Sunday, July 17, 2011

Note on keeping butter and eggs at room temperature

Butter: You can leave butter at room temperature for a week or more.  If it gets to be over 85 in your kitchen, maybe you should put the butter in the refrigerator, but otherwise it's fine for many days. After all, butter was invented thousands of years before refrigeration.  
My friend Lois, an excellent cook, taught me this about ten years ago.   Ever since, I always have a working stick of butter on the counter in a covered little pyrex dish (the kind they made and sold in sets back in the 1950s) and use it to grease pans, butter toast, etc. When the stick is done, I wash the dish and put in the next stick.  (Well, in truth, I have two covered dishes and I alternate.  That's because, as my friends will tell you, I can live with dirty dishes in the sink longer than most people.)

Eggs: Eggs don't go bad at room temperature for at least 6 months, according to a neighbor who has chickens and did the experiment.  He says the only thing that makes eggs go bad is washing them.  It would never occur to me to wash an egg.  
Just like butter, eggs have been eaten for millenia, while ice boxes didn't come into use until a couple of centuries ago and refrigerators are even more recent. I do keep my eggs in the fridge, but if I take some eggs out to warm them up, and forget to use them for a few days, I don't worry.  
I do, however, always break each egg separately into a dish, the way my Home Ec teacher in junior high taught me. (And to continue with the dirty dish/laziness theme, I admit that I often use a measuring cup I've already used for flour or sugar, so as to have less to wash.  Yes, I have an electric dish washer, but filling and emptying it are not high on my list of enjoyable activities.)  
As to the need to pre-break eggs, I will say that I have never encountered an egg that was bad in the many, many years since junior high. Occasionally I do get one that's been fertilized - it has the telltale drop of blood - but never a bad one.  My husband, who was also taught to break each egg before using it, claimed he did exactly once, and just a few years ago.  (That egg had been kept in the refrigerator from the time it was purchased, by the way.)  A bad egg is immediately known to be bad on cracking. The smell!  If it doesn't assault your nose, it's a good egg. 

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