Saturday May 21st 2011, 2:03 pm

free range eggs of all sizes

There is much excitement close to home, as me and next door are about to collaborate on our first chicken keeping venture. We have placed our order for 5 orpingtons; 2 lavenders, 2 buffs and a lavender cockerel, and will be taking delivery in a couple of weeks time. We can’t expect any eggs from them until around November time but most importantly – the names have been chosen. As I’ve never kept chickens before I’ve begun to swat up on them. I do know people who keep chickens, so suspect it isn’t too difficult and can already see which way this new interest is likely to go as even at this early stage we have started to discuss other breeds we might like and what colours of eggs they will hopefully produce.
In the meantime, I bought my first book on the subject; Hens in the Garden Eggs in the Kitchen by Charlotte Popescu. I’ve collected several other books of hers and can really recommend them. As well as chicken keeping, she writes about other subjects close to my heart, from wild fruits and apples to vegetable gardening and bee keeping. They are all small paperback books packed with useful information and recipes presented in a very simple and modest way.
In my new hen book she gives this really useful guidance about the freshness of eggs, particularly relevant to those people who know exactly when their eggs are laid. If you are buying shop bought you’ll just have to guess I’m afraid.

Your eggs need to be as fresh as possible if you want fried or poached eggs. For boiled eggs that you wish to peel, it is best to use eggs that are about a week old as the shell and skin are really difficult to peel off on fresh eggs. ….
If you are scrambling your eggs or making an omelette, eggs can be up to a week old. For baked dishes, eggs can be older than a week. If you want to separate the yolks and the whites to make meringues, eggs are best a few days old as the whites whisk up better if not too fresh.

Pickled eggs have never interested me until I came across a recipe for Pickled Huevos Haminados in another lucky find, The Mediterrannean Pantry by Aglaia Kremezi, published 1994. As soon as I read the recipe I knew I had to make it, though haven’t done so yet. I’m actually growing the red onions at the moment, which is, I suppose, beyond the call of duty. I have found the recipe online here if you fancy having a go and beating me too it. I’ll be tempted to serve a pickled egg with some asparagus spears pickled earlier.

This week I’ve been trying to make some room in the freezer before the berry season kicks off. I’m not a big fan of freezing as mine works on an ‘out of sight out of mind’ principle. I tend to forget what’s in there, all the while those ingredients are racking up additional running costs! (This year I’ll be canning fruit in jars as much as I possible.) I used a tub of blackberry puree, picked and prepared last August, and rustled up 4 pots of blackberry curd, which is a delicious way of using up eggs. A spoonful or two of fruit curd swirled through some Greek yoghurt is fabulous, or you can use it as the filling in a simple sponge cake or dollop on meringues (making use of even more eggs).
Oh yes, I’ve got eggs on the brain and this is only the beginning.

a stoneware bowl of free range eggs

Have fun with the chickens when they arrive. They’re so easy to keep and each one has it’s own character. xx

Comment by The Pea Pod 05.21.11 @ 2:53 pm

My meringues take nano seconds now I know why

Comment by Dixie 05.21.11 @ 3:10 pm

Oooh, exciting! I’d love to have hens, but covenants on the house don’t permit keeping livestock 🙁 I’ll have to do my hen-keeping vicariously through you! All the very best with it – looking forward to reading more about your eggsellent adventures…

Comment by aforkfulofspaghetti 05.21.11 @ 3:45 pm

congrats on the chickens. i cannot wait for the day i can get some of my own. i have eggs on the mind now too because my neighbor in the berkshires has lots of lovely ladies and i am the happy recipient of about 15 eggs a week. tarts, curds, custards, fritadas, quiche. the list goes on and on! good on you! 🙂

Comment by tigress 05.21.11 @ 11:12 pm

We’ve started a blog for our forthcoming chicken adventure. Planning to start off with couple and see how we go from there. Think they are going to be hybrids so we get plenty of eggs.

Comment by Ian 05.22.11 @ 10:12 pm

Have fun with your chicks when they arrive! Important note: Become fond of your laying flock and their personalities and quirks. They’ll be around for several years. Don’t make friends with your broilers if you raise them. It makes harvesting more difficult.

Comment by Rebecca@Eating Floyd 05.24.11 @ 7:15 pm

I have hen envy. Would love to keep a hen but don’t really have the space.

Comment by Debra 05.26.11 @ 7:52 am

It seems there are a lot of us with eggs on the brain! Just the other day Matt said why don’t we get hens this year…the thought of another project right now is a bit overwhelming but I think having chickens would be great fun!

Comment by The Turnbulls 05.26.11 @ 5:31 pm

I love my chickens! Only two are laying right now, the others won’t start until July. I have already, like you, begun to dream up what I will do with the excess…

Comment by Julia 05.31.11 @ 2:47 am

[…] year I wrote of my hopes for an eggy future with the imminent arrival of chickens. What a difference a year (and a bit) makes. Since then the […]

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