main entrée, food safety must also remain a priority.
“Remembering basic food safety tips plays a huge role in keeping those around your Thanksgiving table healthy and free from food-borne illness,” said Oscar Garrison, Director of Consumer Protection with the Department of Agriculture. “Even if you’re not actually preparing a Thanksgiving meal and are simply planning to bring along a dessert or side dish as you visit family or friends, there are important food safety tips that everyone needs to keep in mind.”
The simplest tip, which people often forget, is to start off by washing hands with soap and hot water; and wash hands again after any raw meats have been touched. Use separate cutting boards when preparing foods, or wash a single cutting board thoroughly in between food items.
Always keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. The “danger zone” for cold foods is above 40 degrees; for hot foods it is below 135 degrees. Any foods that reach a temperature in the “danger zone” and sit for two hours or more can begin to grow bacteria that cause illness.
Plan enough time to properly thaw a turkey. If the turkey will be stuffed, the stuffing should be moist and not dry, since heat destroys bacteria more rapidly in a moist environment. A stuffed turkey should be placed into a pre-heated oven immediately (or, cooked outside the bird in another dish). For a fully thawed turkey in an oven heated to 325 degrees, estimate roughly one hour’s cooking time for every 3-5 pounds of meat.
When the internal temperature of the turkey reaches 165 degrees, it is safe to eat. Take three different readings of temperature to ensure the whole turkey has reached the proper temperature; check the innermost part of the thigh, innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast. The stuffing should also reach 165 degrees, whether it is cooked inside the bird or in a separate dish. After removing the turkey from the oven, let it stand for 20 minutes before removing stuffing and carving.
Later that night and in the days to come, everyone enjoys Thanksgiving leftovers. Within two hours of cooking your meal, cut any leftover turkey into small pieces and refrigerate the stuffing and turkey separately in shallow containers. Use all leftovers within three to four days, or freeze. Reheat all leftovers thoroughly, to a temperature of 165 degrees, or until hot and steaming.
For an extensive list of seasonal food safety tips, please visit: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/Seasonal_Food_Safety_Fact_Sheets/index.asp.
Learn more about Georgia Grown products and food safety on the Georgia Department of Agriculture website at: www.agr.georgia.gov.
For your consideration:
Granny Nell’s Dressing Recipe, on behalf of Melanie Hollingsworth:
1 whole Georgia Grown fryer chicken
1 can (10.75 ounce) of Cream of Mushroom Soup (or Cream of Celery Soup)
1 can (10.75 ounce) of Cream of Chicken Soup
1 (14 ounce) package of corn bread stuffing
1. Place the chicken in a large pot and fill, about one inch over the chicken, with water. Be sure to leave a three to four inch space from the water line to the top of the pot to prevent boiling over. Once the chicken begins to boil, lower the heat to medium/medium-high and let it cook for about forty-five minutes to an hour until done.
2. Once the chicken cooks through, take it off the heat and let it cool for about 30 min. Remove the chicken from the chicken stock (be sure to reserve the stock) and debone.
3. Combine the chicken stock with the cream of mushroom and cream of chicken soup.
4. Spray non-stick spray in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Place the corn bread stuffing in the bottom of the pan and pour the soup mixture over it.
5. Last add in the meat from your chicken and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbling.
**Tip: For a more firm dressing, use less of the soup mixture.
Georgia Department of Agriculture