Fresh chicken, duck and quail eggs and a much sought after commodity at area farmers markets. Once you’ve eaten a fresh local egg, you will never go back to buying commercial eggs again.
You may remember an Eat Local video round up I did for Charlotte Today on Christmas Day featuring with a half dozen ways to ease into eating local in the new year. Local eggs topped the list and I used these cartons of fresh eggs from Bluebird Farms – just one of the farms selling fresh local eggs available at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market – to illustrate my point.
Today though, we’re looking at eggs with a slightly different eye. I’l be sharing these tips and tricks this morning on WCNC’s Charlotte Today sometime between 11 and noon, so tune in to watch the show live, or live stream it from your phone or office computer.
Don’t Miss Out on Any of the Delicious Fun!
If you miss the actual show, no worries, you know I have you covered. My original plan was to embed the video from the show , back into this post- just as I did with yesterday’s Strawberry post .
But instead, there was so much to cover – more tips to share and another recipe I wanted to includes, so instead of just going back in and editing this post, I wrote a follow up post, cleverly entitled Eggs. The Sequel.
Next time, instead of having to remember to check back, why not become a subscriber at HeidiBillottoFood.com. There is no cost and all you have to do to insure you don’t miss a single bit of the action is to type your email address in the place where prompted at the top right hand column of my homepage. Then, each and every post comes to your inbox as soon as it goes live!
Now, back to the topic at hand. Here are several fun ways to make local eggs even better. And, the list includes some cool ways to use up the spent egg shells, too.
Can you tell if an egg is fresh?
The answer is a simply one. Most eggs you buy at a Saturday morning farmers market, like these from Charlotte’s Cotswold Farmers Market, were just laid several days prior, so freshness here isn’t in question. But what if that carton has been in the fridge for a spell. As eggs age, their volume starts to decrease and they start to dry up in the shell. They are not bad, but they just won’t be as good. Here is a great tip to tell if the eggs in you fridge are fresh before you start to cook.
Just place the egg or eggs in question in a bowl of water. If the eggs lie flat on the bottom of the bowl, they are fresh. When you see the egg start to tip up on one end it is getting older but is still good. If your egg in question floats to the top of the water, it is probably past its prime for eating. But, all is not lost. These eggs can still be used in several of the fun applications that follow.
A clean break and how egg shells work like little magnets
While most of us were taught to tap the egg gently on the side of the mixing bowl, there is an easier way. Instead hit the egg flat on the counter or workspace. Then, don’t squeeze the shells – simply pull them apart for a clean break.
If you should get a piece of egg shell in your eggs, don’t stress. It will be frustrating to try to get the slippery piece of shell with your fingers or a spoon. Instead use another piece of egg shell. The shell works like a magnet and the small piece that chipped off will cling to the larger shell for easy removal.
It’s all in the twist of your wrist
Want to look cool when you crack eggs? Learn to do it with one hand. The trick is to crack the egg on a flat surface and then twist your wrist, pushing one half of the shell with your thumb away from you and pulling the other half towards you with your other four fingers. Practice makes perfect here.
Sometimes the yolks just want to be alone. Or, How to Separate an Egg
Lots of fun ways to separate an egg. You can use your hands, a plastic water bottle, or a funnel. I’ll be demonstrating a few of these techniques in the televised spot. However you do it , it will help to know that while eggs cook and whip up better at room temperature, they separate better when they are cold.
Any way you choose to separate your eggs, know that when you are only cooking with egg yolks, its okay to have a bit of the white in there. If the recipe calls for egg whites, to make a meringue or to beat the whites to stiff peaks for a souffle for example, you can’t have any sort of fat in the mixing bowl. That includes even the tiniest bit of egg yolk.
For the best results, separate each individual egg between two small bowls and then transfer the egg whites and yolks to larger bowls. Then you may proceed with the recipe.
Freezing eggs – Yes You Can
Well, you can’t freeze eggs ( like these from farmer Paul Brewington at the SouthEnd market in Charlotte) whole, but leftover egg whites and yolks may be frozen for up to about six months. Egg whites in particular will loose a bit of their volume when whipped, so use defrosted white more for foams than meringues. Egg yolks need a bit a prepping before you can freeze them, but once defrosted they work well in most any recipe.
To freeze egg white, simply place an individual egg white into an slightly oversized ice cube tray compartment and freeze. when the cubes are solid, pop them out and place in a freezer bag marked “Egg Whites” and dated, so there will be no question. To defrost, place the number of cubes you need in a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight till the egg whites thaw.
For egg yolks, you’ll need a bit of salt or sugar. Just take a pinch of either one and mix it up into each yolk. Again place the sweetened or seasoned egg yolks into ice cube trays. Freeze, then pop out into a freezer bag of glass freezer container and mark sweet or savory. When you are ready, defrost what you need over night in the fridge.
Whipping egg whites
When it comes to whipping egg whites, you can do it by hand with a whisk and build up great muscles in one arm. But, the process is so much easier with an electric mixer or food processor. All that is happening is that your are adding air to the egg whites. The egg whites stretch to form bubbles to encapsulate the air and so the volume in the bowl increases.
First, you will have foam, then soft peaks and finally firm peaks. The foamy stage happens in minutes, just after the whites are all blended well. The liquid in the bowl will look like a bigger bubblier version of the foam on top of a beer.
And the Beat (ing) Goes On
Continue to beat and then volume increases. If you add a bit of acid – lemon juice or vinegar, your egg whites will be more stable. Next stage of a whipped egg white is a soft peak. This looks like bubble bath, but if you dip a wooden spoon in the bowl and then turn it upside down, the very tip of the whites will not stand up straight.
Continue beating and the whites will come to stiff peaks – perfect for making souffles. When the whites are at stiff peaks you should be able to turn the bowl upside down and nothing will fall out. or if you would like a slightly less dramatic way to test, scoop out some of the whites with a spoon. Turn the spoon upside down and the whites won’t drop off the spoon.
For best results if you are making a meringue ( that is adding sugar or a simple syrup to the beaten egg whites) don’t add sugar until you have gotten the whites to the soft peak stage. And then add it in a slow but steady stream as you continue to beat it in the egg whites to stiff peaks.
Now that the egg whites are whipped, what to do with the egg yolks?
Add an egg yolk to anything and you’ll make it richer, fattier and give it more mouth feel. If you add egg yolks to crab cakes for example and they are richer and softer. Add egg white or a whole egg and the crab cakes will be firmer in the end.
Egg yolks are also the base for making homemade mayonnaise. What I love about this recipe is that you can really make it your own with whatever herbs or spices you would like. In fact, you might have already known that.
But did you know you can also use mayonnaise to clean up sticky messes around the house? Instead of petroleum based cleaners that remove the goo from stickers and price tags often left on glassware, china and other home products, use a bit of mayo – it works like a charm and you won’t be breathing in any of those noxious fumes.
The beauty of homemade mayo is that you can do it in small batches, so if you are using an egg yolk to make a cleaner, you can add in lemon and lavender to give the mix a pleasant aroma while you work. Lemon Juice and fresh minced lavender leaves from the garden work to the trick. But if you are like me and into essential oils, you can also add a drop or two of lemon oil and lavender oil.
Heidi’s Homemade Egg Yolk Mayo
1 local egg yolk – I like to you duck eggs when I am eating this homemade spread… but if you are using this recipe for cleaning purposes then chicken eggs will be the less expensive choice.
2 tsp. lemon juice or white wine or white balsamic vinegar ( for eating I prefer the white balsamic vinegar, for cleaning I go with the lemon juice)
1 Tbsp. your favorite local mustard – I simply adore any variety of Lusty Monk mustard from Asheville. Again, if you are making this may to clean, you can leave the mustard for another day (or that sandwich you are making for lunch!)
1/2 tsp. fine salt
2 Tbsp. fresh minced herbs ( for eating tarragon is particularly nice, for cleaning, you can omit these minced herbs unless you want to add a bit of lavender to make the spread smell good.)
3/4 cup organic avocado or canola oil
How to Blend this list of egg centric ingredients into Mayo
Combine the egg yolk with the lemon or vinegar, mustard, herbs and salt. Whisk to blend well. Keep whisking until the golden color of the egg lightens to a paler shade of yellow. Start to drizzle in the oil as you whisk – this is very easily done in a food processor fit with the steel blade. As the egg yolk absorbs the oil the mixture will thicken, and voila! Its Homemade Mayonnaise.
Variation for eating: To make a homemade aioli, just add fresh minced or roasted and mashed local garlic to taste.
Collecting shells isn’t just a beachtime activity
After you’ve cracked the egg, you are left with the shell. DO NOT put egg shells in your garbage disposal. The disposal will grind them into a fine silt and they will sit in the drainage pipes going out from your house and eventually create a massive clog.
Instead of tossing them, use them to compost. And, while you are prepping them for the garden, did you know that egg shells can sharpen food processor blades as you grind them up?
Grind up the egg shells in a food processor. The grinding action with the calcium strong shell will sharpen your food processor blades in a jiffy. Then add that ground mic to potting soil or sprinkle it around your garden and herb beds. Not only will it enrich the soil, but the pack of protein will keep away the slugs.
You can also use eggshells to start your herb garden this year from seed. Simply place the egg shell halves in a paper egg carton. Fill each with potting soil and add a seed to each one. Place in a sunny spot and water as needed. When the seedlings are big enough to plant, you can cut the carton and plant them cardboard, eggshell and all.