Blue eggs & bacon
Cheap eats. And eggs are a super food, health-wise, if they’re organic and truly free-range.
We’ve all heard the “cholesterol” bad rap that has been laid – sorry – on eggs, Studies now recognize that there two kinds of cholesterol: HDL and LDL. HDL is good, LDL is bad. Eggs, beside being high in protein, iodine, Vitamins D, B-12 and other good stuff, are high in HDL, which actually keeps, it seems, the bad LDL from being deposited as plaque in your blood vessels. So eggs are once again being recognized as a very healthy food.
Up on the farm – in the “old days” – one food everyone ate every day was eggs, fresh from under the hens.
During the Great Depression and World War II, food and gas were rationed. I still have one of the old ration stamp books. But being so self-sufficient in providing for most all our own needs as to food and income, meaning Grampa Roy didn’t have to drive to a job every day, we hardly noticed the scarcity on the farms.
We had milk (and butter) and pork (chops, roasts, bacon, hams) in the barn, venison, partridge etc, (no wild turkeys then) in the woods, fish in the lakes, streams and ponds. (Extra homemade butter was traded at the nearest village stores.)
Regardless of whether you had access to the above, everyone had a hen house or chicken coop, whichever you preferred to call it. Grammie had a "hen house," in that it was much larger than a "coop," housing 50 laying hens. That did double duty, providing us with eggs and meat, as well as eggs to sell or trade for things we couldn’t produce ourselves, like sugar, molasses and coffee. Her hens gave both white and brown eggs, all organic, although we had never heard that word back then. Our food was all "organic." Whichever color, the eggs are the same on the inside. The only difference is in the color of the shell, which is dependent on the breed of hen.
The watchword of those hard times – “if nothing else, have a chicken coop” – is echoing again today as folks are starting, due to the uncertainty they feel about the economy, possible natural disasters, illness, loss of a job, "enemies domestic,“ to also look for chemical, pesticide, growth hormone, GMO-free foods. People are turning to organic foods.
For even more nutrition from your eggs, have a raw one – yolk only. Raw egg whites can carry flu-like viruses. I like to beat a raw yolk with some concentrated juice and water and, of course, eggnog. However, I detest that little glutinous sac around the yolk. I learned a trick to eliminate that. I’m a portrait artist. I like all mediums, from pastel to oil, watercolor and egg tempera. Egg tempera is very expensive to buy, but relatively cheap to make, mixing egg yolk with water and dry pigment. Obviously, that sack, with the little white globby thing on it, would present a problem in the paint.
The trick, after separating the yolk from the white, is to put the yolk sac in the palm of your hand and gently pass it back and forth from hand to hand. This quickly dries the outside of the sac, which can then be pricked and the yellow yolk drains out easily, like water out of a balloon.
My momma also taught me some tricks in boiling and peeling boiled eggs. First off, to avoid that green coating around the yolks, you put the eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, cover and take off the heat. Let set for about eight to 10 minutes and, voila, no green coating. (Tip: Works even better if you get the eggs out of the fridge ahead of time to reach room temperature. This is the "good cook" secret to most all cooking. Start with room-temperature ingredients.
Now for super-easy peeling, cool the eggs down in cold water and then, on newspaper, knock both ends to crack and then gently roll it back and forth, getting the shell cracked all over. You'll feel it getting loose. Than, start at one end – the one with a little hollow space under the shell is best – and the shell all but slips off, often all in one piece. This makes the process of peeling eggs almost enjoyable.
It’s important to get farm-fresh, organic eggs from free-range egg layers. You can tell the difference even before you taste it. When you crack one open and plop it in a pan, the yolk is a bright yellow and well rounded. However, "free-range" can mean just that the hens, by the hundreds, are allowed to walk around in a foot of chicken sh – ah, manure - and over deceased fellow birds of the feather, in a large hen house. And in the big supermarkets, your organic eggs may have been in storage for several weeks.
Once you’ve tasted eggs from chickens that have access to green grass, bugs and stuff in warm seasons and are fed organic feed in winter, you’ll find it hard to buy eggs in the supermarkets again. It isn’t just the health factor, but the taste.
I get my eggs and vegetables from a farmer here in Morrill, who even delivers free to my doorstep. I’m eating more vegetables now because they just taste so much better -- especially the carrots. Amazing. Added to that, they last two to three times longer in the fridge. (We’re lucky here in Waldo County. We have a high concentration of farmers growing for the market.)
A couple years ago, I was getting my eggs from a farmer’s market. One grower had, in addition to the regular white and brown eggs, blue eggs. The shells were a delicate blue to blue-green. I called them ”Easter eggs.” I even blew a few of the shells, rinsed them out and have them in a bowl with some regular colored shells. (People often suggest I put my "eggs" in the fridge.)
The farmer here in town set up business a couple years ago, with door-to-door delivery, and easy online ordering. I jumped on the bandwagon. Beautiful eggs. But no blue ones. I asked if he would consider getting the blue-egg laying hens – Ameraucanas.
He was concerned that they might not be hardy enough for our Maine winters, but upon looking into it, he found they are, indeed. He now has a flock of them.
And I smile every time I open a carton stuffed with my blue eggs.
(Do a Google search for “Ameraucana blue eggs photo.”)
Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, an award-winning columnist, is a Maine native and graduate of Belfast . She now lives in Morrill.