This coming Sunday many of us will be celebrating Easter. The term Easter comes from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, to whom the month of April was dedicated. Along with the spring equinox and festivals, people started exchanging eggs as a symbol of creating, new life and a resurrection of nature after winter.
With the coming of Christianity, the Easter egg became a religious symbol. The egg changed from representing nature’s rebirth to the rebirth of man. The hatching Easter chick became a symbol of the tomb from which Jesus emerged. By the Middle Ages decorating and coloring eggs for Easter became the custom in England. The wealthy covered eggs in gold, while the peasants dyed their eggs with flowers and herbs. Eggs have been valued as a symbol of creation for hundreds of years.
To ensure an enjoyable holiday celebration that includes eggs, follow these safety guidelines.
When buying eggs, choose a carton that is cold and be sure to check the expiration date. Open the carton to check that the eggs are clean and aren’t broken or cracked. Never eat cracked eggs because bacteria can enter through cracks in the shell.
When storing eggs in the refrigerator, keep them in their original package and place in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Do not use the pre-made egg holders in the door, where eggs are more susceptible to warmer air from the door opening.
Do not keep raw eggs for more than three weeks in the refrigerator. If you can’t eat them all before the expiration date, freeze them. Frozen eggs will keep up to a year in the freezer. Beat whole eggs until just blended, pour into freezer-safe containers, seal tightly and place in a freezer set below 0 degrees. Label the container with the number of eggs and the date. Always thaw eggs in the refrigerator.
Hard-cooked eggs can last a week in the refrigerator, in or out of the shell. Hard-cooked eggs spoil faster than fresh eggs because once the shell has been cooked, the protective coating is washed away, leaving the pores in the shell open for bacteria to enter.
Like other high-protein foods, eggs should not be left out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. This goes for both raw and cooked eggs. To minimize health risks, you could cook two sets of eggs — one for an Easter egg hunt or centerpiece display and the other for eating. This way you don’t need to worry about how long the eggs have been left out and you can enjoy your decorated creations all day.
For perfect colored eggs you need eggs cooked without the gray-green tinge. There is actually an art to getting the perfect boiled eggs: Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan. Cover with at least 1 inch of cold water over the shells. Cover pot with lid and bring to a boil over medium heat. As soon as the water comes to a full boil, remove from heat and let stand. Large soft-cooked eggs: let stand in hot water 1-4 minutes, depending on your taste. Large hard-cooked eggs: let stand in hot water 15-17 minutes. Drain off hot water. Immediately cover the eggs with cold water and add a few ice cubes. Soft-cooked eggs: let stand in cold water until cool enough to handle. Hard-cooked eggs: let stand in cold water until completely cooled.
Never boil eggs, as it makes them rubbery. To keep eggs from cracking while cooking, before placing each egg in the water pierce the large end with a needle. This also makes them easier to peel.
Nutritionally, eggs fit easily within the dietary guidelines, which recommends limiting cholesterol consumption to 300 mg per day. Eggs are one of the few foods that are a naturally good source of vitamin D — one egg provides at least 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance. On average, an egg contains 41IU of vitamin D, which plays an important role in calcium absorption, helping to form and maintain strong bones.
The protein in eggs is one of the highest-quality proteins found in any food. One large egg contains 6 grams of protein and only 70 calories.
Whether your egg is from a chicken, Cadbury or Hershey, enjoy this symbol of new life and rebirth on Easter Sunday.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition instructor at Eastern Maine Community College who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.