Cracking Good Eggs
Updated: Jan 18
Fresh eggs, bought locally or collected from the backyard hen's nest are simply the best!
I love my backyard “chooks” (Aussie nickname for chickens), they are part our life as good gardening companion pets, giving us some beautiful fresh eggs in exchange to all we can provide them. When I discovered the various poultry breeds and their different eggs, in terms of shell colour and size, that really blew my mind! Other than the common white (preferred in U.S. and Canada) or brown (preferred in Australia and many other countries), egg shells can have different tints of beige or brown but also blue and olive green! They really look like easter eggs, except there’s no chocolate inside… But no matter the colour and size, it is all the same inside, a yellow yolk in clear liquid (albumen). Letting chickens free-range in a natural environment is beneficial to the birds but also the flavour of the eggs, the richness of the yolks yellow and their nutritional qualities, including the omega-3 fatty acids values. There have been many studies about the cardiovascular issues associated with eggs over the years as the yolk contains a fair amount of cholesterol. However, moderate consumption is ok and as they are full of protein and can substitute meat in a meal.
Such a strange thing, eating a yolk coming from the ovary of a bird, but that has been a normal food in the human diet for thousands of years and eggs are produced and consumed all around the world. Commercial regulations are different from one country to another. In Canada and U.S. eggs are sold refrigerated because the shells are washed and sterilized. In Australia, like many countries in Europe, commercial eggs are sold at room temperature, keeping the bloom (cuticle), a thin layer of film on the outside of the shell. If it has not been washed away, this gives natural protection to prevent bacteria from entering. If this film is undamaged and the product is properly stored and handled, eggs will keep fresh for longer without refrigeration. If eggs are picked in the home coop, laid in a clean straw nest, unwashed and in good condition, they are safe for up to 2 weeks (some will say 5) at room temperature and up to 3 months (some will say more) in the fridge. Washing hands after cracking shells and cooking eggs well is also a good way to avoid any risk of salmonella infection. The best way to store them is the pointed side down in an egg carton. Did you know that the egg “carton” has only been invented just over 100 years ago by a Canadian?
Locally farmed mix colour eggs • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019
COOKING USE AND TIPS
As we all know, eggs are essential in the kitchen and incredibly versatile. I don’t need to tell you how great they are scrambled or fried for breakfast, hard-boiled for a salad or guédilles, and poached to top on a Benedictine. They are also an important ingredient in bakeries, pancakes, Montreal-style Bagels and many types of desserts. Not to forget that they make “egg-scellant” coat to adhere breadcrumbs on crumbed meat, veggies or fish. Our flock is mixed in sizes, ages and breeds. We have some beautiful bantams hens and their eggs are the smallest but they are so cute. All our eggs taste so great, so matter size and colour!
Cooking with my backyard eggs • Photography © Bottle and Brush Studio 2019-22
Chickens are such lovely animals… thinking of those poor ones confined all their life in cages only to produce eggs in unnatural conditions breaks my heart. There are many types of egg farming types to choose from at the grocery shop when buying a carton: battery-caged, caged-free, free-range, organic, certified humane or animal welfare, antibiotic-free, pastured… What practice seems best to your belief is your choice but is worth being conscious about. If you can find some eggs ethically farmed near you, this is a good way to support local businesses and sometimes get better access to information about the product’s provenance. And if you have the space, council allowance, time and interest in organic gardening, you can raise your own backyard chicken flock! This is probably the best way to control the quality of the hen's life and the fresh eggs you crack to eat. Once you are done with the shell, chuck it in the compost or dry them and crush them for pest control use in the garden (to repel cheeky snails). These can also be added to the hen's feed (heavily crushed) to improve their calcium intake to produce some solid new eggs. Backyard poultry keeping for eggs, gardening and company is all about giving and receiving. Read about my chickens in this blog post Backyard Chookies!
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