Dear Home-Ec 101,
My husband and I had a roast thawing in our fridge. It thawed alright – and raw liquid leaked all over into our fridge drawers – where we have a drawer full of fresh apples.
I know if I peel and cook the apples, I will be ok, but is there a way I can clean the apples and feel safe eating them raw? Or is it best to call it a loss and make a giant pan of apple crisp instead?
Appalled in Appleton
What a pain in the butt.
The mantra of food safety is “When in doubt, throw it out.”
The difference between the produce you currently have in your crisper drawer and produce you purchase from the grocery store, produce stand, famers market, or pick yourself is that you know your produce has been contaminated while all other produce is potentially contaminated.
We wash produce to remove pathogens they may have picked up en route from farm to table. You just happen to have witnessed the point of contamination.
Make sure you use a two step disinfection process to clean up the mess in your refrigerator. First wash with hot soapy water and then use a dilute solution of chlorine bleach.
The best way to clean firm produce with skin, like apples, is to wash them thoroughly under running water while rubbing with a soft bristled brush. This method is recommended for ALL firm produce including melons, apples, and citrus fruits. Do not use dilute bleach or detergent on produce.
If you want to return the apples to the refrigerator for storage, be sure to dry them thoroughly before returning to the crisper drawer.
If you want to be extra careful, soak your apples in white vinegar for 3 – 5 minutes before rinsing and scrubbing under running water. E. coli O157:H7 (one of the more obnoxious food borne pathogens) can be reduced with white vinegar. Now you only want to do this step just before the apples are consumed, as any bacteria that is left behind shouldn’t be given the chance to make new friends¹.
Now there is a great, big caveat here: If an apple has damaged skin, throw it out.
Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
¹How many former girl scouts do we have in the audience? “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.” I’ll be singing that the rest of the dang day.