NDSU Extension - Ramsey County


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The Gift is in the Mail

The Gift is in the Mail


          Gifts of food are welcome anytime but are particularly popular during the holiday season. Edible gifts are a way to share your time and skills with others plus cut back on gift-giving costs.

          Unfortunately, gifts of food can carry more than goodwill and holiday wishes.  Gifts of food always raise food safety concerns.

          Let’s start with food allergies as a concern.  The most common food allergies are traced to tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soy, eggs, dairy, fish and shellfish.  If you don’t know a recipient well, you may not know if he, she or a member of the household has food allergies. Some food safety experts recommend attaching a label to you homemade creation listing ingredients so the recipient will be able to identify any potential problem causing ingredients.

          As always with home canned gifts of food, only tested recipes and recommended home food processing methods should be used in preparation.  And speaking of food preparation, while preparing your one-of-a-kind treat, wash hands often and well; clean counters and equipment with clean sponges and towels; and avoid cross-contamination of the goodies with uncooked food.

          If you are looking to mail food items, it is wise to steer clear of anything perishable. This includes foods that can easily spoil, such as: meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, including cream cheese and desserts such as cheesecake or anything with cream filling

          Dense and dry baked goods such as fruit cakes and biscotti are good choices for mailing because they will not mold. High-moisture baked goods such as pumpkin bread -- while safe at room temperature for a few days -- should not be mailed because they will most likely mold before delivery. Fragile foods like delicate cookies often don’t make the trip intact. When mailing firm cookies and homemade candies, wrap each piece individually and pack items in popcorn. Hard candies and sturdy homemade sweets such as pralines and toffee are safe to mail because their high sugar content prevents bacterial growth

          If you are the recipient of a mailed or shipped food item, open it immediately but do not immediately taste.  If it is a food that requires refrigeration, it should be packed in dry ice or if the food is to be frozen it should – at a minimum - be partially frozen with ice crystals still visible. Even if the product is smoked, cured and/or fully cooked, it's still a perishable product and must be kept cold. If perishable food arrives warm, don’t taste or consume the food.

          Your friends are lucky to receive your homemade thoughtfulness – do your part to be sure you aren’t gifting a food borne illness as a bonus!




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