Dear Sun Spots: I have two questions:

Is it all right to put hot food that comes directly out of a hot oven or stove directly into the refrigerator? Or do you let it cool and, if so, for how long?

Secondly, why is there so much sodium in canned and frozen foods? All that sodium can’t be good for you. How much is good for you? My doctor advises I stay under 300 mgs of sodium per day, but there’s not really much available under that. Thank you for any help. – D.S., Livermore.


Answer: Lewiston Regional Technical Center instructor chef Dan Caron advises it is best for the fridge if you let food sit out for a few minutes, as the steam can work a fridge very hard. But no more than a few minutes, he cautions. If it’s a soup or sauce that you wish to refrigerate, stir it to help it cool faster. If it’s a large batch, Caron recommends you place it in smaller containers to cool faster. The internal temperature of the product should be out of the danger zone (40 to 140 Fahrenheit) within two hours.

Remember, freezing foods does not kill bacteria – it only retards it. When you thaw it, bacteria will start multiplying. Caron says bacteria multiplies every 20 minutes. And when you reheat food items, make sure you do so until it reaches 165 degrees, and serve it at 140 degrees.

Regarding your second question, Caron says the reason so much sodium is added is because it acts as a preserver in canned goods. Sodium can extend the expiration date a long time, and sodium extracts flavors from other foods. Caron recommends if you are considering purchasing canned soups or other canned products, purchasing the low-sodium variety and adding your own flavors, such as fresh herbs, garlic or roasted veggies or bell pepper.

Sun Spots frequently makes her own stock, as it allows her control of the additives in her stock. Besides, the flavor is a lot heartier and makes a wonderful base for homemade soups or stews. Take the carcass of a baked chicken or turkey. Place it in a stock pot. Include all the bones, skin and any drippings in the pan (these can be skimmed off the top of your stock later). You’ll also want to add some quartered raw onions, stalks of celery (include the leaves), and tablespoons of your favorite herbs, as well as some ground, or freshly milled, black pepper. Sun Spots typically adds thyme, basil and sage. Add enough water to fill your pot about halfway. Bring it to a boil, then simmer for about two to four hours on low heat. You’ll notice the stock getting darker and richer in color and scent. You want to get as much flavor as you can out of the bones and added items. Let cool. Drain until you have only stock remaining. Place in freezer until the fat hardens on the top. Skim it off, then place your stock in aluminum containers and freeze. Use as needed.

According to the University of Michigan Health System, your body requires about half a gram of sodium daily. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend you eat no more than 2.3 grams per day. One teaspoon of table salt contains about 2.3 grams and 2,300 mgs is the equivalent of 2.3 grams. Foods that are less than 140 mg per serving are considered low in salt. Please talk this over with your doctor to ensure you’re following the necessary range appropriate for you. Check the Internet for Web sites featuring low-sodium cooking, such as www.lowsodiumcooking.com.

Dear Sun Spots: Lisbon High School would like to thank those who responded so quickly to our recent inquiry for a wheelchair. We had an overwhelming response and greatly appreciate everyone’s desire to contribute. We received our wheelchair.

In addition, we would like to send a special thank you to Linda (I’m so sorry I didn’t get your last name) of Lisbon and Walter Morse of Lisbon Falls, whose generous donations have helped our school clinic immensely. – Roxanne Mooney, Lisbon High School Nurse and Monica M. Millhime, Community Resource Coordinator, Lisbon School Department, Lisbon.

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows.

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