By Jamie Hamblin
University of Georgia
Dyeing Easter eggs usually involves neatly arranged cups of bright dyes, wax crayons and the smell of vinegar. Despite the sweet simplicity of this tradition, it is important to keep safety, as well as creativity, in mind.
Wash hands first
Before opening the cardboard kit, the most important, and most overlooked, step to cooking an egg is washing your hands. Judy Harrison, an Extension foods specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences, advises beginning by getting into the Easter spirit.
“Sing ‘Happy Easter to Me,’ to the tune we sing on birthdays twice while washing your hands before you begin working with the eggs that will be eaten,” she said. “This will help you wash for the recommended amount of time of at least 20 seconds before handling food.”
Follow these tips
Harrison offers the following safety guidelines to insure this season’s eggs are prepared safely.
Keep eggs refrigerated until you are ready to cook and dye them and return them to the refrigerator after they are dyed. Keep them under refrigeration until you are ready to hide or eat them.
Before cooking, choose eggs that are free of cracks. Place them in a single layer in a pan. Fill the pan with water to a level one inch above the eggs.
Place the pan on the stove, and bring the water to a boil. Once the water begins to boil, cover the pan with a lid, and remove it from the heat.
Set the pan of eggs aside, and wait 18 minutes for extra-large eggs, 15 minutes for large eggs or 12 minutes for medium eggs. Cooling the cooked eggs quickly will prevent the dark green color that can form on the surface of the yolks. At the end of the cooking time, run cold water over the eggs or put water and ice in the pan until they are completely cooled.
Use fruits, veggies as natural dyes
Now that your eggs are safely cooked, you can release your creative juices. Dyeing eggs can be a simple or an elaborate process.
“If you plan to eat the eggs or you just want an easy, convenient way to dye the eggs, then purchase egg-dying kits or use food coloring,” Harrison said. “Look for the word non-toxic on the label of egg-dying kits if you plan to eat the eggs that are dyed.”
In addition, dyes can be all natural. According to Harrison, the American Egg Board recommends using beets, raspberries or cranberries for red color, ground turmeric or yellow onion skins for yellow, spinach for pale green and canned blueberries for blue.
For a more complete list of natural dyes, visit the American Egg Board Web site at www.aeb.org/KidsAndFamily/eastereggs/naturaldyed.htm.
Hide in safe spots
If you plan to eat your eggs after the egg hunt, Harrison says choose your hiding spots with extreme care.
“You do not want eggs to come in contact with soil, fertilizers or other lawn chemicals or with animal waste,” she said “Consider placing the eggs in colorful cupcake pan liners to help keep them clean during the egg hunt. And, don’t leave eggs out of refrigeration for more than two hours it they will be eaten.”
(Jamie Hamblin is a student writer with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)