Search Island Foodie Advanced

St. Patrickís Day Eggs

How nice of my mother-in-law. Not only did she hold a brunch for Jordan and me on our wedding anniversary, St. Patís day, but she even served us green eggs! Whoops, that was unintentional.

 This led to quite a debate as to the reason eggs sometime turn green; everyone has their own theory. The consensus seemed to be that it was due to the type of pot used, and although we all thought that aluminium had something to do with it, Shirley had been using only non-stick and Corningware. This morning, I arrived at work to find Jordan in a flap because a new girl had dumped the boil-in-a-bag scrambled eggs directly into a stainless steel insert, and he swore that it would turn the eggs green. Instead of arguing, I decided to get to the bottom of this obviously weighty issue.

Do you wonder how those mountainous buffets manage to hold scrambled eggs all morning without having them turn green? Are you ready to turf all of your frying pans? Donít. There is a very real and scientific reason why eggs turn green: it is due to a reaction between the hydrogen sulfide in the egg white with the iron in the yolk to form iron sulfide, a harmless but unfortunately unappealing grey/green compound. It is this same compound that can form a grey skin around the yolk of hard boiled eggs, usually when you are trying to impress company with your deviled eggs. This reaction occurs because eggs are cooked for too long at excessive temperatures, and held for too long over heat before serving.

For this reason, you shouldnít ever actually boil hard-boiled eggs, but simmer them until they are done, then immediately cool them under cold water. With scrambled eggs, obviously you canít douse them in water before serving, so here are a few recommendations. Cook scrambled eggs in small batches and donít hold them for prolonged periods of time. Use stainless steel utensils (aluminium itself produces a grey/black metallic oxide when in contact with low-acid foods or boiling water). If you must hold scrambled eggs for any length of time, keep them from direct heat by using a pan such as a chafing dish which allows your serving pan to sit in warmed water, keeping it away from the direct heat source. The fresher the eggs you use, the less likely you will get greening, but that is not a guarantee.

Well, that is fine for small home meals, but what about those large breakfast buffets and our own Stampede breakfasts where we are sometimes feeding up to 3000 people? The secret in the food industry is what is delightfully known as ďEgg Products.Ē These are actually real eggs that have been dried, frozen, vacuum sealed etc, in order to provide us with a clean, convenient, consistent egg product, and one that shouldnít turn green. I know that boil-in-the-bag eggs sound disgusting, but trust me, itís what you are likely to be eating whenever you go to a busy breakfast spot and order scrambled eggs. This is the safest way to prepare scrambled eggs in large volume, and is also the most cost-effective. Imagine having to crack 3000 eggs for one meal! Liquid egg products, because they have been pasteurized to kill salmonella, are best for use in foods that require uncooked or slightly cooked eggs, such as mayonnaise, Caesar salad dressing and eggnog. Citric Acid is added to the egg to retard the reaction that produces the green iron sulfide, and Xanthan gum is added as a stabilizer to prevent watery eggs. (Remember that when you add extra ingredients to egg dishes such as vegetables, you are adding a source of water that can cause weeping eggs.)

At home, if itís not St. Patís or if green eggs are not your favourite coloured food, you can add about 1/4 Tsp lemon juice for 18 large eggs and this will slow down the greening reaction. Or I suppose you could go the other way, and use green food colouring and pretend that this was the colour you were going for!


 

Tidbit

I can barely touch all of the interesting aspects of the egg industry here. It isnít so a simple to buy a dozen eggs these days. The egg cooler is burgeoning with choices: containing omega-3, low cholesterol, high in Vitamin E. They say that you are what you eat, well the egg is what the hen eats. By controlling the nutrient make-up and colour of a henís diet, you can control the nutritional content of the eggs produced and even alter the colour of the yolk. Modified eggs can also be produced by selective breeding, another natural method, or by genetic modification of the less-natural variety. As always, read your labels!