The holidays abound with tasty treats such as eggnog, cream pies and other dishes containing eggs. Eating raw or undercooked eggs is a risk for foodborne illness, warns LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
“The same is true for lightly cooked eggs and egg dishes,” Reames said, explaining that it’s important for the cooking temperature to reach 160 degrees to kill bacteria, including Salmonella. Also, be sure to refrigerate pies containing eggs, such as pumpkin, custard, cream pies and pecan pies.
While preparing cookies and gingerbread, avoid licking the spoon or the mixing bowl if the batter contains uncooked eggs. Tasting cookie or cake batter can be tempting, but remember bacteria could be lurking in those uncooked eggs.
“And no, a dash of rum won’t make it safe!” Reames said. Adding alcohol cannot be relied upon to kill bacteria.
Make homemade eggnog and ice cream safely using a cooked base. Heat the egg-milk mixture gently to 160 degrees. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature. The mixture should coat a metal spoon.
To prepare a recipe that contains raw eggs that won’t be cooked, such as chocolate mousse, make it safe by heating the eggs in a liquid or melted ingredient from the recipe, such as lime juice or chocolate. Warm over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 160. Then, combine it with the other ingredients and complete the recipe. Make sure the mixture doesn’t exceed 160 degrees or the results may be scrambled eggs.
To make key lime or lemon ice box pie safely, heat the lime (or lemon) juice with the raw egg yolks in a pan on the stove, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 160 degrees. Then, combine it with the sweetened condensed milk and pour it into a baked pie crust.
Baked egg-rich desserts such as custard pies, crème brûlée or molten chocolate cakes should reach 160 degrees in the center.
Meringue-topped pies are safe if baked at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. In chiffon pies and fruit whips, substitute whipped cream or whipped topping instead of using raw, beaten egg whites.
Dry meringue shells, which are baked in the oven, are safe. Divinity candy is also safe. Avoid icing recipes using uncooked eggs or egg whites. A "7-minute frosting," however, made by combining hot sugar syrup with beaten egg whites is safe.
Casseroles, quiches and other dishes containing eggs should be cooked to 160 degrees.
The nutritionist offers additional safe-handling tips for desserts made with eggs:
– Only buy clean, refrigerated eggs with uncracked shells.
– Wash hands, utensils, equipment and work areas with hot, soapy water before and after contact with eggs.
– Don't keep eggs out of the refrigerator more than two hours.
Holiday Eggnog (U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service recipe)
1 quart 2% milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
1. Heat milk in large saucepan until hot (do not boil or scald). While milk is heating, beat together eggs and salt in a large bowl, gradually adding the sugar.
2. Gradually add the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture while continually stirring.
3. Transfer the mixture back to the large saucepan and cook on medium-low heat. Stir constantly with a whisk until the mixture thickens and just coats a spoon. The food thermometer should register 160 degrees. Stir in vanilla.
3. Cool quickly by setting the pan in a bowl of ice or cold water and stirring for about 10 minutes.
4. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, several hours or overnight.
5. Pour mixture into a bowl or pitcher. Fold in whipped cream. Dust with ground nutmeg.
Calories: 135 per 1/2 cup
Cholesterol: 120 mg. per 1/2 cup
Yield: 2 quarts