Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions that our Home Economists have encountered. Included are some of the questions from our "Ask An Expert" page! If you have a question from our Home Economists, please submit it on our "Ask an Expert" web page.

Where should I store bread to keep it fresh?

How can rust stains be removed from clothes?

What is acrylamide and what is the problem reported by the Stockholm University and the Swedish National Food Administration?

Can I use table salt for pickling?


Please tell me the best way to freeze blueberries? Do I put sugar on them?

I cooked a chuck roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions in my crock pot. I turned the crock pot off about 8:30 pm to let it cool before I put it in the refrigerator. I forgot to put it in the refrigerator, and found it still in my crock pot this morning. Is it still good?

How do you make polenta cake with ground almonds?

What size is a No. 2 can of crushed pineapple? What size is a No. 303 can of blueberries? (I have an old recipe book with these ingredients listed for a jello salad and I don't know what size of can to buy.)

What causes white bread and wheat bread to mold?

Someone told me that making applebutter in the crockpot or in a pan in the oven was not recommended by USDA. When I do it, the applebutter mounds like it should and does not separate when it is finished. It is then processed in sterile pint jars with proper headspace, etc. It is made using added acid and sugar. I process it for 10 minutes, and I live at less than 1,000 feet elevation. Can you clarify this for me?

I am looking for a book that tells the chemistry of cooking. One that describes what each ingredient does in the cooking/baking process. Do you have any suggestions?

What should the temperatures be for the refrigerator and the freezer?

Where should I store bread to keep it fresh?

At home, fresh bread will stay fresh longer if it is held at room temperature. Staling will be slowed or halted by keeping bread in the freezer. Bread stales the quickest in the refrigerator. So, why do many people store their bread in the refrigerator? Answer: To keep it from molding. A warmer temperature will keep bread fresh longer, but it also causes bread to mold faster. Refrigerator temperatures slow the growth of mold and freezer temperatures will stop mold growth. (Answered by Dr. Kristy Long, Food Sciences & Home Ec Specialist.)

How can rust stains be removed from clothes?

From Your Cupboard: Mix cream of tartar with enough lemon juice to make a fairly thick paste. Apply paste to stain and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Wipe paste off with a damp cloth. This paste works on rust and food stains.

Rust Removers:  These are serious, chemical products, so follow the directions carefully. Look for products like Whink and Rust Magic at hardware stores and home centers. (Source: Talking Dirty Laundry with the Queen of Clean by Linda Cobb, 2001) (Answered by Dr. Kristy Long)

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What is acrylamide and what is the problem reported by the Stockholm University and the Swedish National Food Administration?

Acrylamide is a “probable human carcinogen” according to international assessments. A group of scientists at the University of Stockholm have found that acrylamide is formed during the heating of starch foods to high temperatures.

It had been assumed that the primary exposure for acrylamide in the general population was through drinking water and tobacco smoking. The exposure via drinking water is small and the European Union has determined maximum levels of 0.1 microgram per liter water.

Acrylamide is water soluble and quickly absorbed in the digestive tract. The excretion via urine is fast and half of the acrylamide is cleared from the body in a few hours.

Acrylamide is known to cause DNA damage, and at high doses neurological and reproductive effects have been observed. The actual dose causing neurological effects in humans is difficult to assess but is probably several times higher that the average acrylamide intake from food.

The actual study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. But there is international concern about the impact of this study and the scientific and commercial foods communities are monitoring this study carefully. (Source: Information taken directly from the American Association of Cereal Chemists website, 4/02) (Answered by Dr. Kristy Long.)

Can I use table salt for pickling?

No, most recipes require granulated pickling or canning salt. The density of table salt varies, so it is not recommended for pickling. Table salts also have anticaking agents that can cause cloudiness or leave residues in heat processed foods. (Source: So Easy to Preserve, 3rd Edition, Bulletin 989, Pg 129, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.) (Answered by Dr. Kristy Long, Food Sciences & Home Ec Specialist.)

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Please tell me the best way to freeze blueberries? Do I put sugar on them?

Here is information about freezing blueberries. It is from our UAF Cooperative Extension Service publication, Collecting and Using Alaska's Wild Berries and Other Wild Products. If you are interested in this publication it can be ordered from UAF Extension Publications. If this information isn't exactly what you need please let us know. Thanks for asking.

Page 18, How to Clean and Store
"Spread a clean, dry terry cloth towel over a slanted surface, such as a cutting board with one end propped up a few inches above the other. Gently roll the berries down the towel; most of the debris and leaves will cling to the towel, while the berries roll off. Blueberries can be stored covered in the refrigerator and will keep up to one week."

Page 19, How to Freeze
"Arrange dry fresh berries, in one layer, on a cookie sheet, then place cookie sheet in the freezer. When frozen, transfer berries to freezer bags or containers. Seal and label. Properly frozen blueberries will last up to two years in the freezer." This method keeps the berries separate so they are easily measured right from the freezer bag/container for whatever recipe you are creating.

Additional note: Cleaned blueberries can be frozen without the cookie sheet. I would suggest you measure the berries as you put them into the freezer bag or container and then include the measurement on the label. This method is OK if you are freezing berries for specific recipes. But the cookie sheet method, although more time consuming up front, results in berries that retain their shape and can be used in any recipe you are making. There are also recipes for drying blueberries, extracting juice for freezing and making frozen berry puree.

(Source: Collecting and Using Alaska's Wild Berries and Other Wild Products, Publication No. FNH-00120, by Sheryl Stanek and Barbara Butcher, Alaska Cooperative Extension Service, 1998.) (Answered by Dr. Kristy Long.)

I cooked a chuck roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions in my crock pot. I turned the crock pot off about 8:30 pm to let it cool before I put it in the refrigerator. I forgot to put it in the refrigerator, and found it still in my crock pot this morning. Is it still good?

No, the chuck roast and veggies are no longer safe to eat. The rule of thumb in food safety is that foods should not be kept in the temperature range of 40 degrees F to 140 degrees F for more than two hours. Your crock pot would have been within that range for longer than two hours. (Answered by Dr. Kristy Long, Food Sciences & Home Ec Specialist.)

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How do you make polenta cake with ground almonds?

If you are asking to substitute ground almonds in place of polenta in a cake recipe I think the answer is "It would be hard to do." Corn meal absorbs water or other liquids easily but ground almonds won't, so it would be difficult to have a cake structure that would hold together. If your goal is to have a polenta cake with an almond flavor and texture you might try adding 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted and finely ground, to your cake recipe. You will need to reduce the amount of polenta by about 1/3 cup. Also add about 1 teaspoon of almond extract. If the batter is too moist (because polenta and almond don't absorb water the same way) you may have to add some polenta back into the recipe (add about 1 Tablespoon at a time) until the batter has the right consistency.

If what you really want is almond cake, check a standard recipe book like Joy of Cooking for basic recipes. (Answered by Dr. Kristy Long, Food Sciences & Home Ec Specialist.)

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What size is a No. 2 can of crushed pineapple? What size is a No. 303 can of blueberries? (I have an old recipe book with these ingredients listed for a jello salad and I don't know what size of can to buy.)

A number 2 can is 20 ounces or 1 pound and 4 ounces. It holds proximately 2-1/2 cups. A 303 can is 15 ounces and holds approximately 2 cups. (Answered by Dr. Kristy Long, Food Sciences & Home Ec Specialist.)

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What causes white bread and wheat bread to mold?

Molds are part of a larger group of microorganisms called fungi. Fungi are found everywhere, but soil, air, water, and decaying organic matter are prime sources.

Molds are microscopic plants made up of several cells. Many have a filament and a head that contains spores that can spread through the air and start new mold plants. Under favorable conditions, spores germinate and produce fluffy growth, often white or gray, but sometimes bluish-green, red, orange, or other colors depending on the variety.

Molds grow on a wider variety of foods than do yeasts or bacteria. They grow on acid foods such as lemons and on neutral foods such as bread and meat, on sweet foods like jams and jellies, and even on organic substances other than food, such as leather, wood, and cotton. Molds can use an amazing variety of substances as a food source, even your walls and window sills.

Molds grow best at temperatures between 77 and 86 degrees F and a few even grow well at higher temperatures between 95-99 degrees F. Mold growth can even occur at refrigerator and freezer temperatures.

So, to answer your question: the reason mold grows on white and wheat bread (or on almost any other food source) is because the mold spores are present (they're everywhere), bread is a food source, and if the temperature is right (room temperature is almost perfect) the molds do what they do best....take advantage of the situation and reproduce, creating a nice fuzzy crop for your visual enjoyment. Molds need a food source, relatively warm temperature and moisture to grow, and they aren't very particular in most cases.

Bread stales more slowly at room temperature and molds grow fastest at room temperature. Bread stales the fastest in the refrigerator but molds grow more slowly. Bread stales and molds grow slowest in the freezer.

A few molds found on foods are able to produce toxic materials known as mycotoxins, the best known of which are probably the aflatoxins. It is no longer recommended that you eat food products that contain visible mold growth because mycotoxins may be present.

References: Basic Food Microbiology, Second Edition, by George J. Banwart, and Foods, Seventh Edition, by Vail, Phillips, Rust, Griswold, and Justin. (Answered by Dr. Kristy Long, Food Sciences & Home Ec Specialist.)

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Someone told me that making applebutter in the crockpot or in a pan in the oven was not recommended by USDA. When I do it, the applebutter mounds like it should and does not separate when it is finished. It is then processed in sterile pint jars with proper headspace, etc. It is made using added acid and sugar. I process it for 10 minutes, and I live at less than 1,000 feet elevation. Can you clarify this for me?

I've checked my USDA sources and other resource materials and I can find nothing that suggests you cannot use a crockpot for preparing applebutter. I spoke with our local district home economist (Roxie Dinstel) because I know she makes apple butter in a crockpot, and she said the approach has generally worked well for her too. She does have the following suggestions: keep the lid off; if you use the lowest setting (and recognize that the lowest setting on one crockpot may be too hot on another crockpot) it will take 6-7 hours to cook the butter; stir once in awhile. She processes her applebutter for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner at sea level.

In looking at the recipes, just a reminder not to cut back on the amount of cider or vinegar and sugar recommended. These ingredients help to preserve the butter, keep the pH high, and allow it to be processed in a boiling water canner. Even though you are processing for 10 minutes I would suggest you presterilize your jars, or increase the time to 15 minutes. And finally, I would suggest that you increase the temperature of the butter by gently boiling it, stirring constantly, just before you fill the jar. This will ensure that the product is hot when you put it into the jars (one book suggested just under 220 degrees F). At this point you will need to watch the apple butter carefully so that the increased heat won't burn the butter.

References: Complete Guide to Home Canning, USDA Agriculture Bulletin No. 539; So Easy to Preserve, 3rd Edition (1993), by Susan Reynolds at the Cooperative Extension Service, University of Georgia: Bulletin No. 989; Collecting and Using Alaska's Wild Berries and Other Wild Products by Sheryl Stanek and Barbara Butcher, Alaska Cooperative Extension Service, 1998. (Answered by Dr. Kristy Long, Food Sciences & Home Ec Specialist.)

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I am looking for a book that tells the chemistry of cooking. One that describes what each ingredient does in the cooking/baking process. Do you have any suggestion?

1. CookWise by Shirley O. Corriher, 1997, William Morrow and Company, Inc. This might be a good starting place for information on food science. The author is a reliable source of information and the book is user friendly. "The hows and whys of successful cooking" are the focus of this book but it also includes reliable recipes for various categories of foods and ingredients.

2. Kitchen Science by Howard Hillman, 1989, Houghton Mifflin Co., ($8.95) is a book of questions relating to the whys of food preparation. There are no recipes in this book but there is a good reading list at the end of the book.

3. Foundations of Food Preparation by Feeland-Graves and Peckham, 5th Edition, 1987 (look for a more recent edition), Macmillan Publishing Co. This is a standard text used in introductory food science/preparation classes.

4. Food Theory and Application by Paul and Palmer (there is a newer edition that has one new author, I don't have a copy). This is a science of food text with chemical formulas, etc.

(Answered by Dr. Kristy Long, Food Sciences & Home Ec Specialist.)

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What should the temperatures be for the refrigerator and the freezer?

Your refrigerator temperature should be set at between 38-40 degrees F. If you have an older model refrigerator, that temperature range may be difficult to maintain but try to keep it as close to 40 degrees as possible. This is based on food safety recommendations that place the "danger zone" for bacterial growth on foods in the range of 40 to 140 degrees F. If you have a frost free refrigerator and freezer, the interior temperature of both will increase during portions of the refrigeration cycle, so check temperatures several times before you reset the temperature controls.

The temperature in your freezer should be 0 degrees F or lower. The colder the temperature in your freezer the higher the quality of your frozen foods and the longer the food will last frozen. Wrap foods in the freezer tightly (use plastic wrap or containers that are meant for use in the freezer), keeping as much air as possible away from the food to maintain quality.

Thermometers for refrigerators and freezers can be purchased at most grocery stores, and I leave mine inside all the time. (Answered by Dr. Kristy Long, Food Sciences & Home Ec Specialist.)

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