Once a year, between about Valentine’s Day and all the way through March and April, the inevitable happens: every hen in the henhouse lays an egg every single day. Sometimes we get so many eggs, I think the roosters must be laying too!
One has to keep a few too many hens to get plenty of eggs during the winter months when they don’t lay as heavily. Plus we tend to lose more birds in the winter months to predators, so we don’t want to sell ourselves short. Of course, many of the hens we hatched ourselves were never destined to be production layers and as the weather warms, on days when I’m able, I’ve been thinning the herd by a few a week. It pains me to butcher the hens, but people don’t want to buy non-production layers, so I have little choice.
On a good note, there’s plenty of chicken available right now! Some of the hens are slightly past the age of being tender, so I’ve been filleting out the breast meat for ourselves (and it is EL PRIMO!) and boiling the rest down for dog food or pressure-cooking it for soups, pies and fillings. Except for the breasts, there’s not much meat on a standard hen anyway. But they’ve been eating lots of grains all winter and there’s plenty of fat. I ended up with a full quart of rendered fat from the last 2 hens I butchered. (More about how strongly we feel about consuming at least SOME animal fats in later posts.) I’ve also been putting back a quart of stock from each hen.
Right now, we’re getting about 2 dozen eggs a day. Luckily, the weather is warm enough I can load up the incubator once a month. That wipes out about 4 dozen. As for the rest, an angel food cake and a batch of egg noodles wipe out another dozen. The angel food cakes are going into the freezer for the rest of the year and the dried egg noodles are going into the pantry for convenient meals later.
The dogs and cats are also getting their share and we’re eating as many eggs as we can stand – hard-boiled, in egg salad and in tuna salad. There’s a Russian radish and egg salad I’m quite fond of, and I’m planning on making an asparagus quiche this weekend. And let’s not forget fresh mayo for sandwiches, homemade salad dressings and Hollandaise sauce! When the chicklings hatch, I’ll be able to scramble some eggs every day for them as well. Some of the heartiest birds I ever raised were started on scrambled eggs, cornmeal and shredded pumpkin.
If your homestead is as abundant as mine and you’re in the same boat with me, here are a few recipes:
Mile High Angel Food Cake
(recipe adapted from Marcia Adams “Cooking from Quilt Country”)
1 ½ cups egg whites (11-14), room temp
1 1/8 cup cake flour*
1 ¾ cups sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Preheat oven to 375 (350 if using coated pan).
Sift the flour and ¾ cup of the sugar together 5 times. (I actually just whisk it thoroughly.)
Add the salt to the egg whites and beat until foamy on medium speed. Sprinkle in the tartar and extracts. Continue beating until the whites are stiff and can stand in peaks, about 3 minutes.
Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and add the 1 cup of sugar, a tablespoon at a time. Beat only until sugar is blended, about 1 ½ minutes.
Turn mixer to low and sprinkle in the flour/sugar mixture. Beat only enough to blend, about 1 ½ minutes. (Use a spoon to make sure flour is not on bottom of bowl!)
Pour batter into an ungreased tube pan and draw a thin spatula or knife around the pan in a circular motion 3 times. Bake for 35 minutes (coated pan) or until the cake is golden brown. Turn off the oven and leave cake in oven for 5 minutes more. Allow cake to cool about an hour before removing it from pan.
*Cake Flour Substitute: 2 tablespoons corn starch in 1 cup measuring cup, fill with all-purpose flour to top. Then add an additional tablespoon each of corn starch and flour for the 1/8 cup.
4 cups bread flour
3 teaspoons salt
¼ cup oil or melted fat
1 cup egg yolks (appx.)
(however many are left from the angel food cake)
½ - ¾ cups water
(or use all egg whites instead of water)
(or use all egg whites instead of water)
Combine flour and salt in a mixer bowl. Make a well in the center and add remaining ingredients, reserving the last ¼ cup of water/egg whites until you’re sure you need it. (However, it is best to err on the side of "too wet" rather than "too dry" if using a stand mixer -- you simply cannot ADD liquid to an egg dough as easily as you can add more flour if it becomes too wet.) The dough should be smooth and silky, like bread dough. Let dough rest 45 minutes. Divide into 8 parts and form into “patties”. (If necessary, rest dough again.) Roll thru pasta press on 1st setting. Roll again on 4th or 5th setting (4th preferred for fettucine.). Hang to dry for about 24 hours. Boil in salted water or stock for 3-5 minutes.
Russian Radish and Egg Salad
1 pound spring radishes, sliced
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
½ cup plain yogurt
1 bunch green onions, chopped
Salt, pepper and fresh dill to taste
Combine all ingredients, chill and serve. I prefer all-white radishes in this (like white icicle or hailstone) as the red radishes turn the whole dish pink if you don’t eat it right away.
Curried Egg Salad
5 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped
½ cup celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons onion, minced
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup sweet mayo* (or Miracle Whip, if you must!)
2 teaspoons stone-ground mustard
1 teaspoon sweet curry (NOT optional!)
½ teaspoon celery salt (or just use salt and some celery seed)
black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (or chopped bread and butter pickles)
Mix all together, adding a little juice from the pickles or a little sugar, to taste. Delicious served on pumpernickel or rye bread, but also good on whole wheat.
*I can’t stand Miracle Glop and always make my mayonnaise fresh. Just add a little sugar to the mayo to get the same flavor without all the ingredients you can't pronounce!