The Real American: an Egg and a Grog in a Noggin

2 old men eating soupThe settlers of colonial America embraced eggnog and adapted various recipes from Europe and England to combine eggs and milk or cream with rum (grog) instead of wine or ale.

The term eggnog is subject to some discussion. It may have been derived from “egg and grog,” as some suggest. Or it may have been named after the wooden carved mug commonly used in taverns in Europe and in the United States called a noggin. This would imply that the origin may have been a drunken slurring together of “an egg and grog in a noggin.” More likely, the earliest eggnog was made with very strong English ale called nog. And eggnog was just that: egg in nog.

After 1650 the colonists had inexpensive Caribbean rum, and by 1657 a Boston distillery was set up that imported molasses and cane sugar and made rum. Within a year, it was highly successful and became a prosperous New England business. The colonists already had readily available farmland, grazing milk-able cows, chickens, and cheap local alcohol (very inexpensive compared to the heavily taxed European Cognac and brandies). And those colonists were boozers. They believed that alcohol could cure the sick, make the weak strong, pep up the aged, warm you up, aid digestion, increase strength, revitalize libido, and provide motivation. They were certain that it was safer than water. (This may have been true, given the number of water-borne illnesses and lack of adequate sanitation. Cholera was common in the springtime.) By 1770 there were more than 140 rum distilleries making 4.8 million gallons per year, and 3.78 million more gallons of rum were imported each year.

George Washington (of the one dollar bill) was a distiller. After his presidency, he built a whiskey distillery in Mount Vernon. In 1797 his distillery made 600 gallons, in 1798 it produced 4,500 gallons, and by 1799 it was up to 11,000 gallons. When he died, in 1799, he was one of the largest distillers of whiskey in the United States. (It shouldn’t be a surprise that George Washington devised a potent recipe for eggnog that included ridiculous amounts of rye whiskey, rum, and sherry, in keeping with the excessive drinking customs of the time.)

In 1790 the United States government calculated that the annual per-capita ingestion of alcohol for each man, woman, and child over 15 years old was 34 gallons of beer and cider, 5 gallons of distilled spirits, and 1 gallon of wine—nearly five times the current consumption. Back then alcohol (rum and whiskey) was legal tender that could be used like money. People were paid salaries in booze and paid their taxes and bought items by trading and bartering with it.

 Eggnog was popular as a winter drink of the upper class. Since chickens didn’t lay eggs in the dead of winter, the eggs were most likely preserved through one of the many techniques of the time. Stored eggs were a commodity in winter (in spring, when the chickens were laying again, the prices dropped considerably). A Christmas or New Year’s holiday celebration wouldn’t have been complete without an eggnog toddy for toasting health and happiness, and of course, wealth. In the American South, the preferred eggnog alcohols were bourbon or rye. In the North, rum was the more common additive. Nearly any alcohol works well, which accounts for the abundance of recipes.


Napoleon and the Omelette

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825)  Napoleon Crossing the Alps   Kunsthistorisches Museum

Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) Napoleon Crossing the Alps — Kunsthistorisches Museum

For the town of Bessières (Haute-Garonne), the omelet has a special significance.

Napoleon Bonaparte (and his army) traveled through the area. He stopped at a local inn and enjoyed an omelet so much that he demanded that the local villagers collect enough eggs so that his entire army could enjoy an omelet the next morning. What the town created was one giant omelet.

Since then, on Easter Monday, a several-thousand-egg omelet is made there. It is cooked in a giant pan over a giant fire. The omelet is several yards wide and serves a thousand or more people. (A bit extreme, perhaps.)

However, this giant omelet stuff has become an annual event not only in this village in France but also elsewhere in the world. The only Giant Omelette Celebration in the United States is in Abbeville, in the Vermilion Parish of Louisiana (outside Lafayette).

The other six “official” giant omelette cities are Bessières and Fréjus, France; Dumbea, New Caledonia; Granby, Quebec, Canada; Malmedy, Belgium; and Pigüé, Argentina.

The Basic Omelet

The basic omelet is a beaten egg cooked in butter in a frying pan. It is folded in half when it is nearly cooked. Various ingredients are added in the fold: cheese, vegetables, meat such as bacon or ham, herbs, or some combination. An omelet can be made with whole eggs, just yolks, or just whites. Usually some other liquid, such as water, milk, cream, or broth, is added. The idea behind the added liquid is that more air bubbles will be trapped in a thinned mixture. Some omelet recipes call for a few drops of lemon juice or a pinch of cream of tartar (tartaric acid), which can strengthen and elongate the protein fibers and create a fluffier final product.

Omelets are usually cooked on one side, without being disturbed, before being folded and cooked the rest of the way through.

 

Classic French Omelet #1

3 eggs

1 tablespoon milk (or water)

¼ cup shredded cheese

ample amounts of butter

Mix eggs and milk until blended. Melt butter in skillet on medium-high heat. When butter is hot and just beginning to brown, pour in eggs. Tilt pan in different directions to evenly distribute eggs. Cook for several minutes until eggs begin to set on bottom of pan. Gently lift edges with spatula to let some of the runny egg flow under cooked portion. When egg is still moist on top but fully set on bottom, sprinkle cheese over egg. Fold one side of omelet over cheese and the other half of egg. Let cook until cheese is melted and egg is cooked throughout. Serve at once.

Classic French Omelet #2

2 eggs

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon butter

Mix eggs and water. Melt butter in skillet on medium-high heat. Pour eggs in, and evenly distribute. Let cook for several minutes until eggs are cooked roughly halfway through, with just a thin layer of wet on top. Lift edges of cooked egg with spatula to let some of the runny top flow under cooked portion. When egg is fully set on bottom but still moist on top, fold one side over onto the other. Let cook for another minute, and serve.

Angel Food Cake (part two)

The Angel Appearing before the Shepherds by Thomas Buchanan Read (1822-1872)  Dayton Art Institute

The Angel Appearing before the Shepherds by Thomas Buchanan Read (1822-1872) Dayton Art Institute

Food historians believe the white sponge cake was a creation of the Northern European immigrants to America. After all, this group made ample amounts of egg noodles (which used only the yolks) leaving many leftover, whites, and the women also made various ring cakes, that were traditionally cooked in a “deep, round, fancy cake pain with a center tube[1] (a pan not called for in other immigrant, or classic cooking recipes)

Antique Turk’s Head (also known as Monk’s Head) pans can be found in two style: either like a very plain swirled bundt pan,  or, a shallower version of what, today, we call a tube pan, that was referred to in the early 1900’s as an Angel Cake Pan.

early 1900's "turk's head" pan

early 1900’s “turk’s head” pan

In the 1950s, a group of women in Minneapolis asked a NordicWare designer to recreate a fancy tube cake pan, like the ones their mother’s had brought from the old country. The result was what NordicWare named the “Bundt”. The name was trademarked by NordicWare. Sales languished, and the bundt pan was nearly discontinued until a winner of one of the Pillsbury Bake-Off contests submitted a chocolate cake, dubbed “Tunnel of Fudge”[2] baked in a bundt pan. Interest in the pan skyrocketed, and bundt pans soon surpassed the tin Jell-O mold pans as the most sold pans in the United States. The trademarked name “bundt” was, later, rejected by the U.S. Trademark Office as too generic a term.

(In Australia a tube pan is called a ring tin.)

Cakes baked in Turk’s heads, and similar pans are, in part, derived from a bread-like cake made in Germany and Hungary called a gugelhumpf or bundkuchen, the Eastern European babka, burgunder rodon, the Dutch tulband, and the Finnish kermakakku, to name a few.

Evan Jones, wrote in his book American Food: The Gastronomic Story[3], his angel cake theory:

“…angel (or angel food) cakes, may have evolved as the result of numerous egg whites left over after the making of noodles, and may or may not be the brainchild of thrifty Pennsylvania cooks who considered it sinful to waste anything..”

Tube pans (a straight-edged, or slightly sloping baking tin) were created in the late 1800s. These pans appealed to housewives and became a staple in American kitchens. The tube pan has an advantage over regular cake pans for all sponge cakes because heat flows around the center of the cake, which allows the cake to rise higher, cook faster, and more reliably. It is also more stable and less likely to fall, or collapse when removed from the oven. These tube pans were sold, specifically, as angel pans in catalogs in the early 1900’s.

Variations in flavor of angle food cakes recipes range from vanilla, to almond, to rose water, and orange.

Angel Food Cake

1 cup cake flour, sifted

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

1½ cup egg whites (approximately 12 eggs)

1½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Line the bottom of a tube pan with parchment paper (do not grease pan)

In a bowl sift together flour, cream of tartar and salt, several times. Set aside.

Wash a copper bowl[4] or regular bowl, in hot soapy water, to make certain there is no residue of great, and dry thoroughly. Beat room temperature egg whites, until foamy, and then start adding sugar. Beat in a tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is used up and the egg whites are stiff and form peaks (2-3 minutes with an electric beater, considerably longer if hand whipping). At the very last minute, add the extracts.

Sift the flour mixture over the foam, and fold in, a little at a time, very gently (to not flatten the foam) until all the flour is mixed in.   Immediately spoon batter into the tube pan, then tap the pan on the counter several times to dislodge any large air pockets in the batter. Place the tube pan in the oven, and cook for about an hour, or until the cake is golden brown, and the yields gently to pressure, but springs back up when the pressure is released.

Cool the pan, inverted on the feet build into the pan, or over the neck of a bottle so that air can circulate around it. Cool for several hours.

 

Run the edge of a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen, and remove from the pan. Cut with a serrated knife.

[1] The Settlement Cookbook by Lizzie Black Kander (1910)

[2] Ella Helfrich, the woman who submitted the recipe took second place in 1966.

[3] Dutton Publishing; 1st edition 1975

[4] Copper bowls react with the proteins in egg whites, and create firmer foam.

Angel Food Cake, an American Invention (part 1)

454px-Franceschini,_Marcantonio_-_The_Guardian_Angel_-_Google_Art_Project

The Guardian Angel by Marcantonio Franceschini (1648-1729)

The angel-food cake is a light, pale sponge cake made of flour, egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, but no fat (and no yolks). It is usually baked in a tube pan. The angel cake is thought to be (by food historians) an American invention from around 1880-1885.

Food historians look at old recipes and cookbooks to develop their theories of changes in basic recipes, to create something new and different. Around 1870, cook books from around the eastern seaboard were including a recipe for a different kind of sponge cake dubbed snow-drift, silver, white sponge, and angel. Few of the recipes call for a tube pan, so it can be assumed that the pans used were simple, flat cake pan (aka – cake tin).

It is in Mrs. Porter’s New Southern Cookery Book[1]. That the first white sponge cake appeared in an American cookbook: What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking[2]. In this book the cake was called a “silver cake”.

     Silver Cake — The whites of one dozen eggs beaten very light, one pound of butter, one pound of powdered sugar; rub the butter and sugar together until creamed very light, then add the beaten whites of the eggs, and beat all together until very light; two teaspoonfuls of the best yeast powder sifted with one pound of flour, then add the flour to the eggs, sugar and butter, also add one-half teacupful of sweet milk; mix quickly, and beat till very light; flavor with two teaspoonfuls of the extract of almond or peach, put in when you beat the cake the last time. Put to bake in any shape pan you like, but grease the pan well before you put the cake batter in it. Have the stove moderately hot, so as the cake will bake gradually, and arrange the damper of stove so as send heat to the bottom of the cake first.

In The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, there was a,nearly identical, cake which she called an Angel Cake:

     Angel Cake — One cup of flour, measured after one sifting, and then mixed with one teaspoonful of cream of tartar and sifted four times. Beat the whites of eleven eggs, with a wire beater or perforated spoon, until stiff and flaky. Add one cup and one half of fine granulated sugar, and beat again; add one teaspoonful of fine granulated sugar, and beat again; add one teaspoonful of vanilla or almond, then mix in the flour quickly and lightly. Line the bottom and a funnel of a cake pan with paper not greased, pour in the mixture and bake about forty minutes. When done loosen the cake around the edge and turn out at once. Some persons have been more successful with this cake by mixing the sugar with the flour and cream of tartar and adding it all at once to the beaten egg.  

(Fannie Merritt Farmer’s updated version, 1896, of the Boston Cooking School Cook Book, has the same recipe as in earlier versions, but the name was changed from angel cake to angel food cake.)

In the Woman’s Exchange Cook Book[3] (1894) there is a similar white sponge cake that is actually named angel food cake. The pan called for is a Turk’s Head alluding to the shape of a turban, an Ottoman headdress. This is the earliest known cookbook reference that called for a tube pan to bake an Angel food cake in.

     Angel Food Cake — Whites of 11 eggs, 1 teaspoon of flavoring, one and one half cups of granulated sugar, 1 cup of sifted flour, 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar. Put the cream of tartar into the sifted flour and sift it five times. Sift the sugar. Beat the whites of the eggs to a very stiff froth, add the sugar, and mix carefully; then add the flour gradually, stirring allthe while, and last the flavoring. Turn quickly into an ungreased pan and bake in a moderate oven (sa, 260 degrees fahr) for forty-five minutes. Take from the oven, turn the pan upside down on a rest, and let it stand until the cake falls out. It is best to bake this in a Turk’s head. You can then rest it on the tube.

In Our Home Clyopedia[4] published in 1889, there are a number of recipes for multi-egg white sponge cakes. The pan called for is a cake tin, or a brick shaped tin, and, in one, the pan is, first, lined with pastry.

    Delicious Sponge Cake — Twelve eggs, one pound of sugar, twelve ounces of flour, a pinch of salt; flavor. Beat the whites to a very stiff froth, the yolks till the bubbles look fine. Then the yolks are beaten enough to add the sugar and beat until the sugar dissolved; then add the whites, and lastly the flour, and bake immediately in brick shaped tins. This will make two loaves. You will find your cake so much nicer if baked in a paste. Make with flour and water only; roll out on the board same as a pine crust, line your greased tins all over with the paste and pour in the batter. Bake nearly an hour. Do not break off the paste till you want to use it. Your cake will be more moist and keep longer; indeed the cake will be much better a day or two old.

     White Sponge Cake — Sift together one cup of flour, one-half cup of corn starch, one teaspoonful baking powder; add one cup of sugar, one teaspoonful extract of rose, then add the whites of eight eggs whipped to a stiff froth; mix thoroughly and bake in a well-buttered cake tin in a quick oven 30 minutes.

Recipes, especially back then, were spread by one woman handing another woman a handwritten recept (as recipes used to be called), and so-on, like a virus. Newspapers and magazines had contests for “the best” of various categories along with exotic sounding names and creative adaptations. Sometimes there were cash prizes, but often, the reward was they were published, with citations. These recipes were compiled into various cookbooks that were sold or given away (sometimes, also, as prizes for submitting a winning recipe) which further spread the recipes. Food historians trace the published nuggets, and analyze the subtle difference, to come up with theories as to the origin, including the use of pans.

[1] By M.E. Porter, Published 1871

[2] Abbey Fisher, a former slave from Mobile Alabama, was the first Black American to write a cookbook in 1881

[3] No author is identified. This book appears to be a book that is a compilation of recipes published elsewhere.

[4] No author. This is another collection of recipes, household, and medical tips, that appear to have been cobbled together from other publications.

Egg Soup (Eggs in Purgatory and Shakshuka)

I woke up to frost on the ground this morning, while I’m still wishing for Spring. Maybe that is why it felt colder than the deep winter of a few months ago.  This frost, and the cold wind and rain we’ve been having started me thinking about foods that warm you.

Soup!

Two Old Men Eating Soup, 1819–23, by Francisco de Goya, currently in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Soup is a very old dish. It is as old as fire and a container to boil water in. The oldest written egg soup recipe I could find was from the early 16th century in England. The recipe is simple: For each person, take strong-flavored broth; one beaten egg; an egg-size chunk of cheese, cut into small bits; minced scallion or green onion; and minced spring greens. Take boiling stock, skim off any foam, beat egg and whisk it into the broth, and add cheese and greens before serving.

There are a great many recipes that add a few eggs to hot soup to be poached or stirred in to create a creamier, more nutritious soup. Other recipes call for an egg to be added to a small amount of broth and beaten before it is added to the rest of the soup (tempering the egg—diluting it with some of the liquid—makes it less likely to curdle when added to a full pot of broth). There are a few recipes for a custard-based soup, although the real problem with eggs in soups is that they “break” easily (and become granular) with heat that is prolonged or too high.

The most numerous egg-in-soup recipes—for egg drop soup—make the most of an egg cooking in hot liquid. They involve stirring an untempered beaten raw egg into hot soup to create ribbons of cooked egg. In other recipes, this would be called curdling, but it is a desirable attribute in this case. Egg drop soups include the famous Chinese egg drop soup as well as the Central American sopa de anjo (garlic soup) and Greek avgolemono (egg-and-lemon chicken soup).

Syllabub and German Biersuppe are not quite dessert and not savory. They’re more like soup than like egg drinks but are still borderline. Biersuppe and syllabub are both very old versions of liquid nutrition, or early instant breakfast. They share a history with eggnog and other alcohol-and-egg drinks. They are interesting in that the recipes have persisted to modern times, although often not as breakfast or quick lunch meals but, rather, as appetizers, palate cleansers, or offbeat desserts.

And, finally, there is a dessert type of egg soup. These sweet soups are often served for either breakfast or dessert. Some are warm; others are cold. Included are buttermilk soups (usually cold) and a dessert that was popular prior to World War II, Œufs à la neige (also known as floating islands, clouds, and snow eggs). My grandmother was especially fond of her floating islands, firm blobs of meringue poached in a custard and then served floating in a ladleful of the custard. (It is a dessert I had long forgotten about until I tried the recipe.)

Any soup can have a poached egg added to it, and many people do this routinely. The egg is usually poached in the soup, but some people poach the egg in simmering water and then slide it into the soup before serving. The situation in which to poach an egg separately is when your soup is opaque. (It is a little disconcerting when you drop a few eggs into the soup and cannot find them to serve. They drop to the bottom of the pot and are very elusive.) It is another reason some recipes say to put a raw egg in a bowl and then ladle soup over it. This is fine for those who like their poached eggs on the very runny side, as the temperature in the soup bowl quickly drops and the egg doesn’t cook very much. The egg adds extra nutrition to the soup and, with clear soups, visual interest. One very popular poached egg soup is “eggs in purgatory,” which sounds quite daring and slightly naughty. It is eggs poached in tomato soup. A similar recipe is Israel’s shakshuka, which is spicier.

Eggs in Purgatory Soup

  • 3 cups diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg per serving

In blender or food processor, blend tomatoes until liquid. Set aside. In large cooking pot, heat olive oil to very hot. Add onions, and sauté until lightly browned. Turn heat down, and add flour and cornstarch to make smooth roux. Add pureed tomatoes. Stir until blended, and heat until boiling. Add Worcestershire sauce, honey, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. Reduce heat to simmer, and let soup simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and, while stirring constantly, add cream. Then add milk. Continue to stir, and return pot to stove on low heat. Stir constantly 10 minutes, to let soup heat thoroughly. Remove from heat. Poach one egg for each serving. Crack eggs into measuring cup, and slowly pour into soup. With slotted spoon, move eggs apart and roll them occasionally while cooking (4 to 6 minutes). Ladle soup and poached egg into individual serving bowls.

Shakshuka (Israel)

  • ¼ cup olive oil
    3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and chopped
    1 cup chopped onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 3 cups diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup red wine
    6 eggs
    ½ cup crumbled feta cheese for garnish
    chopped cilantro or Italian parsley for garnish
    warm pitas for serving

In deep-sided skillet, heat olive oil until very hot. Sauté chilies and onions together until limp. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook several more minutes until garlic is soft. Add diced tomatoes and red wine. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until flavors are blended and soup is boiling. Turn off heat, and slide whole eggs into soup, distributed across surface. Cover skillet 5 minutes to let eggs set. Remove poached eggs with slotted spoon, and put into individual serving dishes. Ladle hot soup over eggs, and garnish with feta and cilantro. Serve with pita bread.

Time to get some chicks…

I must admit, I’ve been off the blog for a while.

My last chicken, Survivor, died last summer.  She was called survivor, because she was the last one of a group of 25. They were the original 25 that inspired me to start finding out all I could about eggs, chickens and recipes on eggs.  Survivor was nearly a decade old.

Chickens die of many things. Some illness, some mysteriously disappear (I’d like to think they run away from home for a  life of fame and fortune, but sadly, I doubt they leave without help from a predator). I’ve had ravens come down and kill a chicken or two. An eagle snatched up a small one. Raccoons find intriguing (but gruesome) ways of grimly reaping a few. Egg binding is sad. There are so many ways that chickens shuffle off the mortal coil.

chicken-in-snow

R.I.P Survivor.

But, to be honest, I was sick of eggs, too. Time to take a break.

So, now it is time to order a new batch. The coop is cleaned. The chicken yard will have new grass and grain seeds planted. Netting will tent the yard. Some bushes have been added. The nesting coop has had the security beefed up, and soon the fencing will be improved.

I’ve learned from my past mistakes.

The brooder area is set up. The days are getting longer (heck, in two weeks we will change the clocks forward, and spring is on the calendar for this month).

It is time to place the order for another 25 chickens (mostly hens, oh I do HOPE mostly hens). Then, await the early morning call from the post office to pick up the compact box, with holes and bright letters “caution live animals” that will be peeping.  The peeps are so cute. The peeps become so annoying because they are incessant.

Chicks are so cute when they are a week old. After that, not so much.  They manufacture their body weight in excrement, daily.  They try to escape. They will pick at each other with abandon (unless you “enrich” their brooding pen with greens and more interesting foods, and items).  They grow rapidly, and in just a few weeks will be fully feathered, and ready to brave the new world.

There are so many breeds of chickens. I’ve learned to avoid any birds described as “lively and quick” (they escape, they roost in trees, they freak out and cause a panic of the flock whenever possible).  I’ve found lively and quick means “type A” and prone to chicken anxiety issues.   I like the larger birds, described as laid back and calm.  I want couch potato birds. Not much ambition, and very little stress.

But, the color combinations are hard to resist — reds, golds, blue/black, yellow, orange, white.  And, the patterns and variation are so interesting.   On one hand it would be lovely to have a yard full of identical chickens (my favorite are the butter-golden Buff Orpington), but I want a mix of white, brown, greenish, and pinkish eggs, and maybe some dark, dark chocolate brown ones.

Maybe I am starting to get a little too excited

 

Squash Custard Pie

squashPumpkin pie is all the rage this time of year, but why just pumpkin?   Most pumpkins don’t have a lot of flavor (including the “sugar pie” small ones) and stores charge a premium price for pumpkin (often 2x 3x the price of other squash). The truth is that ANY winter (hard) squash will make an excellent “pumpkin” pie.  I prefer using butternut, or sweet meat, a turban, or even a couple of acorn squashes.

Cut the squash lengthwise, remove the seeds, and place face down in a pan with 1 inch of water in it. Cook the squash in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-40 minutes (until a knife inserts easily).  Cool. Scrape out the insides, and place into a blender with a little milk or cream, and blend until smooth.

Recipe:

You’ll need 1 1/2 cups of puree squash for a 9″ pie shell.  Add spices (1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger 1/4 teaspoon cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg) stir in well.  Add 1/2 cup white sugar, and 1/4 cup brown sugar, and a pinch of salt (to taste).   In a separate bowl beat 2 eggs slightly, until the yolks are broken, mix in 1 1/3 cups of unsweetened evaporated milk, or heavy cream (the difference will be in the final product. The cream gives a smoother, denser, and richer pie.) Mix well, pour into unbaked pie crust.  Bake in a hot oven (425 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30-45 minutes (check often after the 25 minute mark) until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.   Remove from oven, and cool.

Optional: to make the pie even richer, and darker in color, add a tablespoon of dark molasses.

Winter squash to use, include: Butternut, Blue Hubbard, Turban, Long Island Cheese, Kabocha, Sweet Dumpling,  Rouge Vif d’Etampes, Sweet Meat, White Pumpkin, Banana, Carnival, Delicata, Red Kuri, Buttercup (to name a few, this list is not complete).

Why stick with tired old pumpkin pie, when you can create a pie from any of the winter squashes?

 

Country Life, continued

Honor boxes are great.  In the summer I visit a small little honor farm that has fantastic, fresh vegetables. The farm has been in existence since the 1920’s, by one family. I find it quaint. The quality is great — although, you have to expect a few earwigs, and the occasional baby slug, in the mix. The leaves might not be perfect (a few holes chewed through by some errant bug). But, what a bargain. I can’t eat $20 of vegetables in a week.  Cabbage, kale, collard greens, lettuces, squash, corn, beans, carrots, potatoes — come through from early summer to early autumn. vege honor farmvege honor farm 2

I place my money under a chunk of wood, and serve myself.  It’s absolutely why I love living out of the city.  There are a lot of honor boxes and little farm stands. There are even a few “pick it yourself” farms.  You go out into the field, and select the foods, and load up a basket.  Can’t get any fresher than that!

There is an honor honey shack, where I buy a glass quart jar of the amber gold, and a dairy farm that has a regular old refrigerator — full of fresh milk — sitting on a covered deck. (You put the money on the door shelf.)

There are cutting flower farms, too.

It is pleasant to take a drive, through the back roads, and frequenting these places.

 

Country Life

eggs signIt is getting to be that time of year again.  I think I look forward to the coming of Spring and Summer just as excitedly as I used to as a child.   Only my reasons have changed. As a kid, I would look forward to sleeping in, and long lazy hot days.

Now, giddy, I anticipate the honor farm’s return.  In the area I live, which is quasi-rural, driving the back roads you’ll see signs that announce that eggs are for sale.  The “honor box” payment system is very common around.  So, my regular weekly shopping includes stopping at a few of these rural shopping sites.   I go to the same place, usually, for eggs. It’s an amazing all freely pastured farm. Chickens hatch and raise their chicks, and everywhere there are chickens milling about.   It’s quaint.   The honor box that I stop at is simple, and you stuff your money down a little wooden slot.  egg honor boxThe eggs are fresh, the cartons are recycled (and I bring back my used cartons).   It’s pleasant.

I used to raise chickens, and have chickens, and nightly close them into their coop. Every morning let them out, and routinely clean out the coop. Uggh.  I have one of my original 25 left.  (I call her “survivor”.)

After years of struggling to protect chickens from neighborhood dogs, and marauding raccoons, foxes, eagles, coyotes, and whatever else, I’m tired of it.  But, there is no way I could go back to the big corporate egg farmed eggs.   (They have no taste! They have been in cold storage for half-a-year, or more.   Yuck.)

I also, use a lot of eggs — and try several egg recipes each week (for my “someday” book Too Many Eggs, it’s at 400 pages, now, and still growing).  I like to help support a guy who is, clearly, crazy about chickens.

egg farm

the egg farmer walking down his driveway

Rooster Got to the Egg and Other Yolks

One thing you’ll never see from a commercially produced egg is a “rooster spot” (aka meat spot). The scanning, washing, sorting, and weighing of eggs at commercial factories toss them aside for industrial cooking and baking (along with double yolks, and the extra small eggs).   With a fresh chicken egg, and especially young chickens — laying their first year — you will run into it a lot.red spot on egg  The old wives tale version of it was “that’s what the rooster contributed”. It’s not true. It’s just a slight malfunction in the egg creation process.   The little blood spot doesn’t flavor the egg, nor make it unsafe to eat.  Most people just take out the red spot with the tip of a knife.   Some people just cook the egg, and ignore it.  There are others that throw out the egg (an unnecessary reaction).

Most chickens will, eventually, stop throwing an off egg. But there are always mistakes that happen in the process. Some eggs will have double, triple, or more yolks (even if fertilized double chicks don’t develop, or survive). There are eggs with all egg white (often very small) called “wind eggs” or “fart eggs”.  And, depending on the chicken’s diet, egg yolk color will vary.  When chickens eat a great deal of green vegetable matter (they love to eat grass and weeds, and anything in your garden) and that will cause the egg yolks to have a brighter, deeper orange/yellow color.

Commercial eggs, by comparison, are often “colored” by use of annatto in the feed  (it’s not disclosed as the FDA has certified it as “exempt from certification” and considered natural).  Many people have sensitivities to annatto. People with nut and peanut allergies often react to it unfavorably. There has not been a widespread study about it. It’s just added to the chicken feed, colors the eggs, and that’s that.  Buyer beware, I guess.

But, people with a sensitivity to chicken eggs, might want to make sure the allergic reaction isn’t to annatto, instead of eggs.

the difference in egg color is stunning. Which one is the "standard" store-purchased egg, and which is the backyard chicken egg. Can you tell?

variations in egg yolk color