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Food safety should be at the top of Easter egg lists

Eggs have been a part of springtime traditions for a very long time. Centuries before Christ was born, pagan people of many nations celebrated the return of the sun and the rebirth of nature each spring. Since new life came from eggs, eggs became the symbol of nature's rebirth.

Decorating eggs is fun for all ages and makes a great family project. You do not have to be a professional artist to decorate eggs. You may dye eggs simply with food coloring, special egg dyes or dyes made from natural foods. You may also paint eggs, cover them with beads or sequins and other materials or make them into faces or animals.

Follow a few food safety rules when you decorate hard-cooked eggs. The most important thing to decide is whether or not you want to eat the decorated eggs later. If you won't be eating the eggs, you can use any decorating materials you want and display the eggs anywhere for as long as you like.

If you do want to eat the eggs, follow these rules. Wash your hands between all the steps of cooking, cooling, dyeing and decorating. Be sure that all the decorating materials you use are food safe.

Keep the eggs refrigerated as much as possible. Keep putting them back into the refrigerator whenever you're not working with them. Dye the eggs in water warmer than the eggs so they do not absorb the dye water.

If you hide the decorated eggs, put them where they won't come into contact with pets, other animals or birds or lawn chemicals. After you have found all the hidden eggs, throw out any that are cracked or have been out at room temperature for more than two hours. Eat uncracked, refrigerated hard-cooked eggs within a week of cooking them.

Hard-cook eggs instead of boiling them. Boiling makes eggs tough and rubbery. Eggs that are cooked too long or at too high a temperature also have unattractive green rings around the yolks. Use gentle cooking to make tender eggs without green rings. Gentle cooking will also help prevent cracking.

To make hard-cooked eggs, place them in a single layer in saucepan. Add enough tap water to come at least one inch above eggs. Cover and quickly bring just to boiling. Turn off heat; if necessary, remove pan from burner to prevent further boiling. Do not remove lid; let eggs stand in the hot water about 15 to 17 minutes for large eggs. Immediately run cold water over eggs or place them in ice water until completely cooled.

To remove shell, crackle it by tapping gently all over. Roll egg between hands to loosen shell, then peel, starting at large end. Hold egg under running cold water, or dip in bowl of water to help ease off shell.

Buy eggs ahead of time for easy peeling. The fresher an egg, the harder it is to peel after you cook it. For eggs that are easier to peel, buy them ahead of time and refrigerate them for a week to 10 days before you cook them.

Happy Easter and safe egg cookery!

Web posted on Thursday, April 05, 2007

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