Growing up, I always appreciated food.
My dad went to work before I got up in the morning and got home after I went to bed most nights. Every day, my mom told me and my brother that he said he loved us on his way out the door.
We knew we were loved.
After he got done pouring concrete at one of many revolving job sites — anywhere from Cleveland to Canton to Calcutta — he went to my grandma’s farm to feed and water the cattle, bale the hay or tend to the small plots of soybeans or corn he had planted.
On the weekends, he would do side jobs, pouring driveways mostly, or he could be found farming.
Besides seeing the amount of work that went into producing food, we saw the way he killed himself every day to pay for the food my mom bought at the grocery store. It never even crossed my mind to waste, complain about or deny what he provided. I never argued about the dinner my mom prepared, I always cleaned my plate and I was always thankful to be fed.
Waste not, want not
Growing up the way I did taught me a lot about life. I never went without the things I needed, but no one catered to my preferences either. I’m fine with that. I’m not picky, I don’t waste and I value the things I work hard to earn.
I think that’s why I’ve been disappointed with so many Easter egg safety articles that suggest making separate batches to eat and hide. There are safe ways to eat the eggs you hide. My family does it every year.
And if you happen to have the money to waste on an extra carton of eggs to throw away at the end of the weekend, by all means, donate that money to hungry families who couldn’t afford to buy any eggs to color.
Salmonella is the main reason people are advised against eating undercooked eggs. It can be in the yolk or the egg whites. Bacteria can even be on the outside of an egg shell. For this reason, eggs are required to be washed at a processing plant prior to being packaged. Furthermore, all United States Department of Agriculture graded eggs and most large volume producers follow up with a sanitizing rinse.
This is why it’s not recommended for consumers to wash eggs because it actually increases the risk of contamination. Washing before boiling can damage the protective coating the hen puts on the outside of the shell and allow water to be sucked into the egg through pores in its shell.
However, you should wash your hands before handling eggs to minimize bacteria exposure.
Dyeing Easter eggs requires boiling them first, which protects against foodborne illnesses. Simply cover the eggs in at least one inch of water and boil them for 10 to 12 minutes to ensure the whites and yolks are firm.
As a side note, cooking time does not influence how difficult it is to peel the egg shells later. The fresher the egg, the more difficult it is to peel off the shells. For this reason, older eggs often work better for hard boiling.
Once your eggs are cooked, run cold water over the eggs and store them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to decorate them. Make sure to wash your hands before handling the eggs, between each step.
After your eggs are hard boiled and cooled, you want to make sure they aren’t out of the refrigerator for more than two hours during the dyeing process. You also need to use warm water and food coloring or food-grade dyes to color your eggs and ensure safe consumption later.
The biggest thing to consider is the amount of time the hunt will take and the hiding locations. In order to both hide and eat your eggs later, follow these tips from the USDA:
- Don’t hide eggs on the ground where they can be exposed to dirt, moisture and other sources of bacteria.
- Avoid hiding places where pets, animals, insects or lawn chemicals can come into contact with the eggs.
- Don’t hide or eat eggs with cracked shells as they are more susceptible to bacteria contamination.
- Make sure the eggs are not out of the fridge for more than two hours — that means the total time it takes to hide and find the eggs.
- Once the eggs are found, they must be washed, re-refrigerated and eaten within seven days.
Who’s most at risk: Infants, young children, older adults, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are more vulnerable to foodborne illness from raw or undercooked eggs.
Refrigeration: Hard-boiled eggs can be store in the refrigerator safely for up to a week. They can be left out of the refrigerator without spoiling for up to two hours.
Cracked eggs: Although you shouldn’t hide or eat eggs with cracked shells, eggs that crack during the hard-boiling process are safe to eat.
When an egg floats: When an egg floats in water that means it’s old. However, it may still be safe to use. Look for an unpleasant odor or unusual appearance when you break the shell of a raw or cooked egg to determine if it’s spoiled.
Appearance: There are a few oddities you may run into, some of which are safe and some are not. Blood spots are sometimes found in the yolk of an egg and are safe. A cloudy egg white indicates the egg is very fresh. A clear egg white indicates the egg is aging. A green ring around the yolk can indicate overcooking or a high amount of iron in the cooking water. The green color is safe to consume. The shade of the yolk may vary based on the hen’s diet, but both lighter and darker shades are safe. A pink egg white indicates the egg has spoiled due to Pseudomonas bacteria. According to the USDA, some of these microorganisms — which produce a greenish, fluorescent, water-soluble pigment — are harmful to humans.
Storage: Don’t store raw eggs for longer than three to five weeks in the refrigerator and don’t keep hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator for more than a week. Check out the USDA’s Egg Storage Chart for more information.
If you can stick to the USDA’s safety practices for cooking, handling, storing, coloring and hiding eggs, there’s no reason to throw out the batch you saved for the egg hunt.