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Kids and Food Preservation for Holiday Gifts

Preparing Homemade Strawberry, Blueberry and Raspberry Jam and Canning in Jars









As the holidays approach, spend some time in the kitchen with kids and make some jams and jellies or other items for them to give as gifts.  You will be giving them a gift that will last a lifetime too with some great memories.

Do you have a hard time buying gifts for family and friends during the holiday season? Here is an idea for this holiday season: Grab your kids and head into the kitchen to prepare some homemade preserved gifts. Food preservation is a science allowing kids to explore and understand the science of safe food preservation, so lifetime skills are being learned and experienced in the kitchen.  Starting with jams and jellies is a great way to begin preserving with youth. Jam’s high acidity, large amount of sugar, and lack of available water slow the growth rate of microorganisms like mold, but freezing or boiling water canning is needed to fully stop spoilage.

There are a wide variety of recipes available allowing you and your children to select favorite flavors to prepare for homemade gifts.  You want to make sure to follow recipes that you get from a trusted source like the Extension Service and the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  Other websites like Pinterest or Facebook might not be USDA tested recipes and they may not recommend for you to water bath can your jams and jellies after filling your jars.  A safe jellied product is one that is water bath canned which creates a vacuum seal that allows your jellied products to set on self and not mold or create yeast which will spoil your product.

It is also critical to remember when teaching youth to use current, research-based methods for preserving food at home. Paraffin or wax sealing of jars is no longer considered an acceptable method for preserving any jellies. Any pinholes or cracks in the wax paraffin can allow airborne molds to contaminate and grow on the product.

For proper texture, jellied fruit products require the correct combinations of fruit, pectin, acid, and sugar. The fruit gives each spread its unique flavor and color. It also supplies the water to dissolve the rest of the necessary ingredients and furnishes some or all of the pectin and acid. Good-quality, flavorful fruits make the best jellied products.

These are a few of my favorite recipes for giving at Christmas time for gifts:

Ginger Pear Preserves

Pears with lime and gingerroot combine to make a delicately flavored preserve with an exotic island taste.

You will need:

5-1/2 cups finely chopped cored peeled pears (about 8 medium)
Grated zest and juice of 3 limes
2-1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbsp freshly grated gingerroot
7 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Yield: About 7 (8 oz) half pint jars


  • 1.)PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
    2.) COMBINE pears, lime zest and juice, sugar and gingerroot in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and test gel. If preserves break from spoon in a sheet or flake, it is at the gel stage. Skim off foam. If your mixture has not reached the gel stage, return the pan to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, for an additional 5 minutes. Repeat gel stage test and cooking as needed.
    3.) LADLE hot preserves into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
    4.) PROCESS jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.


Apple Preserves

  • 6 cups peeled, cored, sliced apples
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 package powdered pectin
  • ½ lemon, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg or cinnamon or allspice

Yield: About 6 half-pint jars



Procedure: Combine apples, water and lemon juice in a large saucepot. Simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Stir in pectin and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring frequently. Add lemon slices (optional) and sugar. Return to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; add nutmeg. Pour hot preserves into hot jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner for 10 minutes.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!


Beating Fire Ants This Fall

Fall is a great time to treat fire ants.

“Fall is a great time to treat fire ants,” Dr. Kathy Flanders, an Alabama Cooperative Extension Entomologist said. “Fall temperatures are perfect for fire ant activity and foraging, making it an opportune time to put out fire ant bait.”

While the warm weather is rolling out and cooler air moves in, fire ants are still actively foraging. Fire ants look for protein-rich foods all year, but especially in the late spring and early fall.  Foragers usually continue searching for food until temperatures drop below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Using treatment plants like the Two-Step Methodcan provide specific and continued control of fire ants, in a cost-effective way.

Fall is an important time to protect livestock from fire ants.

Researchers have developed an interactive, customized management tool for managing fire ants in pastures and fields. Use of the management tool will allow for a cost-effective application of pesticides in hopes of knocking out a significant portion of the fire ant population before the winter season. There are also resources available with specific guidelines for management of fire ants in a livestock operation.

Dragging pastures is not a sure or complete fire ant control method, but dragging a pasture before a freeze could help control the fire ant spread in that area.

High traffic areas can include calving areas and hay storage areas. Flanders said young livestock are very vulnerable targets, but caution and diligent treatment can help prevent damage by fire ants.

Fire ants will be looking for a warm place to overwinter.

Double-checking door seals, pipe coverings and concrete foundations can help prevent a home invasion in the winter. As temperatures drop, fire ants begin searching for warm places to spend the cold months. Often, this means mounds inside the house or built against the foundation.

Alabama Cooperative Extension professionals developed management options for treating fire ants inside homes and buildings. The first and most important suggestion: treat fire ants in the surrounding landscape to prevent fire ant infestations near the home. This publication includes product names and uses, and tips for fire ant control in the home.

Fire ants may be in your pile of leaves, wood stack or winter garden.

Outdoor temperatures determine the amount of activity present in a fire ant mound. When the temperatures are right, leaf or compost piles, wood stacks and winter gardens are all likely hiding places for fire ants.

Flanders said it is important to check for fire ants before playing, working or carrying wood inside. A proactive approach to controlling fire ants in these areas would be best. This is also a time to consider a slow-acting bait for continued control going into the cold season. Treat the areas before piling up leaves to play in or for compost, treat your preferred firewood location and treat your garden before planting.

Working with neighbors or surrounding landowners can boost your chances of knocking a dent in the population.

Fire ant control is more effective when larger areas are treated. When an 80-90% control rate is acceptable, consider participating in a community- or neighborhood-wide treatment program. If the problem is widespread, a large treatment plan could be more effective than treating in small areas. Flanders said Extension professionals have developed a community-wide management program that is available for use and implementation. Find the program here.

More information can be found on the Alabama Fire Ant page and Extension Fire Ant Community of Practice page, including fire ant treatment optionsnews and tips.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!


Thanksgiving dinner. Roasted turkey with pumpkins and sunflowers on wooden table









What is a foodborne illness?

Food contaminated by bacteria, viruses and parasites can make you sick. Many people have had foodborne illness and not even known it. It’s sometimes called food poisoning, and it can feel like the flu. Symptoms may include the following: stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever. Symptoms can start soon after eating contaminated food, but they can hit up to a month or more later. For some people, especially young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, foodborne illness can be very dangerous.  No one wants to spend the holidays in the Hospital or for that matter feeling miserable.  The Centers of Disease Control estimates that there are as many as 13 million cases of foodborne illness in the US every year. Most cases of foodborne illness can be prevented by using safe food handling practices and using a food thermometer to check that your food is cooked to a safe internal temperature!

It’s always important to keep foods out of the danger zone, which is between 41°F and 135°F to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. To do this, just keep hot foods hot, at least 135°F and keep cold foods 40°F or lower.  Make sure you have a good food thermometer to check foods for safety.


Preparing and serving holiday buffets

Do not let foods linger during preparation, cook them thoroughly and serve them promptly. Keep hot foods hot with warming trays, chafing dishes or crock pots. Keep cold foods cold by placing serving dishes on crushed ice.

Remember the “2-hour rule” especially when entertaining with a large meal or buffet. Don’t let perishable foods linger for longer than two hours in the danger zone.

Keep replacement dishes of hot food in the oven and extra cold foods cold in the refrigerator or a cooler during the buffet.

Do not add new food to a serving dish that has been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours. Remember also to change serving utensils too.

Provide serving spoons and tongs for every dish served. Even finger foods, such as cut vegetables, candies, chips/nachos and nuts, should have serving implements to prevent cross contamination between guests.


Traveling with food

Wrap hot food in foil and heavy towels, or carry in insulated containers to maintain a temperature of at least 135°F.

Store cold foods in a cooler with ice or freezer packs to maintain the temperature at 41°F or below. Full coolers keep their temperature better than partially full ones, so add extra insulation to take up unoccupied space. This also prevents containers from sliding, falling over and leaking.


Turkey Basics

When preparing a turkey please allow plenty of time for thawing and cooking.  Be aware of the four main safety issues: thawing, preparing, stuffing, and cooking to adequate temperature.

Safe Thawing –  turkeys must be kept at a safe temperature. The “danger zone” is between 41 and 135°F — the temperature range where foodborne bacteria multiply rapidly. While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely, but as soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to grow again, if it is in the “danger zone.”There are three safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold running water, and in a microwave oven.

Safe Preparation  – bacteria present on raw poultry can contaminate your hands, utensils, and work surfaces as you prepare the turkey. If these areas are not cleaned thoroughly before working with other foods, bacteria from the raw poultry can then be transferred to other foods. After working with raw poultry, always wash your hands, utensils, and work surfaces before they touch other foods.

Safe Stuffing – for optimal safety and uniform doneness, cook the stuffing outside the turkey in a casserole dish.

Safe Cooking – set the oven temperature no lower than 325°F and be sure the turkey is completely thawed.  Please stay away from recipes or directions that say cook overnight at a temperature less than 325°F. Place turkey breast-side up on a flat wire rack in a shallow roasting pan 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. To make it more juicy you can use an oven cooking bag.  Check the internal temperature at the center meaty portion of the breast, thigh, and wing joint using a food thermometer. Cooking times will vary. It usually takes The food thermometer must reach a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. For easier carving let the turkey stand 20 minutes after removing it from the oven.



Eggnog and other recipes with raw or lightly cooked eggs

Be sure to handle and prepare these tasty treats safely. Commercial, ready-made eggnog is prepared using pasteurized eggs and does not require heating. Homemade eggnog may contain harmful bacteria if not prepared properly. Prepare homemade eggnog using pasteurized egg products, found in most grocery stores.

If you choose to make eggnog with whole eggs, be sure to heat the egg-milk mixture to at least 165°F. Refrigerate promptly, once steaming stops, dividing large amounts into shallow containers so that it cools quickly.

Precautions should also be taken with sauces, mousses, and any other recipes calling for raw or lightly-cooked eggs. Use pasteurized egg products, or bring egg-mixtures to a uniform temperature of 165°F.  All of these foods must be stored in the refrigerator.





Popular holiday beverages, such as unpasteurized apple cider and other drinks made from unpasteurized apple cider may pose a safety risk since they may contain harmful bacteria.

Serve pasteurized ciders or bring unpasteurized cider to a rolling boil before serving. This is especially important when serving cider to children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems.




Leftovers: Storage and Reheating

While it is tempting to leave turkey and other foods at room temperature for snacking after a meal, you should refrigerate all leftovers promptly in uncovered, shallow containers so they cool quickly. Refrigerate once steaming stops and leave the lid or wrap loosely until the food is cooled to refrigeration temperature. Avoid overstocking the refrigerator to allow cool air to circulate freely.

Store turkey meat separately from stuffing and gravy.

Reheat solid leftovers to at least 165°F. Bring gravy to a full, rolling boil and stir during the process.

Use leftover turkey meat, bones, stuffing, gravy and other cooked dishes within four days for best quality or freeze for later use.


Giving and Receiving Gifts of Food

It’s lots of fun to get a package through the mail. During this season, many of the packages contain gifts of food – either homemade or from mail order businesses.

Whether it’s baked goods, fruit, candy, shelf-stable canned items, or perishable items like cheese, meats or sausages, it’s always a great idea to know how to tell if its’ safe to eat and what to do with the food once you open the package.

So if you’re giving or receiving, here are a few food safety tips to keep in mind for these special gifts.

Ordering Food Gift Boxes or Baskets safely

Ask the company how the food will be mailed. If it’s perishable, it should be delivered as quickly as possible. Ideally, this would be overnight.

Also make sure that the outer package of the perishable food will be marked “KEEP REFRIGERATED”.

It’s also a good idea to ask if the food items will come with storage and preparation instructions.

Finally, let your friends know that you’re sending a gift in the mail, so that the food items are handled appropriately. If you’re mailing to a business address, make certain the package will be delivered during business hours.

Receiving Gifts of Food in the Mail

When you receive a food that is labeled “Keep Refrigerated”, open it and check the temperature immediately. It should be at least refrigerator cold to the touch and ideally still partially frozen with visible ice crystals. If the food items are warm, you should notify the company. Do not consume the food. It is the shipping company’s responsibility to deliver the food on time and your responsibility to have someone at home to receive the product.

Remember to refrigerate or freeze the food items immediately after opening.

Mailing Perishable Food

Food items that are frozen first will stay in a safe temperature range for a longer period of time. After freezing, the food should be packed with a frozen gel pack or purchased dry ice. The frozen food and cold source can then be packed in a sturdy box made of heavy foam or corrugated cardboard.

Fill up any air space in the box with crushed paper or foam “popcorn”. Label your package “PERISHABLE – KEEP REFRIGERATED”, arrange a delivery date with the recipient, and ship the package overnight.


For Questions concerning Holiday Food Safety please contact Angela Treadaway Regional Extension Agent from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System by email treadas@aces.edu or by phone at 205-410-3696.  Have a Happy and Safe Holiday Season.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!


Various Halloween drinks and candies such as cupcakes, cookies, nuts in chocolate on the table









Do not get tricked by unwanted bacteria that can make you sick. Avoid uninvited bugs that can ruin your party. Here are food safety tips to have a Happy Halloween!

Tips for Parents Before Treat-or-Trick

  • Children should not snack while out trick-or-treating. Give them a snack or light meal before going out.
  • Tell children not to accept–and, especially, not to eat–anything that is not commercially wrapped.

Trick-or-Treating Food Safety Tips

  • Trick-or-treaters should wait until they get home and their parents can check their candy before they eat
  • Discard homemade treats unless it is from someone you know
  • Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.
  • Discard any goodies with open or torn wrapping

Consider alternative treats to give

  • packages of low-fat crackers with cheese or peanut butter
  • packaged fruit leather
  • mini boxes of raisins
  • packages of hot chocolate mix
  • microwaveable popcorn

What to serve at a Halloween party

  • If having food catered, make sure you are working with a reputable caterer and have properly working chafing dishes to keep hot food hot
  • Keep hot foods hot at a safe temperature of 140 oF or above.
  • Keep cold foods cold. Make sure there is plenty of room in your refrigerator to store cold food before, during and after the party The refrigerator should be 40 F or cooler to prevent bacterial growth.
  • If the refrigerator is too crowded, store and cool drinks in coolers with ice.
  • If juice or cider is served to children at Halloween parties, make sure it is pasteurized or otherwise treated to destroy harmful bacteria. Juice or cider that has not been treated will say so on the label.

What food to bring to a Halloween party

  • Keep cold food cold, and hot food hot.
  • Choose simple dishes that can be put in a cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packages.
  • Any foods that have been cooked ahead of time and need to be reheated like meatballs and chicken wings need to be heated to 165 degrees in a microwave oven.
  • Fresh vegetables should be washed well before serving


USDA Food Safety and Inspection Services


US Food and Drug Administration


Contact your local County Extension Office for questions on this or any other Food Safety questions or contact your Regional Extension Agent in Food Safety Angela Treadaway at 205-410-3696.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Alabama Cotton Crop Escapes Major Hurricane Damage









Cotton producers are looking toward harvest in the wake of two major hurricanes that slammed into the Texas and Florida coasts.

Hurricane Irma, though not originally expected to affect Alabama, hit many areas of the state with tropical storm-force winds and heavy rainfall. For some producers, rain was a welcome sight. Other producers’ fields took a battering from strong winds.

Cotton Affected by Hurricane Irma

Strong winds laid cotton plants over in the field in some areas of Alabama. Dr. Trey Cutts said this could present problems for producers as they prepare to defoliate.

Cutts, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System cotton specialist, said the storm was tough on boll-heavy cotton plants.

“The wind patterns of the storm were very ‘tiger striped,’ so wind impacts were not isolated,” Cutts said. “Isolated heavy rain in spots may have impacted bolls if they were open, but planting dates and maturities also vary so much around the state that giving an estimation of open bolls on a number of acres is very challenging.”

Cotton maturity levels in Alabama’s cotton crop are very diverse. He said all of these factors will make yield impacts vary from farm to farm, and will be very difficult to quantify.

“There is a lot of cotton in the state that has a heavy boll load, but limited root and stalk growth that is laid over and tangled in some fields,” he said. “The storm didn’t have a direct impact of knocking off fruit or lint. However, defoliation that will commence soon will likely be difficult.”

Cutts said running a sprayer through these fields with plants on the ground could potentially knock off a lot of bolls, so airplane defoliation may be the best option in a lot of fields this fall.

The picker headers can adequately pick plants off of the ground at harvest, so this will not be as much of an issue for farmers as defoliation.

Cotton Market Sees a Price Jump

Max Runge, an economist with Alabama Extension, said the cotton market was preparing for the uncertainty of the weather when producers saw cotton jump to nearly 75 cents per pound.

“In addition to the weather uncertainties, the Chinese market had a policy shift,” Runge said. “The Chinese may not have the massive quantities of stock they had previously. This year they’ve restricted sales to mills that will use the cotton.”

A U.S. Department of Agriculture crop production report indicates Alabama yields may be higher than originally predicted in August. But Runge points out this report is based on numbers from Sept. 1, before Harvey and Irma slammed into the coastal United States.

“As far as Alabama and Georgia are concerned, evaluations continue,” Runge said. “There are some areas where cotton is laid down and this will present challenges for producers. They may see more dockage on quality grade prices.”

Alabama Cotton Crop Update

The most recent USDA crop progress report estimates 52 percent of bolls are open in Alabama. Additionally,  the report ranks 14 percent of the 450,000 acres planted in cotton in excellent condition, 52 percent in good condition and 25 percent in fair condition.

Producers are in a much different position than 2016 drought situations. With ample rainfall throughout the growing season, the Alabama cotton crop looks to be a good one.

More Information

For more information on Alabama crops, visit www.alabamacrops.com, or contact your local Extension agent.

Ricky Colquitt

Shelby County Extension Coordinator 

Office: (205) 669-6763

Cell: (205) 438-3722

Email: colqurw@aces.edu


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Master Recipe Dishes

Mexican enchilada in a baking dish with the ingredients on the table. horizontal view from above









Master Recipe for Roast Chicken with Garlic

Yield: 13 cups chicken meat and 1 cup garlic puree

2 whole chickens (about 6 pounds each) 2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper 8 large heads garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

Rinse chickens. Season both the inside and outside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Place breast side down on racks in two roasting pans. Toss garlic heads in oil and place in roasting pans. Roast the chicken and garlic in a 400 F oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a thermometer reaches 165 F. Cool. Separate garlic into cloves and squeeze pulp out of each clove into small bowl. Mash with a fork. Remove meat from chicken and dice. Discard skin and bones. Cover and refrigerate for up to three days.


TexMex Chicken Enchiladas

Yield: 8 servings

1 (15‐ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained 3 cups Roast Chicken Master Mix

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

1 (10½‐ ounce) jar salsa 8 large flour tortillas

Line a 9×13‐inch baking pan with foil, leaving enough overhang to cover food and seal foil. In mixing bowl, combine black beans, master mix, cilantro, 1 cup cheese, and ½ jar of salsa. Fill each tortilla with ½ cup of chicken mixture. Roll and place seam side down in baking pan. Sprinkle remaining cheese over enchiladas. Reserve rest of salsa for garnishing. Seal, label, and freeze. Once enchiladas are frozen, remove from pan and return to freezer or wrap individually. To prepare for dinner, peel foil from enchiladas and return to baking pan. Thaw for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Cover pan loosely with foil and bake at 350 F for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15 more minutes more. Spoon remaining salsa over top of enchiladas.

Nutritional Analysis: 334 calories, 22 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 16 g fat, 57 mg cholesterol, 1,023 mg sodium


Chicken Divan

Yield: 8 servings

1 (16 ounce) package broccoli florets

¼ cup butter

1 cup reduced‐sodium chicken broth

1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

¼ teaspoon salt

3 cups Roast Chicken Master Mix

1 (8‐ ounce) package cauliflower florets

¼ cup all‐purpose flour

1 cup low‐fat milk

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ cup plain dry bread crumbs

Line a 9×13‐inch baking pan or 2‐quart casserole with foil, leaving enough overhang to cover food, and seal foil. Butter foil. In a large saucepan, steam broccoli and cauliflower 4 minutes, until just tender. Arrange in bottom of baking pan. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook 2 minutes, until light brown, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and milk, and cook about 5 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in ¼ cup of cheese. Add Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Pour ½ of sauce over broccoli and cauliflower. Sprinkle master mix over sauce. Top with remaining sauce, then remaining cheese and bread crumbs. Cool, seal, label, and freeze. Once divan is frozen, remove from pan and return to freezer. To prepare for dinner, peel foil from divan and place back into baking pan. Allow to thaw in refrigerator 24 hours. Bake uncovered at 350 F for 30 minutes, uncovered, or until heated through.

Nutritional Analysis: 283 calories, 18 g protein, 14 g carbohydrate, 17 g fat, 65 mg cholesterol, 526 mg sodium


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!


Winter Supplementation Strategies for the Cowherd










Winter Supplementation Strategies for the Cowherd


  • Beef cow nutrient requirements
  • How to determine if your hay meets cow requirements
  • Supplementation strategies for various scenarios


Thursday, October 19, 2017

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm CST

Shelby County Extension Office Auditorium

56 Kelly Lane, Columbiana, AL.


RSVP to Shelby County Extension Office : (205) 669-6763 by 10/12/2017 to reserve your spot and for meal planning.











The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!




Make Ahead Meals to freeze

Stir fry vegetables frozen in plastic container, roasted chicken and veggies. Healthy freezer food in tray.









It’s time for dinner and your family is staring hungrily at you from the dinner table.

What to do?  Simply pull portions of make ahead casseroles or side dishes from the

freezer and reheat them.  Freezing is one of the easiest, most convenient, and least time consuming

methods of putting a meal on the table in a hurry. There are many wonderful

casserole and one‐dish meals that are simple to prepare, offer variety and great flavor, and

Stand up well to freezing and reheating.


How Freezing Affects Foods

Freezing (0 F or below) preserves food for extended periods, because it prevents the

growth of microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts and molds) that cause both food spoilage and

foodborne illness. The freezing process itself doesn’t destroy bacteria. After thawing

however, microbes that may be present can become active, multiplying under the right

conditions to levels that can lead to foodborne illness. Handle thawed foods like any

perishable product. Thorough cooking will kill most microorganisms. Ideally, foods should be quick‐

frozen within two hours and stored at 0 F or lower. Slow freezing creates large, disruptive ice crystals.

During thawing, these crystals damage cell walls and dissolve emulsions such as

mayonnaise or cream, which will separate and appear curdled. Rapid freezing prevents

undesirable ice crystals from forming throughout the product. Most make‐ahead

meals should be used within three months for optimum reheating results.


To prepare foods for freezing:

* Freeze most casseroles before baking, especially when all the ingredients are already cooked.

Exceptions are dishes that contain uncooked rice, raw vegetables, or uncooked meat that has been frozen and thawed.

* Some foods don’t freeze well, such as hard cooked eggs, raw vegetables, mayonnaise, or sour cream.

* Undercook starchy ingredients such as potatoes, beans, rice, and noodles, or they will become mushy.

* Freeze casserole toppings separately to prevent sogginess.

* Do not freeze baked pastry. Add the unbaked pastry during reheating.

* Seasoning intensity can change during freezing, so season lightly. Adjust the flavor

during reheating. Cloves, pepper, garlic, and celery become stronger upon freezing,

while onion, salt, and chili powder weaken.

* Freeze casseroles in containers that are just right for a family meal or individual servings.


 To freeze:

* Cool hot casseroles rapidly. Set a shallow pan of hot food in ice water and cool to

room temperature quickly. Wrap, label, and freeze. Shallow baking pans speed freezing

and thawing of casseroles.

* To package food for the freezer, use heavy duty foil, moisture‐ and vapor‐proof paper,

plastic freezer wraps, or freezer containers. Microwave‐safe or aluminum ovenproof

containers are also available. Pack the containers nearly full to prevent ice crystals

from forming, but allow some space at the top of the container for expansion. Label

the contents of the dish, the date frozen and the weight or number of servings.

Include cooking instructions or where to locate the recipe.

* To free up baking pans, line the pan with heavy‐duty aluminum foil. Leave enough

overhang around the pan to cover the casserole and seal foil. Add ingredients and

bake if desired. Cool, cover, and seal airtight. When frozen, remove the foil from the pan,

and place the foil package in the freezer. To reheat, simply peel foil from food, place it back

in the original baking pan, and bake as directed.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Football Season and Tailgating Parties

Hot wings, nachos, pigs in a blanket, beer, and popcorn, a tailgate party spread.








With the arrival of fall comes football season. What’s more fun than gathering with friends for a tailgating party?

However, don’t let cooler weather fool you into thinking you don’t need to consider the possibility of food-borne bacteria spoiling your party. Be proactive and follow a few simple procedures for safe food handling – then you’ll be sure to go home healthy from a fun day with friends.

* Before, during and after preparing your food, be sure you wash your hands, lathering them with warm soap and scrubbing for a full 20 seconds. Set up a large drink container with a spigot as your water source.

* Include moist towelettes or hand sanitizer for guests to use.

* Keep two separate insulated coolers: one for drinks and one for food. This will keep your food well chilled since the drink cooler is likely to be opened more frequently. Place coolers in the shade and cover them with blankets to help hold in the cold temperature.

* Place cold and frozen foods into coolers. Don’t assume your cooler can chill foods adequately if the food is at room temperature prior to packing.

* Pack foods in reverse order so that the last ones packed will be the first ones used, allowing food at the bottom to stay chilled longer.

* Meat and other similar raw foods should be packed in sealed plastic bags or containers in a chilled, insulated cooler. This will prevent contamination of other foods from leaking juices. Store raw foods separately from ready-to-eat foods.

* Take meat out of the cooler just in time to place on the grill. Never place cooked meat, fish or poultry back in the container that the raw meat, fish or poultry was in. Use a clean pair of tongs and a clean plastic plate or platter when removing the cooked items from the grill. When marinating meat, fish or poultry, discard the leftover marinade after you place the items on the grill. Never use this marinade on the cooked item.

* Use a meat thermometer to judge the safe internal temperature of meat and poultry over 2 inches thick (145F or higher for steaks and chops and 155F for ground meat, 165F or higher for poultry). For meat or poultry less than 2 inches thick, look for clear juices as signs of being done.

* Use separate cutting boards to prevent cross contamination of raw and cooked foods. Wipe them clean with paper towels at the barbecue and toss them in your dishwasher to sanitize when you return home.

* Perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, sandwiches with mayonnaise and salads should not be kept at temperatures above 40F for more than two hours. When the outside temperature is 90F or higher, food should be left out for no longer than one hour.

* If deli or takeout foods such as fried chicken, potato salad or coleslaw are on the menu, make sure they are eaten within two hours of pickup.

* Hot food should be kept at 140F or hotter until served. Try wrapping your hot casserole or other item in several layers of aluminum wrap, followed by newspapers and a towel.

* Cover all food with plastic wrap, aluminum foil or lids, or keep foods and supplies in their original packaging to prevent contamination.

* If you’re not sure if food is still safe to eat, resort to the rule, “When in doubt, throw it out.”


Shelby County Regional Extension Agent Food Safety and Quality:

Angela Treadaway

Office: 205-669-6763

Mobile: 205-410-3696

Email: treadas@aces.edu



The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!


Muscadine Season is Here

Red and green muscadine grapes hanging on the vine, surrounded by green leaves.

Alabama muscadine and scuppernong grape lovers are enjoying their sweet taste, with their arrival in grocery stores, farmers markets, roadside stands and pick your own farms.

Besides their delicious flavor, muscadines are one of the richest sources of antioxidants found above ground.  Research points to significant health benefits associated with this grape.  That’s an added bonus for those who just love the fresh taste of these native grapes.

Unlike many human inhabitants, muscadines love the heat and humidity that is common in the South and thrive here as a result.

The difference in the scuppernong and the muscadine is the color and a little different taste. The scuppernong grape is a Muscadine grape. It is a green-bronze color and was named because it was found growing near the Scuppernong River in North Carolina (an Indian name) in the 17th century. There are numerous cultivars of muscadines for fresh eating and use in other products.

Muscadines make a healthy addition to diets.  “Not only are these grapes delicious and versatile, but they also contain ellagic acid and resveratrol, which studies say play a key role in preventing heart disease and high cholesterol. Additionally, they assist in treating ailments like arthritis, topical burns, and the flu.

Muscadines are good for making jams, jellies or any dishes using grapes.  Juice from the muscadines can be prepared and frozen or canned also for making jelly or drinking later.  Grape juice made from muscadines is very very tasty.  If you don’t grow them yourself there are a number of muscadine vineyards in the state of Alabama that sell fresh muscadine or allow you to pick your own.   You will need to search the internet to find vineyards in your area that you can go and pick from. They are usually very reasonable in price too.

Here are a few really good recipes using muscadines:

Muscadine “Dump Cake”

½ stick margarine
½ cup milk
½ cup sugar
1 cup prepared muscadines
¾ cup self-rising flour

To prepare muscadines, remove pulp.  Cook pulp until seeds loosen, then press through sieve to remove seeds.  Add pulp to skins and cook until tender.  Add sugar to taste, some grated lemon peel and a sprinkle of apple-pie spice.  Melt butter in glass pie plate.  Mix flour, sugar and milk in another bowl.  Pour flour mixture over butter.  Carefully pour prepared muscadines over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Do not open oven until baking time is up.  Cake should be brown on top. Yield: 8 servings.

Muscadine or Scuppernong Cobbler

2 lb Muscadine grapes (4 cups)
2 Cups Sugar
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1/4 tsp apple pie spice
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup milk

Cut grapes in half, remove seeds & squeeze pulp into a bowl…Add skins & Cook with 1 cup sugar, lemon rind & apple pie spice in a saucepan over medium heat & bring to boil. Reduce heat & simmer stirring occasionally…5 min or until tender.  Melt butter in an 11 X 7 baking dish in 350-degree oven. Stir together flour, remaining cup sugar& milk and pour over melted butter. Pour muscadine mix. over batter. Bake @ 350 for 35 min or until golden

For other information on growing or using muscadines please contact your local County Extension Office.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!