I will never forget my first spring as the proud owner of our own backyard chickens.
Within a few weeks, the fuzzy little day-old chicks I’d purchased from the feed store were feathered up and ready to go outside. It would be fully six months of feeding and care before they would lay eggs. These were my new babies to protect from cats, dogs, hawks, racoons… I was as proud and wary as a mama hen.
And in winter, I had been warned, the eggs whose abundance we had come to appreciate with almost every meal, would stop. And I would have to eat store bought eggs once again. Same as a carrot fresh from the garden, there is just no replacing that fresh egg taste with store bought.
So, when the chickens were done with their winter break from laying and the first eggs appeared in the nesting box – I felt like celebrating.
“Let’s have a party!” I said to me. “It’ll be an egged themed party to celebrate the seasonal return of the eggs!” Yes, this party already happens in many places around the globe and through the centuries. Like a lot of rituals in many religions they perhaps forgot the simplicity of the celebration, obfuscating and rationalizing the tradition to suit the theology of the day.
Here and now and in this culture, the return of Earth’s generosity in this seasonal
renewal is celebrated with the Easter Egg.
When using eggs, whether collected from the garden, or off the grocer’s shelf, remember to float them first in room temperature water. This tests the age for you, tells you if the egg is rotten before you open it and stink up the kitchen. Your eggs are room temperature themselves, of course, as they are better for any recipe this way. Being the same temperature as the water, they will not crack when submersed.
What are you hoping to see? Your eggs should all stay put at the bottom of the bowl of water. If an egg stands on end, it is getting past prime – use that one first! If an egg floats altogether – it has gone bad. Don’t crack this one open or you will find a horrible sulphur stench accompanies a rotten egg.
It is the very age of commercial eggs (yes, even the organic ones are about a month old before you buy them) that makes them easy to peel after hard boiling. If you want to hard boil a fresh egg, you will need every trick in Julia Childs’ book. Follow that recipe and you will be able to remove the shell, otherwise you will need tweezers.
Removing the shells easily starts with an ice bath plunge after boiling the eggs ten minutes (start with eggs in a pot of cold water, bring all to boil, after 10 minutes remove from heat and plunge into ice water! The eggs will stop cooking inside with this and your yolks will be bright yellow without a grey (overcooked) surface.
Don’t stop, or the shells still won’t come off…
Gently place the eggs back into the pot of hot water, and bring to a boil for only 10 seconds. Remove the eggs from the boil and return them to the ice bath – Now you’ve done it!
Your hard boiled eggs will now be easily shucked. If you will color and decorate them, they are ready after a brief drying time. If you will eat them later, Ms. Child’s further recommends storing hard boiled eggs in the fridge, submersed in water within an airtight container. This helps to preserve the flavor and texture for up to a week. And at this point in the recipe, it doesn’t seem like a lot of extra work.
But why all the bother about eggs? For us, well, we don’t hunt and eggs are good cheap, tasty protein. If we did not buy organic feed, and allowed them to forage instead, it would be a tremendous bargain for the effort. Laying an egg five days out of seven puts a lot of food in the fridge. Thanks again, ladies!