Elizabeth S. Reames | 3/27/2008 2:14:15 AM
News You Can Use Distributed 03/14/08
Dyeing Easter eggs is fun, but because eggs are perishable, they require safe handling. LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames details important safety precautions.
– Buy clean, uncracked eggs from a refrigerated display case at the grocery. Look for a date printed on the carton. This is the "pull" date, which is the last day the eggs can be sold.
– Store eggs in their original carton in the refrigerator. Keep them covered to prevent them from absorbing odors from other foods. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, fresh, uncooked eggs in the shell can be kept refrigerated in their cartons for three to five weeks beyond the “sell-by” date.
– Wash your hands thoroughly before you handle eggs at every step including cooking, cooling and dyeing.
– To hard-cook eggs properly, never boil them. Place eggs in single layer in saucepan. Add enough tap water to come at least 1 inch above eggs. A tablespoon of vinegar can be added to allow better dye coverage after cooking. Cover pan and quickly bring just to boiling. Turn off heat. If necessary, remove pan from burner to prevent further boiling.
Let eggs stand, covered, in the hot water for 15 minutes. Immediately run cold water over eggs or place them in ice water until completely cooled. Refrigerate all hard-cooked eggs.
– Refrigerate hard-cooked eggs in their cartons if you won’t be coloring them right after cooking and cooling. Refrigerate them again right after you dye them and after you display them. Hard-cooked eggs spoil faster than fresh eggs. When shell eggs are hard cooked, the protective coating is washed away, leaving bare the pores in the shell for bacteria to enter and contaminate them. Hard-cooked eggs should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking and used within a week.
– Color only uncracked eggs. If you want to eat your dyed eggs later, use food coloring or specially made food-grade egg dyes dissolved in water that is warmer than the eggs. If any eggs crack during dyeing or while on display, discard them along with any eggs that have been out of refrigeration for more than two hours.
– If you hide eggs, consider hiding places carefully. Avoid areas where the eggs might come into contact with dirt, pets, wild animals, birds, reptiles, insects or lawn chemicals.
“Never leave eggs in the sun during an Easter egg hunt,” Reames warns. She advises hiding them in the shade and keeping the egg hunt short if the eggs are to be eaten.
The total time involved in hiding and hunting eggs – the time eggs are out of the refrigerator – should be no more than two hours if eggs are to be eaten. Then the eggs should be promptly refrigerated and eaten within seven days. Do not eat or store eggs, however, that have cracked shells.
Eggs supply high-quality protein, are an excellent source of minerals and vitamins and contain only 80 calories. Although they are high in cholesterol, with 213 milligrams in one large egg, they are low in saturated fat.
Reames offers an alternative to eating Easter eggs plain. She suggests enjoying your leftover eggs by making egg salad using mostly the whites of the eggs. Use three whites to one yolk. Add plenty of diced celery or green pepper, and use fat-free or reduced-fat mayonnaise.
Learn more about eggs and food safety by contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. In addition, visit the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com/.