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FARMcurious

to educate, inspire and equip the urban homesteader

The glories and the trials of farm-fresh eggs

April 4, 2012

A delicious farm-fresh egg

It’s indisputable that free-range and farm-fresh are the best type of egg you will ever eat.  With their steep, rich yolks, orange as a midwestern sunrise and their thick whites that don’t run across the pan, they astonish the newly indoctrinated.  The variety of colors heritage breeds lay can take your breath away before you’ve even cracked the thing open.

If the appearance isn’t enough to convince you of the superiority of a backyard egg, fresh eggs also boast a flavor like no other -rich and almost sweet at the same time with none of the heavy, slightly off flavor of your run-of-the-mill grocery store egg.

Best of all, when you’ve raised the chickens who laid the eggs yourself (or even met the farmer who did), you know they’re fresh and contaminant free.  No salmonella recalls here, friends.  Only freshly-laid goodness.  If you don’t want to simply take my word for it, you can read what the NY Times had to say this week about the sacred backyard egg.  Once it’s reached the Times it’s no longer hippie BS, it’s practically mainstream gospel.

So what’s not to love, especially three days away from Easter.  With the longer days and spring weather your girls are probably just getting back into a heavy laying pattern and you’re flush with eggs!  Just think about all the Easter eggs you can hard-boil and dye then all the deviled eggs you can make with the leftovers.

Except that you still have to peel the damn things.  If you’re new to the freshest of the fresh eggs you might not even know this horror yet.  How bad can it be, you’re thinking.  Just wait…just wait.

Gorgeous eggs fresh from the coop - now what??

To understand why a fresh egg is so difficult to peel we must first understand why store eggs are so easy to disrobe.  According to the USDA, an egg may be sold up to 45 days after it’s packaged as long as it remains in refrigeration.  This means that the eggs you’re used to buying in the store may be a month old or more.

Because eggshells are permeable, over time air will begin to pass through the eggshell.  As time goes on the egg will begin to develop small air pockets between the shell and the white.  This is why you can tell the freshness of the egg by checking to see whether it floats or sinks in water.  A floating egg has had time for more air to enter the shell, meaning it’s older; a sinking egg is much fresher with few to no air pockets.  This is also why an older egg from the store is quite easy to peel after boiling – the air pockets just under the shell allow the membrane to separate quite easily from the white.

Now back to your fresh backyard eggs.  Because they haven’t been sitting for a month (probably!), air hasn’t moved through the shell to cause pocketing.  Therefore, when you try to peel your eggs, white will peel away along with the shell and membrane causing you innumerable anxieties.  The flavor would be divine if you could just get to those eggs without completely shredding them to pieces.  So much for that beautiful tray of deviled eggs you envisioned sprinkling with paprika just like Aunt Martha used to.

Never fear though – I have found the lost secret to flawlessly peeling a super-fresh egg.  A quick internet search for a solution yields tons of people suggesting you add baking soda to the boiling water when you cook your eggs, claiming the higher pH will help the shells come off more easily.  I tried many, many variations of this trick to no avail – it was no match to those super-fresh hard shells.

Enter science.  Heated objects tend to expand and cooled objects tend to contract.  Using this tidbit of knowledge you can actually trick your eggshells into peeling off like an old retired store egg.  You can find full instructions for my trick here.

What’s your favorite thing about farm-fresh eggs?  Do you have a favorite way to prepare them?

Happy Easter – enjoy that egg glut!

 

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  • Actually, baking soda does work, if you do it right. We tried it after reading Harold McGee’s “Science and Lore of the Kitchen”, and blogged about it a while back. The trick is you have to use the right amount of baking soda, to the right volume of water. Increasing the pH while cooking, mimics the pH increase that occurs naturally with aged eggs. I don’t boil eggs (that are destined to peeled) without it. Here we use baking soda and an ice bath, and they come out perfect every time. Someday though, I’ll have to try your trick and compare! Now I’m curious :)

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    • Thanks for your comment. I am certainly no one to question Harold McGee – that guy’s a god as far as I’m concerned (and a darn nice guy too!). :-) Do you happen to know the amount of baking soda he recommends per volume of water? I’ve never had much success with it when the eggs are only a day or two old but it’s possible my measurements haven’t been spot on. If your trick’s working though – that’s all that matters!!

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      • McGee recommends 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda per quart of water, and I’ve pulled eggs straight out from under a chicken, boiled them, and they’ve peeled ok. I do still chill them in an ice bath too. I am going to try your method though. I’d like see which way is easier to peel! :) This was a fresh double yolker I peeled using the baking soda and ice bath: http://curbstonevalley.com/blog/?p=3847

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