Friday, June 13, 2008

Ham on the Bone

Well it has been quite some time since I've updated here. I've been all over the country and eaten a lot of food.* Here's a quick update, more to come soon.

The Emergency Food Hotline had an interesting call a while back about freezing meat, specifically ham on the bone. The caller wanted to know how long ham on the bone could be in the refrigerator before it needed to be thrown out, and, if after being in the refrigerator for nearly a week if it could be frozen and thawed later.

After comparing my own thoughts (my dad always had a ten-day rule for leftovers) with the FDA standards (7 days refrigerated if on the bone/whole, less if cut into slices) I've concluded that the simple answer is that yes, the ham is still good after a week, and yes, you can still freeze it. I think most foods are usually good for a bit longer than we might think, and a day or two longer than the FDA standards. After all, they have to be more careful than I do, since they're a lot more liable for their advice than I am.

Here is a link to a great resource from the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. It includes tips on how long to store eggs and other animal products. Vegans, this site isn't for you. But Veggies and Omnivores alike will benefit from taking a look at the FDACFSAN's Safe Food Chart for fruits, veg and juices.

But if you are going to freeze meat, you want to be sure that you are wrapping and sealing it properly so as not to give it freezer-burn or lose all of the moisture naturally present. There are a variety of methods and opinions on this, but I think most people I have discussed this topic with have concurred that the following option is effective (if little overzealous):

Seal leftovers in plastic wrap, this helps to hold in the moisture. Then wrap in tin foil, which helps to insulate from freezer-burn and keep any liquid in that might sneak out of the plastic wrap. Then place in a ziploc, and don't forget to write the date on it!

Oh, and IF you have leftovers in the fridge for a while, and decide to freeze them, be sure to use them as soon as possible after thawing. Keeping leftovers in the freezer does extend their life quite a bit, but the overall amount of days they have been refrigerated (outside of freezer time) should not exceed 10 days if you can help it.

this one's for dad

This nice meal, if it had gone unfinished (which it did not), could have lasted in the refrigerator for up to about 5 days (3-4 according to the FDA).

*apologies to anyone who I may have missed a call from--I think there was one--while I was out of cell phone range for many days on the coast of Maine.