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Eggs

Baked Custard – Using up All Those Eggs

13 May 2012

Ingredients for simple baked custard for 12 desserts.

People with hens have to be creative to use all the eggs that their hens produce in the spring. This late winter and spring, I actually had an excess of eggs. And that was when only three hens were laying. While I love giving eggs to people who really appreciate the goodness of fresh eggs, I usually end up giving away the best of the best. Ones that are jumbo and don’t have blemishes. I end up with seconds. Doesn’t make sense. With only three hens, I’ll make an effort to use the eggs myself.

We use our eggs in all kinds of ways. We like egg salad sandwiches, deviled eggs, huevos rancheros, quiche, omelets, poached eggs, and eggs Florentine. I’m going to make a soufflé as soon as I get up the nerve.

Since we needed some comfort food after loosing Tulip, I went back to an old egg recipe for a dessert that turned out to be a hit at a recent potluck: baked custard. People my age have fond memories of Mom (the depression era kind) serving egg custard for dessert. Smooth, creamy, rich, topped with a mound of whipped cream, takes you back to a simpler time, before Ben and Jerry’s and chocolate mousse. This easy-to-make recipe is the basic kind. I didn’t get it off the internet (those were all altered with flavors and additions). This was out my old Better Homes and Garden “New Cookbook”. You remember, the one with the red plaid cover. Anyway, I tripled the recipe for the potluck but the one below is fine for 4 people. Double for 6-8 servings, and enjoy. Beware, some people may want seconds.

 

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Ground nutmeg (optional)

Directions:

Baked custard for 8.

In a medium bowl, lightly beat eggs. Stir in milk, vanilla, and salt. Place one-1 quart casserole or six 6-ounce custard cups in a 13x9x2 inch baking pan on an oven rack. Pour custard mixture among the custard cups. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Pour boiling water into the pan around the casserole or custard cups to a depth of 1 inch. Bake at 325º until firm and a knife, inserted near center comes out clean. Serve warm or chilled.

To unmold chilled individual custard, first loosen edges with a spatula or knife; slip point of knife down sides to let air in. Invert onto a serving plate. Top with whipped cream if you wish.

 

Waiting for Eggs After a Molt

31 December 2011

Hens rush to the feeder in the mornings.

It’s the last day of the year and I’m up before dawn in anticipation of a visit from my eldest son and his “lady friend”. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia, so we’re lucky to see him here on the West Coast once a year. My refrigerator is full to capacity and I’ve prepared about 8 meals ahead of time so I can relax and enjoy their company. I hope they will have time for “a visit with the hens”. People with little experience handling poultry, get a kick out of an up close encounter with these fascinating creatures.

The hens in November and December have produced very few eggs. They have all molted at the same this year. First to molt was Poppy, the Silver-laced Wyandotte. She stopped laying for about six weeks. Poppy is a pretty consistent layer, giving us an egg every other day. Daisy was next to molt, then Tulip, then Sweetpea. They say that the better layers molt more quickly and resume laying in a shorter amount of time. That seems to be the case in my backyard henhouse. Daisy, the Buff Orpington, is back to laying every day after a six-week molt. She is my best layer. Sweetpea should be next.

As my girls age (they will be three years old in the spring) I will seriously have to consider adding to the flock. I’d like to add a couple of Buff Orpington pullets. Not sure how the “old gals” will take to that. Adding to any flock can be a touchy thing and these girls are “set in their ways”.

Wishing all my chicken loving friends a “Happy New Year”. May abundance and love fill your lives and may you always have a soft featherbed on which to fall.

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Whaaat Happened?-Tiny Egg

22 February 2011
Comments Off on Whaaat Happened?-Tiny Egg

Don's big hands dwarf the size of these large eggs. On this day, all five hens layed.

We are getting some beautiful eggs this winter. Daisy and Poppy are laying extra-large eggs nearly every day. I’m not in the egg-selling business so I don’t put pressure on the girls to lay every day. In fact, a couple of eggs a week from each of them would be fine. I would rather have them lay fewer eggs for a longer period of time (usually five years is the limit) than to wear out their “egg makers” by laying every day.

Sweetpea's tiny egg

Once in a while the hens surprise me. Last week, there was this miniature egg lying among the normal ones. It was perfect, egg-shell and all. What happened? Well, one of girls obviously took a half day off and went shopping at the mall, leaving behind this perfectly shaped jewel to deceive us. The tiny egg weighs in at only 3/4 of an ounce. Our hens normally lay eggs that weigh 2 1/4 ounces. I’m not sure it has a yolk and white inside. I hate to crack it open to see. It is so precious as is!

Well, the thought was there, Sweetpea. You did your best and we all have days like this! Next time take the whole day off my dear. You deserve it.

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Fresh Hard Boiled Eggs-Hard to Peel

5 March 2010

Adding salt and vinegar is supposed to make easier to peel.

Peeling a fresh, hard-boiled egg can be a frustrating experience. As most of you know, eggs from farms or backyard hens are exceptionally tasty but oh-so-hard-to-peel when hard-boiled. The shell sticks to the membrane inside the shell and, when peeled, a good deal of the white comes off with it. The problem is caused by the moisture content  in fresh eggs. The egg-shell is porous and normally, over time, the egg looses moisture. Supermarket eggs can be weeks or even months old. Dehydration causes the membrane inside the shell to separate and the liquid inside the shell to thicken.

Plunging eggs into ice water should make easier to peel.

Whenever I give my extra eggs to someone, I remind them that these less-than-week old eggs will be hard to peel if hard-boiled. A little research, I think, is in order to see if there is a way to make the process easier. There are step-by-step directions on WikeHow using salt or vinegar to help toughen the membrane surrounding the white of the egg and as a result, making the shell easier to remove. At What’s Cooking in America I found an article that suggested that adding salt to water before boiling makes the whites of eggs rubbery. All articles I’ve found suggest you use eggs at least a week old or more for hard boiling.

Just for fun I set up my own experiment. I selected week-old eggs from Tulip (the Ameruacana), Daisy (the Buff Orpington), and Rosie the (Rhode Island Red). I figured that if I used the eggs of just those three hens in both experiments, I’d eliminate at least one variable. See, I was awake during my 8th grade science class. I let the eggs come to room temperature, covered the eggs with cold water (1 inch over the top), put 1 Tbs. of vinegar and 1 Tbs. of salt, in one of the pans, and brought the water to a simmer. In the other pot I used plain water. I let the pots simmer for two minutes,  covered them, and removed the eggs from the heat. I let the eggs sit, covered, for 15 minutes.

Fresh eggs still hard to peel!

I drained the eggs, shook the pans so that eggs would crackle, and put them into bowls filled with ice water. When the eggs cooled to the touch, I peeled them, (that is, I tried to peel them).

The results? Not so good. The week-old  boiled eggs were nearly impossible to peel without damaging the whites. I saw no difference in the ones simmered in salt and vinegar, and the ones simmered in plain water. The eggs were tender and delicious and no green around the yolk (which is caused by boiling them at a high temperature). What I learned: next time I’ll set aside a dozen eggs for two weeks before boiling them, use plain water, and maybe I’ll try this technique! I’ll let you know what happens. If you have the secret of cooking fresh hard-boiled eggs please tell us about it!