By MARY ANN LIENHART CROSS
County Extension Director, Extension Educator Health & Human Sciences, Purdue Extension Elkhart County
GOSHEN — For once I am going to be ahead of a holiday — Easter. The weather at the end of February and beginning of March has been more like the winter we should have had in January. In January I saw a flock of robins trying to eat berries off of a tree in the snow and thought they should have migrated in the fall. Easter will soon be here regardless of the weather so it is time for food safety reminders on eggs.
I love spring cooking, coloring eggs and possibly making hard cooked red beet eggs. Just today I saw some deviled eggs in the store and I had to check the price just for curiosity. What a sticker shock even though eggs have increased in price. To me hard cooked eggs and coloring eggs go hand-in-hand in encouraging us all to slow down. I think all of us, including adults, need to do more fun things like coloring eggs. This is fun to do with children but is also fun for adults.
Easter also means some other special foods like ham, braided egg yeast rolls, hot cross buns, leg of lamb with mint sauce, bunny cakes and deviled eggs. For deviled eggs most cooks have their own special ingredients, I think its very important to make sure the cooked yolks are crumbled very fine. For years I did this with two forks but recently I used my stainless steel round chopper and the job was faster and the eggs more even. When it comes to the egg mixture I like to add ground horseradish and sweet relish to the finely chopped yolk mixture with a reduced fat salad dressing, mayonnaise, or plain yogurt.
Hard cooked eggs are one of the most economical sources of protein. They’re a good source of nutrition all the time. So that the eggs peel easiest plan to use eggs that are at least one week old or older for hard cooking. It is also a good idea to let the eggs come to room temperature before cooking, which means you should set them out several hours before cooking. Place unshelled eggs in a saucepan, add one teaspoon or more of salt and cover them with cold water. Put the pan over medium heat and bring the water to a boil. Put the lid on the pan, set the timer for 16 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and let set. Once the time is up, pour off the hot water and plunge the eggs into very cold water with ice cubes; more ice than water. This stops further cooking and prevents the yolk from discoloring and forming the green ring. If you use lots of ice you won’t need to change the water.
Now for the sometimes frustrating part — shelling or peeling. Tap the bottom and the top of the egg, then crack the shell and roll the egg between the palms of your hands to free the thin, tough skin from the egg. If you are having trouble peeling the eggs, it sometimes helps to do it under running water but it usually is a sign that the eggs were too fresh. The bottom line is there is nothing you can do once they are cooked and not peeling easily.
When hard cooking eggs here are some other facts to know: never boil eggs unless you prefer them to be rubbery or like the texture of tennis balls. The shells will crack easier if you let the eggs come to room temperature before cooking. Begin cooking the eggs in cold water, not boiling water. The color of the yolk will vary according to the type of feed the chickens have eaten. The green ring around the yolk is caused by a reaction with the egg combining the iron and sulfur in it. When it comes to storage of hard cooked eggs, they should not set out at room temperature for more than two hours. If the eggs are left out for two hours or longer they need to be disposed of. Hard cooked eggs may be stored for two months when peeled, placed in a jar and covered with vinegar. These eggs are great for many uses like egg salad, deviled eggs, or used in a salad.