Monday, February 28, 2011

The Test of a Fresh Egg

When you have chickens, you always have something to eat. A handful of fresh eggs can quickly become quiche, pasta, pancakes and many other super fast meals. Along with the pure novelty of keeping animals for food come an abundance of new facts about the food you are eating. Raising chickens has changed all my previous beliefs and ideas about food and the word "fresh." I am spoiled by my chickens. Yes, I am one lucky girl.

I have been keeping hens and roosters for four years and in that time I have gathered in my head is a list of odd egg facts. In truth, if you talk to me long enough, I am sure to drop some of my random farm knowledge on you. Thanks for humoring me, but I really do think that this stuff should be familiar to everyone, not simply those with a small flock.

So here is what I have learned about truly fresh eggs...

I am not sure how it goes elsewhere, but at our place we gather eggs frequently, twice if not more a day. They come into the kitchen, are lightly brushed if they are littered with debris of any kind, dated with a pencil and placed in the fridge. What? No, I did not forget to wash them. Eggs actually should not be washed. As long as your eggs are laid in a clean environment from reputable people, there is no need. An egg is laid with a special covering called the bloom. This naturally keeps bacteria from permeating the shell and therefore the egg. Wash the egg, wash off the protection. All commercial eggs are washed and then resealed with mineral oil while most small scale farmers just wash the eggs that are justifiably dirty. After all, who wants to cook with a dirty egg. And always wash your hands before and after handling food.

Jude and Billy gathering eggs last spring

We mark our eggs with a pencil on the wide end with the date they are gathered (month and day). This helps us to rotate our stock. Eggs are then placed in a carton narrow end down. Sometimes we do find the renegade egg in a weird place and do a quick test to see how old it is. Just place the egg is a small cup of water. If the egg lays horizontal on the bottom, it is a fresh egg, up to a week old. When the egg sinks but floats up at an angle, the egg is probably one to two weeks old. At three weeks, the egg will sink but stand up on its narrow end. If the egg floats, it is stale and you probably won't want to eat it, especially now that you know it is old. Ah, ignorance is bliss.


All of this floating and sinking has to do with the air pocket within the egg. When an egg is truly fresh, the air sac is almost non-existent. As the egg ages and air permeates the shell, the gas gathers at the wide end of the egg. The older the egg, the larger the air sac and the more floating.

Fresh eggs from my chickens

Since we have so many fresh eggs, sometimes we let them age in the fridge so we can hard boil them. Only old eggs boil well. A fresh egg when cooked peels terribly. It is horrible. Trust me. It is a mess and it is frustrating. I honestly can't even think of anything more aggravating than peeling those kinds of eggs right now. I'm actually getting fired up just thinking about it. The shell clings to the white so when you attempt to peel it, you end up with a yolk covered in a ragged layer of white. Not so great for deviled eggs but okay for egg salad, that is if you don't pitch them in a fit of anger after peeling very first one.

Another distinguishing feature of egg age is the way a cracked egg spreads while in a frying pan. In a fresh egg, the yolk will sit up high and the white will be a gelatinous tight circle around the yolk. A stale egg, however, will spread itself very thin around the pan.


Can you tell which is fresh? The one on top...

Did you know that the color of the yolk depends on the diet of the bird which laid the egg? A bird that eats a colorless diet produces almost colorless yolks. Our chickens are pastured. Some of our yolks are as vibrant orange as a sunset. They make the most gorgeous pasta and sweet dough you have ever seen!

And my final egg fact is how to tell the difference between a hard boiled and raw egg. More than once I have reached into a carton, chosen an egg and cracked it only to find that it is hard boiled. Never again. The way to tell them apart is to give them a quick spin. The raw egg will wobble while the boiled one will twirl. Since the contents of the boiled egg are solid, the egg will rotate. The liquid ones, eh, not so much.

Eden loves her chickens and I'm pretty sure they think she's swell

Just how you wanted to start your week, huh, with useless facts about eggs. But I know someday you are going to test those grocery store eggs in your fridge. Yep, life is never going to be the same. That may be a stretch, but you know what I mean...

1 comment:

  1. Haaa! I love it.

    Did you know that one time Corey mixed a dozen hard boiled eggs that I hadn't marked yet with a dozen fresh eggs. He then gave them to the neighbor. Our neighbor Dick, Gary, Corey and myself had to spin the eggs to figure out which were which... I ALWAYS mark my hard boiled eggs right away now.


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