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Read all about this nutritious food

HATS OFF to our hard working egg farmers, and their dutiful hens. They are a busy bunch. In 2014, egg farmers in Nova Scotia produced 20,780 thousand dozen, followed by New Brunswick with 16,778 thousand dozen eggs, Newfoundland and Labrador with 8,978 thousand dozen and Prince Edward Island with 3,335 thousand dozen. No matter which way you scramble it, that’s a lot of eggs!

Grading eggs

Once the eggs are collected from the farm they travel to a secondary location to be washed and graded, although some farmers have their own washing and grading facilities. Each egg is assessed to ensure it meets the strict requirements to be labeled as Canada Grade A. It must be clean and free of any cracks, placed into sterilized packaging and immediately refrigerated until and during transport.

Egg cartons are stamped with a “best before” date that is usually 35 to 40 days after the date of egg grading, indicating the length of time the eggs will maintain quality if stored properly in the refrigerator. After that time, the eggs will still be safe to eat, but slowly lose quality. Most people prefer to use older eggs in cooking and baking, but for best results, eggs should be consumed by the “best before” date.

Safety and freshness

Always refrigerate eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator—the centre is best—preferably in the carton they came in, as they are designed to absorb moisture and to prevent the eggs from absorbing any odours.

Before using, examine the eggs for cracks as salmonella most often appears on the shell but can spread to the inside through fissures and cracks. Wash the egg but don’t crack it until ready to use. If your recipe calls for eggs at room temperature it is important that they sit out for a maximum time of two hours.

An easy way to check if an egg is fresh or old is to place it in water. A fresh egg will sink and lay on its side, an egg that isn’t as fresh will stand upright and a very old egg will float. This works because of an air pocket in each egg that expands as the egg ages, making the egg more buoyant.

The colour of the yolk is as a result of the diet of the hen that laid it—mixed grain feed produces a pale yolk while a diet higher in corn produces a deeper yellow yolk. A cloudy egg white indicates the presence of carbon dioxide, which is only found in very fresh eggs.

The inner egg consists of three main parts: the white, or albumen, the yolk and the chalazae. The chalazae is the white stringy bit located between the white and the yolk. Despite what you may have heard this IS NOT an embryo! It keeps the yolk suspended in the centre of the white. The larger the chalazae, the fresher the egg.

Cooking eggs

Boiled eggs are great for quick healthy snacks; a boiled egg will keep for one week in a covered airtight container.

For a perfectly boiled egg, simply place eggs in a pot with just enough water to cover them. Place the pot, uncovered, on high heat and as soon as the water boils, turn off the heat and add the cover. Set the timer—eight minutes for a medium-boiled egg, 12 minutes for hard. When the timer goes off run cold water over the eggs and peel.

Poached eggs require some care; use a shallow pan, such as a skillet, and add water—heating it to a gentle simmer—don’t boil. While the water is heating, crack the egg (one at a time, as you are ready to cook) into a small saucer. When the water is ready, add a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice to it and, using a spoon, gently slide the egg in. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for four minutes.

For a quick alternative, try a microwave-friendly egg cooker. Simply crack the egg into the cooker, pierce the yolk (very important) and microwave. These gadgets are perfect for kids who might not be able to use a stove but are looking for a bit of independence. Find them at most kitchen supply stores, or by order from the Canadian egg marketing board (eggs.ca).

Scrambled eggs should be cooked over medium-low heat and whisked constantly. Chefs will turn the pan clockwise with their right hand while whisking with their left. It takes about 20 minutes for the eggs to come together, so try it on a lazy Sunday—the results are worth the effort.

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