I have a too-vivid memory from my childhood of visiting a neighbor’s barn where I saw a goose egg. I reached to pick it up and before my neighbor could warn me it exploded all over my pretty frock. The smell is something I will never ever forget!
So when I was cleaning out my girls’ coop today that memory came racing back. I had packed the section of the run under their roost with straw during the very cold weather in January to help keep them warm. I thought it was too dense for them to go in, but I was wrong. As I pulled back the straw I found not one, but 16 beautiful eggs. And then I thought – do I dare remove them? How long might they have been there? Fresh or …
I called my neighbor who spent years raising chickens for Perdue. She has been my Go-To-Chicken-Guru from day one. She is also a nurse and rescued my Jane when her very first egg (a huge double yolker) got hung up in her little egg hole. She reminded me that putting an egg in a bowl of water was a pretty good test of how fresh. And I was excited to test all these eggs and find half of them very fresh and the other half fresh but perfect for hard boiled eggs. What a relief!
By the way, there is a BIG difference in longevity of fresh between store-bought and backyard eggs. Store-bought eggs are cleaned before packaging, washing away the protective “bloom” that the hen puts on her eggs when laid. The bloom is important is maintaining egg viability until she gathers enough eggs to sit on the nest for hatching, since a hen lays a maximum of one egg a day. (Of course, an egg must be fertilized before it can be hatched.) The bloom not only maintains freshness, it keeps out bacteria that might compromise the egg. When an egg is washed – even rinsed in cool water – the bloom is removed. This is why you see more salmonella in store-bought eggs than backyard eggs. So, if it backyard, you typically do not wash the egg until just before you use it. Doing so will allow the egg to stay fresh much much longer than a store-bought egg, which is already “old” by backyard standards when it hits the shelves.
And that brought to mind the quandary of having very fresh eggs that you’d like to boil for egg salad. Nothing beats the taste of egg salad made with very fresh eggs. But most say that eggs should be about 10 days old in order for the shell to peel easily. Now, most commercial eggs you buy in the store are much older than that (up to 30 days), so its not a problem. But for backyard chicken eggs, how to avoid the agony of sticky shells?
Pretty easy hack, actually. Boil the eggs as you would normally (although I recommend a hot water start). After you have boiled for 10 minutes rinse in cold water. Then, forget peeling altogether. Cut the egg lengthwise in half and scoop out the egg. You need a really sharp knife and must be careful it doesn’t slip, but you’ll get the hang of it. Just watch for any shell fragments and you are on your way to the best tasting egg salad ever – just add mayo, a really good spicy mustard, salt & pepper to taste!