Golden baked hams and pastel-coloured eggs are the quintessential Easter foods. To be sure they are as good to eat as they are to look at, follow these safe food-handling and preparation tips.
Eggs not only make a beautiful centrepiece, but are used in many cooked dishes such as stuffed eggs and custard-based desserts. “Raw eggs and cooked egg foods are highly perishable and should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours,” says Jill Kartushyn, Food Safety Information officer with the Food Safety Information Society. “For decorated eggs that do not require refrigeration, you may want to use hollowed eggs,” suggests Kartushyn.
To hollow an egg, begin by washing your hands with soap and hot water. Wash and dry fresh, uncracked eggs. Using a large, sterilized needle, poke a small hole in the shell at both ends of the egg. Gently make the holes a little larger. Push the needle well into the egg to break the yolk. Holding the egg over a clean bowl, force the contents out using a turkey baster. Rinse the hollowed egg with cold water, and allow to dry before decorating. The contents of the eggs may be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days, and used in recipes in which the eggs will be well cooked.
“Hard cooked eggs are also safe to decorate and eat, providing the eggs are not left at room temperature longer than two hours,” adds Kartushyn. Hard cook clean eggs, refrigerate immediately and use only food-safe, non-toxic colouring dyes for dyeing uncracked eggs. Store the decorated eggs in a covered container in the refrigerator, or keep the eggs chilled on a bed of ice while on display.
“Hams may be purchased either fully or partially cooked,” says Kartushyn. “Always check the ‘Best Before Date,’ and carefully read the cooking instructions to ensure the ham is prepared safely.” Fully cooked hams can be heated at 325F until a food thermometer inserted in the centre of the thickest part measures 140F. Cook-before-eating hams (fresh cured hams) should be cooked at 325F until a food thermometer inserted in the meat measures 160F. If there are no cooking instructions on the package, prepare as a cook-before-eating ham.
We acknowledge the financial support of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Alberta Agriculture and Food under the Agricultural Policy Framework, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.