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Archive for Wednesday, April 8, 1998

EASTER EGGS: BETTER SAFE THAN SICK

April 8, 1998

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Is it safe to eat hard-cooked eggs that have been used for an Easter egg hunt?

Follow the ``two-hour rule'' when trying to decide whether you should eat hard-cooked eggs that have been through ``the hunt.'' Eggs should not be kept out of the refrigerator for more than two hours, including time for preparing and serving (but not cooking). Therefore, either follow the two-hour rule or do not eat the eggs. The found eggs must be re-refrigerated and eaten within one week after cooking.

When decorating and hiding hard-cooked eggs, the shells are often cracked after my children gather them. Are the eggs still safe to eat?

It's best to consider these as part of the holiday festivities and discard them after Easter. When you cook eggs in their shells, you remove the protective coating that helps preserve eggs. Even the slightest crack allows bacteria that cause food-borne illness to enter.

I have been told that I should not wash fresh eggs before storing them and that I should not store them on the door of the refrigerator. Are these statements true?

The answer is yes to both statements. Most eggs sold commercially have been washed, sanitized and sprayed with a protective oil coating to help preserve the quality and wholesomeness. Washing eggs removes the coating and, if done improperly, can allow any bacteria that may be present to be drawn into the eggs through the pores in the shells. The extra handling can also increase the chance of accidentally cracking the shells.

Also, it is best to store eggs in their original cartons and under or below, it is recommended that eggs be stored in the main refrigeration compartment -- not on the door. In addition, moving eggs from their carton to a refrigerator storage compartment increases the chance of cracking the shells and transferring bacteria between your hands and the shells.

Remember, strong odors can penetrate eggshells and may give the eggs an unpleasant smell or taste so keep away from foods with strong odors, such as onions or fish.

How long can I store fresh eggs in the refrigerator?

Use eggs within five weeks after bringing them home. If recipes call for separated eggs you should use leftover yolks and whites within four days after removing them from the shell.

What is the green-colored film that sometimes develops on the surface of the yolk of a hard-cooked egg?

The dark greenish color that sometimes forms on the surface of the yolk of a hard-cooked egg is due to the formation of ferrous sulfide. Prolonged heating of the egg white produces hydrogen sulfide gas. This diffuses to the yolk and combines with iron to give the dark color. It is a normal chemical reaction that affects only the appearance -- not the quality or the safety.

Cooling hard-cooked eggs quickly in cold water should help to prevent the formation of the ferrous sulfide ring. However, if eggs are heated for 30 minutes in boiling water or if they are of low candled quality with the accompanying high pH, ferrous sulfide will form in spite of rapid cooling.

I received a country-style ham as a gift that I want to use for our Easter dinner. What makes it different from other hams and what is the best way to prepare it?

Known as specialty hams, country or country-style hams are dry cured with salt, then smoked and aged to give them a distinctive flavor and texture. These hams require soaking and precooking in a liquid before baking. If they are produced in a rural area they are called ``Country Hams,'' and are called ``Country-Style Ham'' if produced elsewhere.

To prepare, soak the ham in cold water to cover for 24 to 36 hours. After soaking, scrub it well, using a brush, to remove any mold. Rinse thoroughly and place it in pot of simmering water to cover. Simmer 20 minutes per pound or until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees. During the last quarter of cooking time, add 1 quart of cider and 1/4 cup brown sugar to the simmering water. Drain and remove the skin while the ham is still warm. Trim the fat partially. Dust the ham with a mixture of freshly ground black pepper, cornmeal and brown sugar. Allow the ham to glaze by placing it in a 425-degree preheated oven for a short amount of time. Serve warm or cold by slicing very thin.

-- Susan Krumm is an extension agent in home economics and consumer science with K-State Research & Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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