Cracking Good Eggs
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Fresh eggs, bought locally or collected from the backyard hen's nest is simply the best!
I just love looking after my backyard “chooks” (Aussie nickname for chickens), they are part of the garden as beneficial pest controllers and fertilisers for the plants, part of our life as companion pets, part of our diary as giving us some beautiful fresh eggs in exchange to all we can provide them. I’ll get back with more about my love story with backyard chookies on another post. I’ll stick with the egg subject here even though I could talk about these fluffies all day! 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 with different tints of beige or brown but also blue and olive green! When I saw that a local producer was selling some mix coloured egg cartons, I really had to make a photoshoot of these little beauties. 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). In Australia, the yellow of the yolk is so deep, it can be even closer to orange. Letting chickens free-range in a natural environment is beneficial to the birds but also the flavour of the eggs, richness of the yolk’s yellow and its 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 (up to one a day) is ok and as they are full of protein so they 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 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 as the bloom (cuticle), a thin layer of film on the outside of the shell that gives a natural protection to prevents bacteria from entering, has not been washed away. If this film is undamaged and the product is properly stored and handled, they 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. There are different sources of information regarding storage… so that is up to your food safety comfort zone. On my side, some designated eggs for boiling will sometimes be stored in cool dry place for about 1 week (as they will peel better than fresh eggs) or 2-3 weeks in a fridge. If I get an overload (more than 4 per day) I write dates with a pencil to keep track of which to use first. Like most food, I make sure they are used way before the maximum storage time and this is why we have limited the number of hens in our coop. As we are only two humans at home, we don’t need so much and extras will be offered to neighbours or friends. Cooking them well and not eating them raw 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 since just over 100 years ago by a Canadian?
LOCAL PRODUCE FEATURES: This photo session was made in spring 2019 with the stunning local pastured raised mixed colour eggs, laid on straw at Highfield Farm and Woodland.
COOKING USE AND TIPS
As we all know, eggs are essential in the kitchen and incredibly versatile. I don’t need to tell how great they are scrambled or fried for breakfast, hard boiled for a salad and poached to top on a Benedictine. They are also an important ingredient in bakeries, pancakes and many types of desserts. Not to forget that they make “egg-scellant” coat to adhere breadcrumb on crumbed meat, veggies or fish. Our flock is mixed in sizes, ages and breeds. We have some cute bantams and those breeds don’t lay as many eggs as they tend to get clucky after every dozen. Their eggs are the smallest but they taste so great! 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 believe is your choice. If you can find some eggs ethically farmed near you, this is a good way to support local business 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 hens 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) and these can also be added to hens 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 and I’ll have more to tell about the adventures with backyard chickens on this blog!
Check out my related posts, recipes and inspirations: (to come!)