Backyard Chickens, Fresh Eggs

Perfecting your Egg-cellent Breakfast: Soft-Cooked Eggs

We enjoy our eggs in countless ways — sunny-side up, poached and smothered in Hollandaise sauce, or gently enveloping your favorite cheese and veggies in a fluffy omelet. Soft-cooked eggs on toast was my ultimate comfort breakfast food as a kid. But I could also be quite finicky about them – firm, chalky yolks were tossed in the trash and I wrinkled my nose at under-cooked whites. Eighteen years later, America’s Test Kitchen took this one to the lab and came up with a FOOLPROOF method for soft-cooked eggs. They’re technique yields results that will satisfy every time, with perfectly solidified whites and soft, glossy yolks that will saturate a piece of buttered whole grain toast beautifully.

Perfect Soft-Cooked Eggs, Cooks Illustrated

Perfect Soft-Cooked Eggs, Cooks Illustrated

 

Because we can’t see the inside of an egg while it’s cooking, it’s difficult to guess when exactly it reaches the perfect doneness. And since egg whites and yolks harden at different temperatures, timing is of the essence. Hundreds of eggs later, the brilliant food scientists in the Test Kitchen discovered that steaming, rather than boiling the eggs, yields better soft-cooked eggs. While dropping cold eggs into boiling water temporarily lowers the water temperature and therefore alters cooking time based on the number of eggs, steaming uses such a low amount of water that the curved edge of an egg in contact with the water will not significantly affect the overall temperature in the steaming pot. What’s more, eggs will not crack and lose half the white to the cooking water from the harsh pressure change that often accompanies the full-boil method.

 

 

To steam your eggs, even without a proper steam basket, simply fill a saucepan with a half inch of water and bring it to a boil. Then place as many eggs as you’d like in the pot, cover with a lid so the water is simmering, and set your timer for six and a half minutes. Promptly remove the pot from the heat and run the eggs under cold water for 30 seconds. Enjoy any way you like — scooped right from shell, as a dip for tender spears of asparagus, or peeled and broken over that thick slice of toast!

 

Written by: Carly Chaapel

Edited by: Megan Raff

 

Sources:

 

Cook’s Illustrated. “Foolproof Soft-Cooked Eggs.” 1 Jan. 2013. http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/article.asp?docid=41579

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Baby Chicks, Backyard Chickens, Breeds

Araucana Chickens: The Original Blue Egg Layer

I do so like
green eggs and ham!
Thank you!
Thank you,
Sam-I-am”         –Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss

 

While many children read this classic story and think of green eggs as nothing more than another figment of Dr. Seuss’s incredible imagination, green eggs do in fact exist. And “Sam-I-am” does not lie – they are delicious. The green eggs at Dare2Dream Farms come from its Easter Egg chickens, which lay an olive-green egg. This beautiful, unique trait of Easter Eggers comes from its ancestor: the Araucana.

 

Green Eggs - Dare 2 Dream Farms

Green Eggs – Dare 2 Dream Farms

Araucanas are tufted (large feather tufts sprouting next to their ears), rumpless (without a tail), and lay blue eggs. Their history is a complicated and not quite-so-clear one. In Chile, the Araucana Indians had two native chicken breeds: Collonca chickens were small, rumpless, had a single small comb, and laid blue eggs; Quetro chickens had ear tufts, tails, a pea comb, and laid pinkish-brown eggs.  Dr. Rueben Bustos, a Chilean chicken expert, developed a breed that was a combination of these two Chilean chickens. He led Professor Salvador Castello from Spain to believe that it was a native breed, and Castello excited the poultry world when he presented this ‘native Chilean pure breed of chicken’ at the First World’s Poultry Congress in 1921. He discovered three years later that these Araucana chickens were not a pure breed, but by then word had spread and it was too late to set the record straight.

 

Many varieties of these blue-egg-laying chickens were bred in the U.S., but because no standard was yet set for a chicken to be passed as an Araucana, all of these muddled blue-egg-laying breeds became labeled as Araucana. It became falsely believed that Araucanas’ blue eggs were extraordinarily nutritious, so farmers were breeding Araucanas with every type of chicken and passing them off as Araucanas. As a result, the breed standard became very unclear.

 

In 1976 the APA set the Araucana standard to be tufted and rumpless (disqualifying all previously-labeled Araucanas that were bearded, muffed, and tailed, which went on to become labeled as American Araucanas, or Ameraucanas).

 

Splash Araucana Cockerel - Illia Chavez

Splash Araucana Cockerel – Illia Chavez

The gene that requires Araucanas to be tufted, while a necessary trait according to the standard, is a fatal one when two copies of it are passed to a chicken. If two copies of the tufted gene are inherited, a chick will almost always die in the shell. If only one copy is passed to a chicken, the chicken will not be fatally affected, but will have tufts and can pass on the gene. So when breeding two tufted Araucanas with the genes Tt (T showing the dominant tufted gene and t representing the recessive non-tufted gene), probabilities of their offspring show 25% non-tufted (tt), 50% tufted (Tt) which may qualify as Araucanas, and 25% dead in the shell (TT). If a tufted and a non-tufted Araucana are bred, the probabilities of their offspring are 50% non-tufted (tt), and 50% tufted (Tt)Either way, most likely less than half of the offspring may be labeled as Araucana according to standard.

 

The Araucana is a calm, friendly chicken. In its true form according to standard, it is very rare to find, and very expensive to acquire. It serves a dual purpose of being a good layer of blue eggs, and providing a good amount of meat. The Araucana’s relative is most commonly seen in the form of an Easter Egger, which is loosely defined as any chicken possessing the blue-egg-laying gene. These chickens lay blue, green, or pink eggs. For really green eggs, Olive Eggers can be bred using any chicken carrying the blue egg gene, and any dark brown egg laying chicken such as Marans, Barnevelders, or Welsummers.

 

Marans, Easter Egger, and Olive Egger Eggs - Dare 2 Dream Farms

Marans, Easter Egger, and Olive Egger Eggs – Dare 2 Dream Farms

 

 

 

Are you reading this, and getting hungry? Nothing fills the stomach better than some green eggs and ham. And now you know where those green eggs come from!

 

Written by: Rachel Frenkel

Edited by: Megan Raff

 

Resources:  

“Easter Egger Club of America.” EasterEggers.Com. Easter Egger Club of America, n.d. Web. 19 June 2013.

Orr, Richard A. “A History of the Ameraucana Breed and the Ameraucana Breeders Club.” Ameraucana History. Ameracauna Breeders Club, 1998. Web. 19 June 2013.

Somes Jr., R.G., Pabilonia, M.S. (1981). “Ear tuftedness: a lethal condition in the Araucana fowl”. The Journal of Heredity 72 (2): 121–4. PMID 7276512

Backyard Chickens, Farming, Fresh Eggs

Summertime Egg Recipes

Summer is here with it’s abundance of glorious foods: sun-ripened tomatoes ready to fall off the vine, boxes of California avocados, baskets of bright green spinach and zucchinis, and of course, for backyard chicken keepers, nesting boxes overflowing with freshly laid eggs courtesy of our feathered friends. Sunny side up eggs on whole grain toast is always met with enthusiasm in the morning on our farm, but for added excitement, here is a collection of some of our other favorite recipes for this season.

 

Local Eggs - Out of the Box Collective

Out of the Box Collective – Local Eggs

SPINACH QUICHE by JENNIFER PIETTE, OUT OF THE BOX COLLECTIVE

This egg and spinach dish is a hearty way to start your day. Saute up fresh, local spinach, spread into a pie crust, and cover with eggs, milk, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. Sprinkle with your choice of cheese and chuck it in an oven preheated to 375F. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is browned, but still moist. Roast tomatoes in the oven to pair with the quiche and top the quiche with your choice of herbs. 

 

 

SPINACH BALLS

Excellent appetizers for summertime gatherings, this will easily feed plenty of hungry mouths after outdoor activities. Spinach, stuffing crumbs, Parmesan cheese, 4 eggs, butter, pepper, nutmeg, and onion: Mix, shape, and bake! 

 

 

GERMAN APPLE PANCAKES or DUTCH BABY

Grandma makes this dish as a small dessert for family dinner nights, but I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner too! (So could Grandpa!) Brown butter in a skillet, and sprinkle with a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Line the skillet with apples and cook over medium-high heat until simmering. Pour batter over the simmering apples and slip the skillet into the oven at 375F for 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with a squeeze of lemon, or a helping of maple syrup. 

 

 

AVOCADO BREAKFAST BAKE

Wellness Mama – Avocado Bake

California avocados are incredible – and if you’re from California, you know anyone with an avocado tree is always trying to find a happy home for their boxes and bags of avocados this season. I find it effortless to eat an entire avocado in one sitting, so this recipe is perfect (not to mention easy)! Halve an avocado, remove the pit, and place on a baking dish. Crack an egg into each avocado and sprinkle with s+p. Bake for 15-20 min at 350F. Top with cilantro, tomatoes, cheese, green onions or any ingredients you choose. Viola & mmm…..

 

 

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE WITH ANGEL FOOD CAKE

We are located in strawberry field heaven, near Santa Maria, where the strawberries in fruit stands are today’s harvest of bright red, juicy delights! This light rendition on strawberry shortcake is perfect for a hot summer’s treat! Use twelve of your egg whites to make this fluffy angel food cake. Mix together 1 1/2 lbs of fresh sliced strawberries (or strawbobbies as my sister used to call them) and 3 tbsp sugar. Stir and refrigerate to let the juices develop. Place the strawberry mixture over sliced cake, top with whipped cream, and help yourself to two servings! Trust me, you can’t just have one. 

 

EGGS ON TOAST

But then there’s always eggs on toast for breakfast, and honestly, how can you go wrong? 

Eggs on Toast by Rachel Frenkel

 

Happy Summer!

Backyard Chickens, Farming, Fresh Eggs

Collecting, Cleaning, and Storing Eggs

You’ve built your coop and raised your chickens, and now they’re FINALLY laying eggs! But what do you do with all the eggs your girls start to lay? After the eggcitement of the first egg is all over, its time to find a routine for collecting, cleaning, and storing your fresh eggs. Here are some tips to get started with the right habits.

 

COLLECT DAILY, PREFERABLY IN THE EVENING

Chicken eggs are a commodity for animals as well as for humans. The smell of chicken eggs will likely attract pests such as rats, skunks, possums, and raccoons which you don’t want near your chickens. Collecting eggs daily, especially in the evening, is the best way to prevent those predators from coming around at night. 

It’s also a good idea to collect chicken eggs every evening to prevent the chickens from dirtying them, breaking them, and eating them. Chickens sometimes sleep in their nesting boxes, or walk all over a nest of eggs with dirty feet, making the eggs harder to clean. If they accidentally break one while climbing over a large nest of eggs, they will eat it out of curiosity. They may even begin to eat eggs out of boredom during the winter months when they’re stuck inside. Once they begin to eat their own eggs, they can form a bad habit that is really destructive, and really hard to break.

 

STORING EGGS

Eggs are laid with a natural mucous coating over the shell called a ‘cuticle’ or, more commonly, a ‘bloom.’ The bloom protects the egg from bacteria and controls the amount of water and air that is passed through the shell. This naturally keeps the eggs as fresh as possible without refrigeration, which is why you can keep fresh eggs in a cool, dry place such as your counter or cabinet rather than a refrigerator. However, they do stay fresh even longer if they are unwashed and refrigerated. Once the bloom is washed away with water, they do require refrigeration to keep them from going bad. We recommend collecting your eggs and keeping them unwashed in a clean carton in the refrigerator, and then washing your eggs just before using them. 

KEEPING THEM CLEAN

The saying “prevention is better than cure” goes for dirty eggs as well. In addition to collecting daily, the easiest way to have clean eggs is to keep a clean nesting box. Routinely check the nesting boxes and remove or replace dirty shavings, especially during winter when mud is prevalent and chickens have no manners to wipe their feet! Discouraging your hens from sleeping in the nesting boxes also helps tremendously. Keep roosts away from nesting boxes, and preferably in a higher place than the nesting boxes. 

DRY CLEANING

If you must wash your eggs before you store them, it is best to dry wash them. Dry washing uses an abrasive, such as sandpaper, an abrasive sponge, a sanding block, or other abrasive utensil to scrape or rub off any dirt or poop. This leaves the majority of the bloom intact and keeps the egg as safe as possible while still removing the yucky stuff. 

 

 

WET CLEANING

If you must wash them with water to remove the dirt and poop, be conscientious about the way you wash! Be sure the water you’re washing with is at least 20 degrees warmer than the eggs as washing with colder water creates a vacuum which sucks bacteria into the egg. It’s best not to soak them in water, but rather to wash them under running water. If you must use detergent, it is best to use natural dish detergent rather than antibacterial soaps.  

HOW LONG DO EGGS LAST?

Eggs should last approximately 45 days from the date they were laid if kept in the right conditions; however you should use them as soon as possible for maximum freshness and taste. After eggs are approximately one month old, it is best to test them for freshness before using them.

FLOATING EGGS TO TEST FOR FRESHNESS

To test for freshness, you can float your eggs. The broad side of the egg is filled with an air sac. The older the egg, the more air fills the sac. The more air is in the sac, the more the egg floats. Place your egg in a large bowl filled with cold water. If the egg sinks to the bottom and stays laying on its side, it’s still fresh and good to eat. The higher the broad side of the egg floats up, the older it is. If the broad side of the egg floats straight up and leaves the egg standing on the pointed side, its nearly a month old and should be eaten before it goes bad. If the egg floats right to the top, it’s old and probably is no longer good to eat.


FOR MORE TIPS ON EGGS AND MORE BACKYARD CHICKEN TOPICS

Visit the Care Guide section of our website at www.dare2dreamfarms.com. If you have any tips you’d like to share with your fellow backyard chicken enthusiasts, leave a comment below!