Column: Food safety begins at home

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By Joe Drozda and Bob Bley

Once again, it is important to make a few points about food safety. We don’t want our tailgaters to become part of the group – estimated by the Mayo Clinic to be nearly 3 million – who fall prey to food poisoning.

There’s Salmonella, E.coli, Hepatitis and many more maladies that can give you those gas-powered symptoms that make you feel horrible, just about the time you arrive home (hopefully) from the game. Some can make you sick for a long time and others can even kill you.

Every year we post some simple rules that can be easily found online by typing food poisoning into a search engine. This past July, the Center for Disease Control reported that this year, there have been 768 people infected with the outbreak of strains of Salmonella reported from 48 states. So far, 122 (29 percent) people have been hospitalized, and two deaths have been reported, one from Texas and one from Ohio. Also, 156 (24 percent) of the illnesses occurred among children younger than 5 years old.

Here are some simple rules we follow:

  • Prepare foods at home – your kitchen tends to be a lot more sanitary than your tailgate party. Prepare as much as possible at home so that preparation at your tailgate is only grilling/cooking.
  • Keep things clean – Wash hands, surfaces and utensils frequently and have hand sanitizer for all to use.
  • Separate, don’t contaminate – don’t mix uncooked foods during preparation. Meats have contaminates that can be cooked away, but not vegetables that have contact with the surface used to cut meat.
  • Cook all foods to the proper temperature to kill bacteria. Always use a kitchen thermometer – don’t guess! Meat temperature charts are available on line or on our web site, tailgatershandbook.com/Tailgating101/foodsafety.html.
  • Keep cold foods (especially meats) cold – this means you need a separate cooler for foods and a separate one for drinks. The drink cooler tends to get much more use so its coolness is lost and becomes dangerous for food storage.

Here’s a great recipe for a Cucumber Salad that all your guests will love. It is a safe recipe because you keep it at the bottom of your cooler until you serve it.

Ingredients:
4 large cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
16oz container of sour cream
1 thinly sliced red onion
Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp. rice vinegar

Preparation:
Place the cucumber slices in a large bowl that is wide enough to hold a dinner plate for the pressing stage. These slices should be salted to keep in their crispness and to remove the water. Cover the slices, in the bowl, with a dinner plate, weighted to press the cucumbers to remove the liquid overnight. Occasionally drain off the liquid.

On game day remove the weighted plate, and drain the liquid again. Add the sour cream to your desired consistency. Add the onion slices. Add rice vinegar to remove some of the creaminess. Mix together gently. Place into a resealable container and chill in the refrigerator before packing it into your food cooler.

This side dish is a great compliment to fried chicken, ribs or a sandwich.

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