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Cook, handle Easter eggs with care
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Warmer days, new growth and Easter eggs go hand-in-hand in more ways than one, but sometimes the growth is not what consumers need.
Sharon Allen Haynes, an area nutrition and food safety agent with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said eggs must be handled with care to prevent the growth of micro-organisms that cause food-borne illnesses.
"Eggs are among the most perishable foods. Leaving eggs, cooked or uncooked, unrefrigerated for more than two hours will lead to spoilage," Haynes said. "Eggs are very susceptible to the growth of micro-organisms that you cannot see or taste, but you'll certainly know it hours or days later."
Haynes recommended cooking extra eggs for eating to avoid the food poisoning risk with Easter eggs that are unrefrigerated longer because of the dyeing, hiding and hunting process.
"If you plan to eat dyed eggs, start with the best product possible. Select eggs with a good expiration date printed on the carton and from the refrigerated display case. Look for eggs that are clean with uncracked shells. Refrigerate the eggs as soon as possible when you get home," she said.
Avoid cutting corners in the cooking process. Haynes said when in a rush to begin dyeing eggs, some people may shorten the cooking time. Slow-boiling methods will help prevent cracking shells.
"Hide the eggs in places that are protected from dirt, pets and other sources of bacteria," Haynes said. "If you are determined to eat the eggs, refrigerate them as soon as possible after the hunt and always watch the total time they are accumulating outside the refrigerator. Don't keep cooked eggs even in the refrigerator for more than a week. If you have any doubts about the eggs' safety, do not eat them."
A good alternative to hunting hard-boiled eggs is to hide plastic eggs instead.
"Plastic eggs are fun for children to find because you can put special prizes inside them," she said.
Haynes said special sales near the Easter holiday may prompt shoppers to purchase more eggs than they can consume within an appropriate time.
"Uncooked eggs can be blended and frozen in containers or freezer bags for use later. Be sure to label the container and use within a year of freezing," Haynes said. "Hard-cooked whole eggs and egg whites become tough and watery when frozen, but hard-cooked yolks can be frozen to use later for toppings or garnishes on dishes such as casseroles or salads."
To freeze a hard-cooked yolk, Haynes said to place the unbroken yolks in a saucepan and add water to come at least one inch above the yolks. Cover and quickly bring the water to a boil. Turn off the heat and possibly remove from the burner to prevent further boiling. Let the yolks remain in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain the yolks well and package them for freezing.
Contact: Sharon Allen Haynes, (662) 843-8371