Eggs are a fun and traditional Easter staple. Did you know that at one time they were banned during Lent and became a treat to eat on Easter? Eggs also symbolize fertility and renewal. They are associated with the end of winter and the coming of spring.
Here’s another bit of egg trivia: the average person consumes one-and-a-half dozen eggs at Easter, and the average family eats about four dozen eggs during the holiday.
It’s always fun to color Easter eggs, but remember that these eggs should not be left at room temperature for longer than two hours. If you’re thinking of having an egg hunt, it would be safer to use plastic eggs instead of real eggs. Why? Well, if the shells are cracked, then they can easily be contaminated by dirt and moisture from your yard. Plus, there’s always the concern that the hunt will take longer than two hours.
And speaking of food safety, if you are putting colored eggs into a braided bread or Easter pastry, remember to eat or refrigerate the pastry within 2 hours of pulling the pastry out of the oven. If you plan to store it for longer, then you can keep the pastry in the refrigerator for three to four days.
The food safety fun doesn’t end there!
For some families, pickled eggs are an Easter tradition. This usually involves placing hard-cooked eggs into a vinegar or pickled beet solution. Despite the pickling, these eggs should still be refrigerated. Use pickled eggs within seven days of preparing them.
And finally, the week after Easter is often considered “egg salad week” because one the most popular ways to use up all those hard-cooked eggs is by making egg salad. Remember, hard-cooked eggs should be kept refrigerated and eaten within seven days of cooking.
Now let’s talk about preparing the tastiest and prettiest Easter eggs.
The green ring that sometimes appears around the yolk of a hard-cooked egg is usually caused by hard boiling and over cooking. This is the result of a reaction between the sulfur in the white and iron in the yolk, which interact when combined with high heat. This green part is safe to eat — it’s just a little unappetizing. For best results, try this method instead:
Recipe: Hard-Cooked Eggs
For a kinder and gentler way to cook eggs, place them a pan and fill it with cold water until you have about 1” covering the tops of the eggs.
Bring everything to a full boil, put a lid on the pan, and then take it off the heat. Set a timer and let the pan stand for 12 minutes (for large eggs) to 15 minutes (for extra-large eggs).
When the time is up, drain the pan and cool the eggs under cold running water or in an ice bath.
Refrigerate when cool.
Not only does this method eliminate the green ring, the whites will be less rubbery! Plus, this approach helps prevent the shells from cracking. Remember, eggs are easiest to peel right after cooling.
And speaking of peeling, did you know that the fresher your eggs are, the harder they’re going to be to peel when cooked?
This is because the airy space between the shell and the egg itself increases as an egg ages. The shell becomes easier to peel as this air space increases. If you want eggs that will peel more easily, buy them a couple weeks before Easter and keep them in the fridge.
Shopping Tip: Eggs are usually on sale close to Easter. This may be a good time to buy a couple extra dozen. The “use by” dates on the egg cartons indicate the date before which the eggs should be eaten for best quality, not food safety. Usually eggs can be safely eaten for 2-3 weeks beyond the sell-by date. That said, eggs should be refrigerated at the store, so avoid displays of eggs that are not kept cold.
I hope these tips and tricks come in handy as you prepare your spring celebrations!
By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University