With an abundance of eggs from our chicken coop , we’re always looking to find ways to enjoy them in less traditional ways. Though a single yolk contains 62% of your suggested daily consumption of cholesterol, a general guide based on scientific research allows for consumption of up to three eggs per day (just as long as you’re not diabetic). To be on the safe side, we limit ourselves to enjoying eggs for breakfast just once every five days or so. This way, we can enjoy a slice or two of an egg during the week, added into all sorts of things that are on our Weekly Menu.
We have the advantage of collecting three different types of eggs that are freshly-laid every day. While the output depends primarily on the type and breed of the fowl, there are other factors that affect production. Feed and weather matter most but we have found that the hens output is also affected by the amount of attention they get. Yes, we’re crazy for our chickens because we value what they provide for our family. We hold them, we talk to them and we’ve named them. It’s surprising to everyone but us that their production is above average, for this very reason. It’s an unscientific finding but we always have an abundance of excellent quality eggs: hard shells with lemon yellow yolks and whites that aren’t runny, hallmarks of backyard, home-raised chickens. All with no hormones, relatively free-range (they’re kept in a coop so the foxes don’t eat them) and they’re fed primarily with organic food waste. I’m forever jockeying with Sebastian over how much of this goes to the compost or to the chickens. Our citrus trees need feeding, too. Eggs laid by free-range chickens are also lower in cholesterol and higher in Omega 3 proteins.
Our bantam hen, Patrizia, produces smaller eggs that are 3/4 size of commercially-produced eggs, often from red hens. They’re ivory in color with a not-as-dry, creamy yolk. Because of their size, they cannot be relied on for use in baking, which employ extra large eggs that produce about 2 tablespoons of albumen (a.k.a. egg whites). Yet, together with the tiny quail eggs, they’re perfect pickled, preserved in a broth of wine, vinegar and water and flavored with a variety of spices. (Note to bakers: a fresh quail egg is the perfect amount of egg needed to make an egg wash, as it’s just the right amount added with a little cream, milk or water.)
Even if you don’t have backyard chickens, enjoying quality eggs that are pickled is an easy way to prepare eggs. They can be made into a wonderfully-satisfying egg salad with homemade mayonnaise or sliced into a club sandwich. Here in Cyprus, people bring boiled eggs with them to the beach. From this, we’ve learned that eggs are really the ideal picnic food, and pickled ones pack in loads more flavor than the boiled variety. Grab any organic eggs you can get your hands on; the excellent taste and health benefits justify the price.
Boiling eggs is easy, but mastering it requires some attention. For years, we always wondered why the egg yolk turned a bit grey between the yolk and albumen. It wasn’t until we read Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Cookbook that we learned it all comes down to cooking time. However, with backyard-raised chickens, we’ve never experienced this problem. The most tedious part of the whole process is peeling the eggs; making the pickling brine comes together in a few minutes with some dried herbs or spices and a little imagination.
In a large pot, place eggs in a large saucepan. Cover with water, so that the eggs are completely submerged. Add in a generous pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the eggs to remain in the hot water. Set a timer for 15-17 minutes depending on the size of the eggs. (Quail eggs are ready in 10, bantam eggs ready in 15 and extra large brown eggs need the full time.)
Fill a bowl with cold water. Using a slotted spoon, remove eggs from hot water and place in the bowl of cold water. As soon as the eggs are cool enough to handle, tap once or twice on the counter surface just to crack the shell and not to shatter it. Remove a piece of shell and gently pry the remaining shell away from the egg, making sure you remove the membrane along with the shell. That membrane separates the shell from the egg and once you’ve loosened the membrane and the shell together, the whole shell usually comes off in one go. To do this, use your fingertips to grab both the membrane and the shell together and carefully peel away. Taking your time at this stage will save you a great deal of frustration later on.
Wash shelled eggs thoroughly in cold water to remove any shell residue. Place rinsed eggs in a clean, seal-able jar that is large enough to accommodate the eggs.
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp black peppercorns
prepared spice blend , as desired (see below)
Fill with the following, leaving a small space between the brine and the lid, about the length of the tip of your forefinger:
2 parts white vinegar (fill to halfway up the jar)
1 part dry white wine
1 part fresh or bottled water
Cover with lid and refrigerate. Allow to marinate in brine for up to a week before serving.
Cerines Blend: 8 whole allspice + 2 bay leaves + 2 T pink peppercorns + 1 T whole cardamom pods
Cyprus Blend: 2 T dried coriander seeds + 2 bay leaves + 1 tsp dried cumin
Italian Blend: 2 tsp dried rosemary + 2 whole, fresh spicy peppers + 2 tsp dried fennel seeds (crush the dry ingredients in a mortar and pestle)
French Blend: 2 tsp dried tarragon + 2 sprigs fresh dill, lightly separated
Greek Blend: 2 tsp dried oregano + 2 tsp dried pepper flakes
Eastern Mediterranean Blend: 2 tsp dried sumac + 2 tsp tumeric + 2 tsp dried mint + 2 tsp paprika
Serve in quarters along with a mixed salad of field greens, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers or in a club sandwich. Perfect as is, served during cocktail hour, or tuck a bottle into your cooler for a picnic delicacy.