Some of you might remember “The Incredible, Edible Egg,” a marketing slogan created for the American Egg Board back in the 70s to help consumers discover the value of eggs. Now more than ever the jingle still holds true, especially as protein rich diets continue to dominate nutrition chatter and we look to more sustainable methods of food production. This March our friends at Island Grown Schools (IGS) are highlighting eggs as their Harvest of the Month and we couldn’t be happier to help them celebrate this incredible, edible superfood.
I’ve always loved eggs but my affinity has grown even deeper over time. About fifteen years ago our family was inspired to keep chickens so we could be guaranteed the freshest eggs available. Surprisingly, chickens are relatively easy to care for, as long as you have the space and equipment–and aren’t too afraid to get up close and personal with those fine, feathered friends. We assure you, it’s worth it for the eggs.
Keeping chickens has helped us eliminate scraps and they produce a natural fertilizer which is a plus for our compost. Additionally, we get to enjoy the peacefulness of the animals on our property and above all the eggs, you really can’t beat a fresh egg with that vibrant, orange yolk. Our neighbors love it too, whenever we’re out of town they’re quick to “chicken sit” so they can yield the eggs themselves, it’s a win-win for the neighborhood.
We all know eggs pack a lot of protein, but they’re also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A and B-12, riboflavin, phosphorus, and selenium. In addition to being nutritious, they’re tasty too, and oh so versatile. I start most days with a soft boiled egg over greens with a pinch of sea salt and a teaspoon of flax or olive oil. If it doesn’t make it into my breakfast it makes it into my salad for lunch, sometimes both. A hard boiled egg is a great snack on the go and sometimes I’ll even add an egg to my soup for added richness and texture. My teenage son Miles loves eggs too, he’ll add them on top of his burgers for extra protein and flavor.
It seems everyone has their own strategy when it comes to enjoying eggs, and we don’t discriminate. Our friends at IGS suggest a six-minute boiled egg for the perfect salad topping, and veggie loaded frittatas for a quick breakfast or dinner. They also praise salt cured egg yolks (see recipe below), an easy preparation that can add an incredible umami flavor and a bright dash of color to virtually any dish. By simply covering yolks in a salt mixture to draw out the moisture you can transform its flavor and texture, similar to curing meat and fish. Once the yolk is cured and hardened it can be grated or shaved on to onto pasta, salad, crostini, or anything else you might top with parmesan cheese.
Luckily for those on Martha’s Vineyard (even those of you without your own chickens) there’s access to local, farm fresh eggs throughout the year. The Farm Institute in Katama produces a total of about 80,000 eggs a year!
You can also find fresh eggs (depending on seasonality and availability) at Ghost Island Farm, Grey Barn Farm, Morning Glory Farm, Mermaid Farm, and North Tabor Farm, and at Cronig’s Market and Tisbury Farm Market. Here’s a tip from IGS: if fresh eggs are unwashed, they retain a special protective coating on the shell, and you can store on the counter for up to two weeks. Be sure to wash eggs before you use them. Washed eggs must be kept in the fridge. Locally-grown farm eggs can cost about $6/dozen, but at 50 cents per egg, they are one of the most affordable sources of Island-grown protein.
Cured Egg Yolks (Next time your recipe calls for just egg whites – save the yolks!)
4 large local egg yolks
1 ¾ cup Kosher salt
1 ½ cup sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the salt and sugar in a medium bowl and mix well. Spread ½ of the mixture in a small glass baking dish.
Using the back of a spoon, make 4 evenly spaced indentations into the salt mixture. Sprinkle some pepper into each indentation. Carefully place the egg yolks in each of the indentations making sure no egg is sitting directly on the glass. Gently cover yolks completely with the remaining salt mixture. Seal lid on glass baking dish or tightly cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 4 days.
Preheat oven to 150/170 degrees F (whatever the lowest setting is on your oven). Remove egg yolks from the salt mixture. The yolks should now have a gummy-like texture. Gently brush the salt mixture off each yolk and carefully rinse in cold water to remove excess salt. Discard remaining salt mixture.
Place yolks on a cooling rack (sprayed with non-stick spray) on top of a cookie sheet and bake for 1.5 – 2 hours until yolks are firm through. Turn off oven and let yolks remain in the oven until completely cooled. Store yolks in the fridge in an airtight container.
Randi Baird is a founding member and president of Island Grown Initiative’s Board of Directors and has long been committed to promoting local, sustainable food choices on Martha’s Vineyard.