Spring is an exciting time of year for poultry enthusiasts. The weather begins to warm, the sun shines longer, and the hens think everything’s just right. It’s the season when all the hard work of keeping our flocks safe and comfortable through the cold winter is rewarded. One happy day we find the first warm, beautiful egg resting in the nest box. And then we find another, and another, and then four more, until we’re bringing in eggs by the basketful!
With the proper nutrition, a faithful laying hen in her prime can produce anywhere between 150 and 300 eggs in one year (depending on breed), and a number of those will be concentrated in the spring rush. Each of these eggs is a powerhouse, delivering complex nutrition to our bodies. They’re loaded with healthful vitamins, such as vitamins A, B12, and D, and they’re also rich in minerals, such as iron and zinc. Eggs are low in calories, yet provide ideal protein to fuel you for a full day’s work. They’re easy to cook, too! Trouble is, when I’m in the middle of the spring abundance, I sometimes need fresh inspiration for what to do with all those eggs. If you find yourself in the same pickle, here are a few of my go-to methods for using and preserving extra eggs, plus some of my favorite egg-filled recipes. Happy spring!
Eggs Every Which Way
I love the simplicity of cooking fried eggs. My family eats fried eggs for breakfast nearly every morning. Most of us are convinced that the only proper way to fix a fried egg is cooked hard, with absolutely nothing runny. But, every once in a while, I’ll get a little wild and fix an over-easy egg. Simple fried eggs, cooked how you desire, can then be spiced up with hot pepper sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, shredded cheese, or fresh cilantro leaves straight from the garden.
Scrambled eggs are an easy way to cook for a crowd. My grandad’s scrambled eggs are legendary in our family, and I’m privileged that he’s taught the art to his grandkids. Grandad’s eggs are light and fluffy, consistently scrambled to perfection. Part of the secret is to cook them low and slow, so the eggs cook through, but aren’t hard or rubbery.
To make great scrambled eggs, beat eggs well, adding a small amount of milk or water. Add salt and pepper, or hot sauce, to taste. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the eggs, and constantly scrape the bottom of the skillet in circles with a spatula or cooking fork as the eggs cook. For quite some time it may seem like nothing’s happening, but then the eggs will begin to thicken into a creamy, almost gravy-like consistency. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the eggs are done to your liking, which is a little moist at Grandad’s house. They’re absolutely delicious, and you can use up a lot of eggs when you scramble them for a crowd. Count on about two eggs per person. Scrambled eggs can be livened up with many different mix-ins, including fried potatoes, cottage cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, sautéed peppers, onions, mushrooms, hot peppers, green onions, and chives.
Boiled eggs are an easy snack. They can be incorporated into egg salad, stuffed with a variety of fillings, or sliced for a salad topping.
After your family eats their fill of egg dishes, you may want to preserve some of spring’s bounty for later use. Several options for keeping eggs include freezing, freeze-drying (raw or cooked), pickling, and water-glassing (storing whole, uncracked eggs in a lime-water solution). These methods will easily keep eggs preserved for months, or even years, so you’ll be ready when your hens start to slow down in fall.
Aunt Leanne’s Breakfast Soufflé
This soufflé can be prepared the night before, and then covered and refrigerated until ready to bake the next morning. It’s been a favorite in our family for years.
Yield: 1 soufflé.
- 9 eggs, beaten
- 3 cups milk
- 1-1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 pounds bulk sausage, browned and drained
- 3 slices bread, torn or sliced into cubes
- 1-1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In a large bowl, beat together eggs, milk, dry mustard, and salt. Set aside.
- Layer sausage, bread, and cheese in a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour egg mixture over top. Bake for 1 hour.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
- 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
- 1 cup diced ham
- 2 to 3 cups fresh spinach or kale, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 to 8 tortillas
- 6 eggs, scrambled to your taste
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Salsa (optional)
- In a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms. Cook until onions are soft. Add diced ham. Once ham is hot, add spinach or kale, and stir until greens wilt. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat; set aside.
- In a small skillet, melt remaining tablespoon butter over medium heat. Place 1 tortilla in skillet. Add a spoonful of spinach and ham mixture to one half of tortilla. Top with spoonful of scrambled eggs, and sprinkle with cheese. Fold tortilla over, and cook on both sides until outside is crisp and cheese is melted. Cut into wedges. Serve with salsa, if desired.
Chile Relleno Bake
This warm and cheesy bake can be served as a side dish or as a meatless entree. We double the recipe for a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup diced hot peppers, canned or fresh and sautéed
- 2 cups (1/2 pound) shredded cheddar cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking dish; set aside.
- Blend eggs, flour, salt, and milk in a large bowl.
- Layer peppers and cheese in greased baking dish. Pour egg mixture evenly over top. Bake 45 to 50 minutes. Serve warm.
Homemade Angel Food Cake
Spring egg season is an exciting time around our home, and tradition makes it all the more special. As a kid, I’d get excited when we had an abundance of eggs, because I knew my mom would make her special dessert: a light, fluffy angel food cake with 12 egg whites in it! I was a bit appalled when I first witnessed someone make angel food cake from a boxed mix. To me, even today, angel food cake has to be made from scratch. It’s the symbol of having an influx of eggs — something we’d wait for and dream about.
After making this light and delectable cake, the 12 egg yolks can be added to scrambled eggs, used to make flavorful lemon curd (see recipe at right), or whipped into an egg wash to brush over homemade bread before baking.
Yield: 1 cake.
- 12 egg whites
- 1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup sifted cake flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and salt. Beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Sprinkle flour over egg mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, carefully folding flour in to maintain the fluff of the egg whites. Fold in vanilla.
- Pour batter into ungreased 10-inch tube pan, spreading evenly. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched lightly. Remove from oven, and then invert pan. Leave to cool for 40 minutes.
- Loosen cake from sides of pan, and then carefully remove cake from pan. Serve cake topped with Luscious Lemon Curd, berry sauce, or whipped cream, if desired.
Luscious Lemon Curd
Yield: 1-1/4 cups.
- 4 egg yolks
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- Whisk all ingredients except butter together in the top of a double boiler or heatproof bowl. Set double boiler or bowl over a pot filled with 1 to 2 inches of water, and bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Whisk the lemon mixture constantly until blended and thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until lemon mixture is smooth.
- Pour lemon mixture into a bowl or jar, and cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap into the surface of the lemon curd to prevent a skim forming. Cool before serving.
Thankfully, my little flock is consistent about laying in the provided areas, but some hens get a little sneaky about hiding their eggs. You know what that means: We find corners and divots around the barn filled with eggs where Henny Penny and her crew have set up housekeeping! When you discover a cache of eggs and wonder if they’re still fresh for eating, you can perform a quick test to find out. Carefully slip each egg into a container of water. If an egg tilts up toward the surface or floats to the top, it’s old. If it sinks to the bottom, it’s fresh. I also like to use the simple, safe habit of cracking each egg I use into a small bowl before adding it to a recipe. This makes it easy to inspect for any signs of spoilage. Ideally, it’s best to collect eggs when they’ve been freshly laid in a clean area, and then store them unwashed. They’ll keep longer this way—at least 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.
Maggie anticipates watching pullets from last spring become star layers this year. When she’s not collecting eggs, you may find her enjoying her cutting garden, cooking with farm-fresh ingredients, or working with her brothers, who make handcrafted tools. See their work at Lucas Forge and Wolf Valley Forge.
Ready to start your own flock? Whether you’re interested in raising poultry for the first time or already have a bit of experience, you won’t want to miss our online “Poultry 101” course! We’re covering all the essentials, including basic considerations (flock size, space, costs, local ordinances, choosing the right breed, etc.), nutrition basics, enclosure and fencing options, common health and behavioral issues, and so much more. Learn more at Mother Earth News Fair.