Dear Barbara: We are going to have a picnic by a lake on the Fourth of July. I know every year at this time you talk about food safety, but I still have a question. I know there is a two hour limit on leaving foods out like potato salad, deviled eggs, etc. What if the dish contains no dairy? Does it still have a time limit?
— Jade from Lodi
Dear Jade: Oh, yes!! Take plenty of coolers with ice. The rule pertains to all foods even if you are in a shady, cool spot. You want to take the food out of the cooler, serve it and put it directly back in the cooler. This especially applies to raw meats, dairy or anything that contains dairy. Let me add that raw meat should not be kept in the same cooler as the other picnic items. You don’t want cross contamination to occur. The two hour rule pertains more to being indoors with the air conditioner on or cooler weather. Bacteria thrive and multiply rapidly in the warm summer temperatures. Stay cool and have a safe and happy Fourth of July!
Dear Barbara: I have always thought that there was butter in buttermilk, and it was more fattening than regular or low fat milk. My friend said it is not. So why do they call it buttermilk and is it better for you than regular or low fat milk? You will be solving a dilemma with your answer. Of course, I’m hoping I am right.
— Claire from Stockton
Dear Claire: Let’s break your question down into parts. First of all, there is no butter, per say, in buttermilk. It is called buttermilk in reference to the way it was originally made. When cream was churned the old fashioned way, the butter would separate from the liquid. That liquid was referred to as buttermilk. It still is today, but with mass production, milk is “soured” with different kinds of lactic acids to give it that tang of old fashioned buttermilk. Therefore, it is very low in fat and about 98 calories per cup. Low fat (1 percent) milk has 120 calories per cup. The downside of buttermilk is that it is relatively high in sugars and sodium; about 1.5 times the sodium found in low fat milk.
I wasn’t raised with buttermilk, so I don’t care to just drink a glass of it, but it is wonderful to cook with. It is great in everything from salad dressings to pancakes. It just adds a nice little tang to salads, etc. and is very good for you.
Dear Barbara: I’m having a large (20 people) party on the Fourth of July. I want to serve corn on the cob, which I will cook in the house since the grill will be full. Serving the corn is my problem. The corn will be super hot and I’m not sure how to work that. I don’t want people to burn themselves, but I also don’t want to burn myself by trying to put plastic corn holders on them before serving. It’s plastic plates, which means the corn would take up most of the plate and will be rolling around. It will be awkward for people to butter and salt and pepper them. Any suggestions?
— Julie from Lodi
Dear Julie: If you cut the corn in half after you clean it, or even in thirds, it makes for a more manageable size. What works for me is to take round wooden skewers with the sharp point at the end and push one into the center of where you cut the cob, as far as you can without going all the way through. Leave enough of the skewer showing so it is easy to hang on to. Do this before you cook the corn and then cook the corn with the skewer in place. It makes it easy for guests big and small to hold on to. An easy way to butter the corn is to have the butter already melted and just set a pastry brush on a little plate next to the butter bowl. Painting the butter onto the corn is much easier than trying to put the butter on with a knife. When the party is done, just throw the cobs away, sticks and all.
Tip of the week! If you serve butter, already melted, to brush on corn, you can flavor the butter with spices such as chili powder or smoked paprika, or herbs like tarragon or thyme. Have fun with it!
Barbara Spitzer is a Lodi home cook who also develops recipes for specific consumer products. Do you have a cooking question? Send it to Barbara Spitzer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and city.