Real Easter eggs require special care, attention

Published 8:37 am Wednesday, March 19, 2008

By Staff
Many “children” young and old alike are looking forward to the traditional Easter Egg Hunt this week-end. You remember how that goes don't you? You dye all those eggs then hide them outside in the grass, bushes, behind trees and who knows where else. After the Easter egg hunt is over you can eat those eggs, right? No, wrong, no way, na-da, nope, don't do it. Please do not eat the real eggs you hide outside!
Instead follow this great tip: Hide plastic eggs for the egg hunt and then let the children exchange them for the colorful hard-cooked eggs, after the hunt. Putting little candies or toys inside the plastic eggs will also add to the fun.
Handling eggs at Easter or at any time during the year provides many chances for eggs to become contaminated with bacteria. Keep the following tips in mind to assure your Easter will be a happy and safe one:
Be sure and inspect the eggs before purchasing them, making sure they are not dirty or cracked. Dangerous bacteria may enter a cracked egg.
Keep fresh eggs refrigerated in the original carton until it's time to cook them. Eggs are a high protein food, in the same category as meat, poultry, fish and milk. In other words, they are capable of supporting the rapid growth of disease causing bacteria Salmonella.
Never handle eggs excessively, and wash your hands thoroughly when you do handle them, whether in cooking, cooling, and dyeing. The shell of an egg is very porous and will permit bacteria to penetrate.
Store eggs in their original cartons in the refrigerator rather than the refrigerator door.
As long as the eggs are not out of refrigeration over two hours, they will be safe to eat. Do not eat eggs that have been out of refrigeration more than two hours. Refrigerate hard-cooked eggs in their shells and use them within 1 week.
Older eggs peel easier. So purchase your eggs for dyeing at least one week ahead.
Be sure that eggs are completely hard-cooked before dyeing or coloring.
When dyeing eggs, be sure to use only food grade dyes or food colorings.
Boiling the perfect Easter egg
Place eggs in a single layer in saucepan. Add just enough water to come at least 1-inch above eggs. Add one-tablespoon vinegar to allow for better dye coverage after cooking. Cover pan and quickly bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand in covered pan for 15 minutes. Immediately run cold water over eggs or place eggs in ice water for 15 minutes. Boiling for a long period of time causes the yolks to have a greenish tint. Refrigerate immediately.
If you are planning to use colored eggs as decorations, (for centerpieces, etc.) where the eggs will be out of refrigeration for many hours or several days, do not eat them, instead discard them after they have served their decorative purpose.
Remember that hard-cooked eggs are only good for 10-12 days in the refrigerator if the shell is intact.
Cracking the Date on Cartons
Do you know how to tell how old eggs in a carton are? Well there is a way to tell if you look at the printed codes on one side of the egg carton. Follow these guidelines for how long eggs are safe to eat:
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA, “Many eggs reach stores only a few days after the hen lays them. Egg cartons with the USDA grade shield on them, indicating they came from a USDA-inspected plant, must display the ‘pack date' (the day that the eggs were washed, graded, and placed in the carton). The number is a three digit code that represents the consecutive day of the year (the ‘Julian Date') starting with Jan. 1 as 001 and ending with Dec. 31 as 365.” To determine Julian Dates: Though not required, egg cartons also may contain a “sell by” date beyond which they should not be sold. I USDA inspected plants (indicated by the USDA shield on the package); this date can't exceed 30 days beyond the pack date. Always purchase eggs before their “sell by” date.
To help preserve the quality of your eggs, store them in their carton in the coldest part of the refrigerator, not open on the door. Temperature fluctuation may decrease storage time. You should run your refrigerator at 40 degrees or lower at all times.
I hope you have a safe and happy Easter.