Food storage: How long is too long?

September 30, 1998|By ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

How long can you keep certain items? Here's a list of some common kitchen ingredients:

* Baking powder: six months tightly sealed at room temperature

* Baking soda: 18 months fairly well-covered at room temperature

* Bouillon cubes: one year at room temperature

* Extracts: three-four months tightly sealed at room temperature

* Honey: indefinitely if tightly sealed; if it has crystallized, place opened jar in bowl of hot water and stir until crystals dissolve

* Gelatin (dry powder): up to one year for flavored gelatin, three years for unflavored, at room temperature

* Peanut butter: one year, unopened, at room temperature; three-four months after opening, stored in the refrigerator

* Salt: indefinitely; up to one year for seasoned salt, stored tightly capped at room temperature

* Soy sauce: up to one year, unopened, at room temperature; one year after opening if kept refrigerated

* Spices and dried herbs: up to one year if whole and stored tightly capped on a cool shelf; six months if ground; store red spices such as paprika, ground red pepper and chili powder in the refrigerator or freezer, along with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, which are rich in oil and can become rancid

* Vinegar: indefinitely if unopened; six months once opened at room temperature

Sources: "The Good Housekeeping Step-by-Step Cookbook" (Hearst Books, $30), "Keeping Food Fresh" by Janet Bailey (Perennial Library, $14)

Refrigerated products have their own set of rules; pay attention to "sell by" dates and expiration dates found on many products. Fruits and vegetables are best if used within a few days of purchase; if left too long, their quality and nutritional value suffer.

Don't use anything that you're unsure of. Fresh meat, poultry and fish should be frozen within a day or two of purchase if you're not cooking right away. Leftovers should be refrigerated immediately, and left out no more than two hours, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For questions regarding the safety of storing, cooking and eating chicken and fish, call the USDA's toll-free meat and poultry hot line: 800-535-4555.

The Food and Drug Administration operates a toll-free hot line for seafood questions: 800-332-4010.

A few more leftover ideas from "The Woman's Day Cookbook" by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley (Viking, $24.95):

* Meats: Make a casserole by combining leftover meats with cooked egg noodles and a white sauce. Top with bread crumbs and bake until sauce bubbles and top becomes light brown. Or add meats to a basic tomato sauce for pasta.

* Fish or shellfish: Make a chowder full of potatoes and vegetables. Or combine in a food processor with some mayonnaise, herbs and seasonings to use as a sandwich spread. Or liven up a salad with fish or shellfish.

* Chicken: Mince leftovers and use in scrambled eggs or omelets.

* Rice: Saute leftover rice with chopped vegetables in a little oil, and add minced fresh ginger and a dash of soy sauce.

* Vegetables: Mince leftovers and add to hamburger or meatloaf mixture.

Pub Date: 9/30/98

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