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Christmas Safety

From slinky turkey to driving under the influence, holiday dangers abound

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Christmas brings many unfamiliar elements into our lives with potential for accidents. Being aware of what some of the pitfalls are is the easiest way to keep safe during the festive season.

With the inevitable feasting, food safety needs to be considered, especially when it comes to turkeys. Frozen birds, encased in their protective wrap, need to be defrosted in cold water that covers the entire bird and is frequently changed, some cookbooks recommending as often as once every half hour.

Many cooks swear by fresh turkeys, because of the hassle of thawing and the fact that the meat hasn’t been subject to prior freezing does seem to result in a more tender bird. However if the bird has to travel more than an hour from the supermarket to your home, you might want to consider bringing a cooler to transport the festive fowl as this will reduce the growth of any potentially harmful bacteria on the bird. Once at home safely stash it in the refrigerator for up to five days.

According to butcher Richard McQuary of the Pemberton Valley Supermarket, this extended refrigeration period is possible because commercial producers deeply chill the birds as part of the processing.

"If you’re going to keep the bird in the ’fridge for more than a couple of days we recommend that you place a bag of ice in the cavity used for stuffing. Also add half an onion, I don’t know why it works, but it seems to keep the bird nice and fresh," said McQuary.

When it comes to stuffing the bird with something a little tastier than a bag of ice, do so just before it goes in the oven to avoid a proliferation of bacteria.

Any fowl, if served undercooked, has the propensity for inducing wicked food poisoning. McQuary recommends that you cook your bird at 18 minutes a pound at 350°. To insure your turkey is table ready, slide a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast. When the thermometer reads 180°F, the bird is ready.

McQuary adds that the rule of thumb when purchasing a bird is one pound per guest per meal.

"That figure seems high to a lot of people, but you have to remember, there’s a lot of bones," said the butcher.

On the subject of bones, carcasses should either be made into soup immediately or frozen for later use.

The Christmas tree is perhaps even more a part of the celebration than the aforementioned fowl. And it presents just as many potential problems, including house fires. Thankfully, this can be avoided. While many people have opted for the convenience of artificial trees, the smell of a freshly cut pine just can’t be beaten. The challenge is finding a tree that truly is fresh.

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