Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Egging It + A Favorite Farm Recipe

Do you remember just a few years ago when Americans were afraid to eat eggs? I do. It was no longer acceptable to bring deviled eggs to potlucks. I guess America is over its fear of the egg. It seems that every food magazine has an egg on its cover. Michael Ruhlman, the cookbook author, has a new 256 page book coming out April 8 called - what else - Egg. You can read an interview with him here


I have had chickens in my backyard since the late 1980's when we first purchased our first home. It wasn't chic or common at that point to raise chickens. I had to mail-order them and pick them up at the post office. Minimum order was 25 chicks so they would make it  - their little bodies would heat up the box so they would all arrive alive. 


I still keep chickens. Although I am not attached by any means to individual chickens, I really do love keeping these birds. They get me outside everyday - even in the dark of winter. 


I use my chickens as a complete composting system. Any scraps I generate in the kitchen (except coffee grounds, onions, garlic and leeks) go in a bucket each day and the chickens feast on them, along with a chicken mash I purchase at our local grain and feed store. Because I cook a lot of soups and dishes with animal fat (chicken, lamb, and bacon) that are made the day before they are meant to be eaten, I let all the fat rise to the top of the pot overnight. In the morning, I pry off the fat and feed it to the chickens. The next day, I always get a bumper crop of eggs. Like today - 7 eggs! I also have no problem feeding meat scraps to my chickens. The chicken books tell you not to which I'm always curious as to their reason. It could be that meat scraps can attract rodents but seriously, there are never any meat scraps left after a minute or two.

When I do garden chores, like weeding, I bring all the weeds to the chickens. They eat the greens and pick through for the bugs. I especially revel in plucking the nasty tomato hornworms when they arrive and feeding them to the chickens. In the spring, I dig the compost out of the enclosed chicken run and use it as garden fertilizer. It is amazing stuff.


Right now I have 10 laying hens, 1 guinea hen, and 2 roosters. I'm ordering 8 more chicks this year for replacements. I will pick a different breed so that they look different and I can tell how old they are. I haven't decided what breed to pick yet - better get on that as the order is almost due. Chickens don't often live into old age here although I do have a couple white Silkies who have to be at least 5 years old and had a Polish chicken who lived to be 7. Something always happens around here - dogs, wildlife and if the chicken is lucky - old age.

The hens are mostly Ameracaunas which I like for their blue and olive colored eggs. They are also very dependable layers of large eggs. I also have a couple Buff Orpingtons (brown eggs) and a white Silkie (small white eggs).  Ten hens is a good number for us. I didn't go broke buying chicken grain over the winter. I don't have too many eggs that I have to worry about getting rid of them. 

My chickens lay eggs that are usually large to extra large in size (except the Silkie who lays teeny eggs). I  have an old-fashioned egg scale above my sink so I can check the sizes. 

When baking, most recipes call for extra-large eggs which weigh 2 1/4 oz. If I think I am short on the amount of eggs needed, I'll stick an empty bowl on my scale  - I love this digital scale - do a tare weight on the bowl, put in the eggs and weigh. I then adjust by adding another egg if needed.  Here is a chart which can be helpful with egg sizes. After all, baking with eggs is a science.

In the spring, when eggs are coming like crazy, I make a lot of dinners (and lunch and weekend breakfasts) that center around eggs - omelettes, frittatas, asparagus with just cooked eggs on top oozing with beautiful colored yolks, and popovers. Popovers mean spring to me. 

My relationship with popovers goes way back to seventh grade. It was the first thing we cooked in our basic learn to cook cooking class. I distinctly remember the instruction from the teacher. We had less than an hour for the class. She said we had to get in, mix the batter, pop the trays into the oven and then wait. "Do not open the oven door," she said, "or the popovers will fall." I didn't make popovers again for years - until I started raising chickens and had the annual spring glut of fresh eggs. 

The recipe I use is below. It is from Julia Child's "Baking with Julia" and it is embedded in my memory I have made it so many times. It works every time. Make sure the oven is up to temperature before you put the popovers in. The oven needs to be really hot so the popovers pop up high quickly. Do not peak or open the oven a crack! Just follow the directions.

If you really get into making popovers, purchase one of these - a "no-stick popover pan." It is an awesome tool for making perfect, hassle free popovers.

From Julia Child's Baking with Julia

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 extra large eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    (Note: If you use salted butter, cut down a bit on the salt)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange the oven racks so that you have a good amount of space above the bottom rack so the popovers can raise without hitting the top rack. You need to do this BEFORE the oven gets up to temperature.

Grease the popover pan including the top rim or every other section of a 12 cavity muffin pan. The cavities that are filled should alternate so there is room for the popovers to spread out and not touch each other.

Place all ingredients into bowl and mix with a electric or handmixer until all ingredients are well mixed and foamy. Using a soup ladle, spoon equal amounts of batter into 6 cavities.

Place in oven quickly and back for 25 minutes at 425 degrees. Then turn down heat to 350 degrees and bake for 15 minutes more.

Eat hot when they are best. They can also be re-heated quickly the next day. Nice with jam too. 

We eat popovers for dinner with a bowl of soup or for tea in the late afternoon. They are a hit with everyone in our family. 

At our farmer's markets, homegrown, farm raised eggs sell for $6.50 per dozen. I've heard they go for  $14.00/dozen in NYC. What do you pay for your eggs and where do you get them?


MicheleinMaine said...

I am the grateful recipient of 2 dozen very fresh eggs from my neighbor's farm! Thanks for the reminder about popovers - I will have to make some! Mia has a bake sale this Saturday too so I'm looking for good egg-y recipes.

mn_bird said...

What wonderful pictures! I am always struck by how beautiful chickens are. The colors in their individual feathers are so cool.

Have you ever used "chicken colors" as the basis for a knitting pattern?

robin silver said...

I really enjoyed reading this post! I wish I had my own chicken! Excellent recycling…
recipe is a must try

I unfortunately have to get my eggs at the grocery store

Robin C said...

Your chickens are beautiful. Love the colors on the rooster. I buy from an organic farm here in Virginia and pay $5.00 dz. No way I will evet eat another storebought egg.

kingshearte said...

At an old job, there was a former employee who had turned to farming who would come by and sell us all eggs. 2.75 a dozen for locally produced, free-range, effectively-if-not-technically-certified organic eggs. I miss that sooooo much, as I now have to pay more than twice that for eggs that I just have to hope aren't lying to me when they tell me they're free-range. Sigh. I really need to find a new source.

Brenda said...

My husband buys eggs from someone at work for $2 per dozen. I know it's a steal, even here in rural Maine, but if he's willing to sell them for that price, I'm happy. I think he just loves having chickens and always has extra eggs he wants to get rid of.
About popovers: I live right near the Jordan Pond House, an old tea house in Acadia Natnl Park, and their specialty is afternoon tea and popovers. We love going there to sit on the lawn and have popovers, but I've started making them too. They are so easy and delicious. We have ours warm with butter and strawberry jam.

Anonymous said...

I am lucky to get farm raised eggs most of the time, if not i usually get them at Trader's joes. I love the fresh eggs over easy, and as they get older i hard boirl them for a quick snack

i love your blog, both knitting and farming


Laura Timmerman said...

One thing I like about popovers is that they work just fine with gluten-free flours, as do all the similar puffy pastries like Yorkshire pudding, Big Dutch Babies, and eclair pastries.

As far as chicken breeds go, we are really enjoying our Welsummer/Ameraucana crosses. You get plentiful, olive green eggs, sometimes with speckles. The Welsummer eggs are dark with speckles. If you happen to let your hens raise chicks you could have olive eggs in your mix.

Tina said...

I've always wanted to raise chickens and never lived in a place where that was a possibility. I do love eggs--- and GOOD ones--- I pay $8.00 a dozen. I am sad to report that I do augment these with supermarket eggs from time to time. Love your post eggery!(and LOVE me a popover! Now you've created that monster... geez, thanks!)

tjf said...

I pay a neighbor $4 per dozen for fresh eggs in Colorado. They are the best and I always hate it when she is short on eggs. I've thought about raising chickens myself but haven't done it. Thanks for the popover recipe; I haven't made them for years.


Anonymous said...

I have 4 hens a rooster and guiena that are free range. Something about watching them in the yard soothes me after a long day. I love the old fashin egg scale. Now that is something I would use!

Anonymous said...

Wow we sell our excess eggs for $1.50 maybe we should up our price a little. But we are in rural southern Missouri. Things are a little different here.

Anonymous said...

My students have a flock of 20 hens of varying ages. We are getting about a dozen eggs a day. They sell them for $4.00 a doz. The eggs are called the "best eggs in town" by our buyers. The birds free range on the school farm during the day, get cafeteria veggie scraps and regular layer pellets.

Someone down the road is selling organic eggs for $6 a doz. Sorry, I can't pay that much. They are not golden eggs. :)


Anonymous said...

What a great primer...I have thought of getting chickens for years and now am convinced. Too poor/cheap to pay high prices for eggs tho they are not too expensive if you buy at some of the farms. Happy spring, I saw my first wild strawberry plant and first crocus today...Ann from Maine. PS Hope you didn't run out of wood, I think you mentioned a few weeks back.

Spiffypaws said...

when my co-op sells them, I pay 5-6 for eggs, otherwise buy them at the superarket.

Pammie said...

thanks for the popover recipe - I have a popover pan that I haven't used in years - I'm craving them after reading your post !

I buy my eggs from the grocery store and always make sure to pick eggs from free-range chickens

Lisa said...

Kristin, this is one of my all-time favorite posts on GSF! Honestly! I just loved it, and immediately forwarded it to a friend who keeps chickens. Oh, those popovers! Must make some this weekend. By the way, at local farmers' markets here in southern NH, fresh eggs are up to $6 a dozen. Their deliciousness can not be beat, no matter what the price. ... Thanks for a great read and pictoral ride.

Leigh Wheeler said...

In Portland Oregon, the farmer's market eggs are about $6-8/doz. I get fresh eggs from a friend at work for $3.50/dozen. They're great. I'll have to try that popover recipe!

gale (she shoots sheep shots) said...

Loved this post! I adore fresh eggs and popovers. And, actually, the way chickens look. Not in a pet way, anthrpomorphic way but in a photographer way. (I'm so shallow!all about the looks!)
Keeping chickens isn't a good match with our life right now but popovers are. I made some last week. If that pan really works as non-=stick, I am going to get one. Glad you mentioned it!

Leanne said...

I buy eggs from my neighbor across the road for $2/dozen. They are most delicious! I think the breed they have is Rhode Island Reds. I would love to raise chickens one day but I currently travel too much with my job. I have made popovers in the past but your post has made me hungry for them again! Thanks for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kristin,
At the farmers market in Northern California (San Jose), a dozen eggs are $7.50 per dozen.

Free ranging, organic farming eggs in whole foods are around $4.

Love your yarn and blog!


Teresa said...

At our local farmers market, in Kansas, I pay $2/doz. That is free range, not certified organic. I was raised on a farm and love having the farm fresh eggs. Store bought are just sad and pale in comparison.
Thank you for the post on chickens, they are beautiful.