'Tis the season to receive delicious food gifts such as sausage, cheese, ham and other tasty items.

If you receive a gift of food this holiday season, ensure quality and safety by following the storage guidelines listed below, says Londa Nwadike, food safety specialist for University of Missouri Extension and Kansas State University Research and Extension.

• Canned ham: Check the label to determine if refrigeration is needed. If so, it can generally be refrigerated for six to nine months unopened. If refrigeration is not required, the unopened product can be stored for up to two years. (However, the sooner you eat it, the better the quality will be.) After opening, you can store the product safely in the refrigerator for three to four days.

• Country ham: Unsliced dry-cured ham is shelf-stable for one year. Sliced ham may be refrigerated for two to three months. Once cooked, it can be refrigerated for three to four days.

• Sausage: Dry fermented sausage labeled “keep refrigerated” can be stored unopened at room temperature for four to six weeks, or in the refrigerator for up to six months. Once opened, sausage will keep about two weeks in the refrigerator. If the package says “refrigerate,” keep it refrigerated and use it within three weeks once opened.

• Turkey: Frozen uncooked turkey can be stored in the freezer for up to six months without loss of quality or safety. Otherwise, refrigerate for use within one to two days.

• Game birds: If raw, store in the refrigerator no more than one or two days before cooking, or three days after cooking. Frozen birds will keep up to one year in the freezer.

• Cheese: Most hard or processed cheeses can be safely stored unopened for three to six months in the refrigerator and three to four months if opened.

• Nuts: Refrigerate after opening to preserve freshness and prevent rancidity. Nuts also may be frozen for up to a year after opening to retain quality and freshness.

 

For more information from MU Extension on food safety, go to http://missourifamilies.org/foodsafety or http://extension.missouri.edu/preservation.