The Downside of Really Fresh, Local Eggs

You knew that there would be a downside to all of this eating local stuff, didn’t you?

And there is.

The big one I remembered this afternoon, as I was making lunch for myself was the fact that it is nearly impossible to make pretty devilled eggs from extremely fresh, pastured eggs.

As you can see from the photograph above–they turn out pockmarked, unsightly and just plain old ugly.

Trying in vain to peel the two eggs I had decided to devil for my lunch, with shaking fingers, I started to laugh, remembering my Grandma’s battles with her fresh boiled eggs, in an attempt to make devilled eggs that didn’t look like they suffered from a dread disease.

She figured out a solution, of course. If she knew she was going to make devilled eggs for a certain day, like say, the Fourth of July, she would set aside two dozen eggs a week or so in advance to age. Older eggs peel more easily, in large part, because the air pocket in the eggs grows larger. The membrane of the egg doesn’t cling as tightly, either, allowing a nimble-fingered cook to peel up a well-crackled shell by picking at a bit of membrane and zipping everything off in two or three sweeps.

But, if Grandma just happened to decide to make devilled eggs because she wanted some, well, there was no power on earth that would make those eggs look good. They always tasted great, mind you, but they never looked like anything one would find in a magazine. (I am very grateful that Martha Stewart was not big when Grandma was alive, as I suspect Grandma would have been made to feel very inadequate by all of Martha’s very decorative “good things” in her books and magazines.) She would painstakingly peel the eggs, watching bits of eggwhite cling tightly to the shell and sigh as she tossed them in the composting bucket. The resulting eggs always looked like craggy moonscapes or the skin of a smallpox survivor, and she would grit her teeth, and move on.

Sometimes, the whites would end up looking so ugly that Grandma would just throw up her hands and make egg salad instead, but usually, she just moved on and made devilled eggs as if nothing was wrong. When she’d put the platter down on the table for lunch or supper, Grandpa and Uncle John would always tease her about her “special eggs,” but it never stopped any of us from cleaning the plate up in one sitting.

So, what did I do with my ugly eggs today?

I made devilled eggs–two of them. Making two devilled eggs is really not much worth the trouble, but I had a hankering for them. So, I made them, and sat down and ate them with a butterhead lettuce salad–all local and organic–for lunch.

They were good, even if they did look disreputable.

21 Comments

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  1. I also get very fresh eggs from a friend. And YAY! her chickens have started laying again. Sometimes (but by no means all the time), salting the water helps, or using one of those egg-pokey thingies ( http://fantes.com/images/14445-1egg_utensils.jpg )make the eggs easier to peel.

    I love deviled eggs – and now I’m hungry for them.

    Comment by Kymster — May 31, 2006 #

  2. Have you tried dropping them into ice water for a few seconds? (I haven’t tried it myself, but it helps with peeling many other things.)

    Comment by Sterno — May 31, 2006 #

  3. i had very good luck making a large number of beautiful deviled eggs by following the instructions on deviledeggs.com:

    cover the pot and bring the eggs to a boil, take the pot off the heat, let them sit for 20 minutes. (the website recommends 30, minutes, but i found that this made for disgusting sulpheric eggs.) while they’re sitting get a very very large bowl ready, fill it with ice. lots of ice. and a little cold water as well. the mixture of a lot of ice and a little water will very quickly turn into icy water if you’re making a whole carton of eggs, and starting with icy water (rather than slightly watery ice) gives you a result of warmish water, which will not bring you the results you desire. i found five trays of ice to be sufficient.

    when the eggs are done, lift them out of the pot with some sort of ladle that lets the hot water drain out, and immediately plunge them into the bowl of slightly watery ice. let them sit until they are completely cold, adding more ice as needed.

    then take each one out, crack the shell all over and then very very gently roll it between your hands a couple times, then return it to the icy water.

    wait a bit longer (10-15 minutes), then peel gently under running cold water.

    doing a batch of fresh eggs with any deviation from this made the eggs very difficult to peel, but using this method exactly, i only ruined an egg or two per carton of 18.

    Comment by eso — May 31, 2006 #

  4. (the eggs i used were not as fresh as yours, but still far too fresh by deviled egg standards.)

    Comment by eso — May 31, 2006 #

  5. Ice water sometimes helps with really super fresh eggs, but for just two devilled eggs for lunch–I am not gonna mess with that!

    Eso–That sounds like a good idea, if a lot of trouble! I will have to try it when I want to make devilled eggs and haven’t set my dozen aside for a week or so to “age” properly!

    I just thought it was funny because the making of devilled eggs that don’t look diseased is the -only- downside I have ever found to super-fresh eggs from pastured hens. The flavor is superior, their cooking qualities are fantastic and their nutritional value is through the roof.

    So, I thought it would be amusing to blog about the downside to the whole idea of local eggs.

    It isn’t much of a downside, though….

    Comment by Barbara — May 31, 2006 #

  6. Hello – I’ve been enjoying your wonderful blog for some time now (via Elise at Simply Recipies.com).

    I just went through this boiled-egg conundrum, too – and found excellent information from (who else?) Julia Child in her classic From Julia Child’s kitchen. In this tome, she has 3 pages devoted to hard-boiled eggs, including how to make lovely devilled egs with fresh eggs. I can’t go into all the information she shares (she explains the physiology of the egg quite thoroughly!) – but suffice to say the cold-water bath at the end works (though she recommends just plopping them in cold water, and peeling immediately in the cold water, which works great), and also poking a small hole in the big end of the egg before boiling. Works like a charm!

    Comment by Roseann at ThreeMartiniLunch — June 1, 2006 #

  7. for me even the iced water doesn’t help with the really fresh ‘uns. No problem – who cares what they look like, they taste so marvellous.

    Comment by sam — June 1, 2006 #

  8. I have to admit, I don’t like regular egg salad….so what I always do when my eggs don’t turn out nice is make deviled egg salad. Works for me. (And I don’t like regular mayo-y potato salad too, but I love mayo…go figure.)

    Comment by JJ — June 1, 2006 #

  9. Yup, I learned the same lesson myself last week when I grabbed the fresh CSA eggs instead of the Giant Eagle browns that had been sitting in there for about 3 weeks without being used. I knew in the back of my head that fresh eggs don’t hard boil well..Oh well, it still made a pretty egg salad (my backup plan when they peeled ugly).

    Comment by Columbus Foodie — June 2, 2006 #

  10. I am not surprised that St. Julia would have a solution, Roseann. And I am glad to hear from you, and am glad that you are keeping up with my blog. I am still very grateful for Elise having featured my blog –I have gotten many new readers that way, who are quite loyal, intelligent and thoughtful. (Actually, I love the fact that everyone who posts a comment here is thoughtful and intelligent. And nice, too. Everytime I feel myself getting too cynical about people, I come here, and find someone else saying something thoughtful and nice, and I go, “Wow–people are cool!”)

    Thanks for posting–when I actually do a dozen devilled eggs, I will try all of these great new tips!

    JJ–I am not fond of “regular” egg saland myself–I always make mine taste like devilled eggs. Which, for me, often means that I add horseradish! Mmmm.

    My Mom’s potato salad is the best. Sometime this summer, I am going to go to her house, or have her come here, and she is going to make it and I am going to document it with words and pictures, because dammit, that is her bestest ever dish.

    I know her secret, but I still want to photograph -her- doing it. There is mayo in it–and only one brand will do–and mustard, salt and pepper, and her secret ingredient, which makes the dressing for potato salad snap and sing. No sugar, though–I don’t like it when it is sweet.

    It is great stuff–thanks for reminding me so I can set it up. She won’t want her face on the blog, most likely, but darnnit, I can get her hands on camera at least!

    CF–even if the eggs didn’t turn out pretty, didn’t they -taste- fantastic? That is the thing–really fresh pastured eggs make the best boiled eggs, devilled eggs and egg salad, as well as the best fried eggs, scrambled eggs, egg hash, poached eggs, eggs benedict, and omelettes. Damned, but they are good.

    If I have just grocery store eggs, I hardly eat them. I just use them as ingredients in baking. But now that I buy real eggs–damn–I am eating them all the time! (Maybe I should get my cholesterol checked?)

    Comment by Barbara — June 2, 2006 #

  11. Thanks for the welcome, Barbara – regarding your comment about cholesterol concerns because of eating eggs a lot – check out the interesting website of the non-profit Weston Price Foundation (http://www.westonpricefoundation.org)
    for some interesting science information on the health benefits of organic whole animal fats.

    Good, fresh, whole eggs are actually called by many “the perfect food” because they contain important nutrients and enzymes for digesting them in the human body, including an important balance for “good” cholesterol processing.

    It’s only when we start monkeywrenching foods that they get nasty for us – hydrogenated oils, 2% milk, bio-engineered oils (canola is actually from engineered rape, a weed, which is pretty toxic), even unfermented soy products!

    I recently wrote on my blog about lard, too (organic) – and how natural fats have components our bodies need.

    It’s moderation and exercise that we need, not less fat.

    Cheers and bon appetite!

    Comment by Roseann at ThreeMartiniLunch — June 6, 2006 #

  12. Hey again, Roseann.

    You know, I am pretty sceptical of all the “fat is bad” stuff out in the world. Not completely skeptical, but pretty skeptical.

    Because, well, I have this feeling that if we exercised more and ate a bit less, and left off with a lot of processed foods with additives, we’d probably be healthier. And that is how I try to eat and live myself, so I only worry a bit now and again about that cholesterol thang.

    Cheers back atcha!

    Comment by Barbara — June 7, 2006 #

  13. Read Adele Davis’s Let’s Get Well – probably out of print for common sense nutrition.

    NOW “they” are saying get in the sun, we need more D than even the feds are saying. Read Reader’s Digest June 2006. It even reduces chlorestrol! and keeps you from getting many cancers. I guess the big drug company’s weren’t looking when that got printed. Drs. used to recommend giving cod liver oil (A&D) to kids many years ago. It wasn’t flavored then and kids cried when they took it, sucked it into their lungs and got aspiration pneumonia. But kids now get leukemia. Kids are more deficient in A than any age group. D is need to absorb the A ( in egg yolks)and calcium, that’s why they put in it milk.

    About boiling and peeling farm fresh eggs- try boiling the water first and dropping the eggs in slowly. I never have trouble peeling them

    Comment by Phyllis Poole — September 13, 2007 #

  14. I sometimes have good luck with boiled eggs by putting a tablespoon of salt in the water. After they are done I run them under cold water. Most of the time they peel real easy.
    C E G

    Comment by C E Gaston, LCCN — December 12, 2007 #

  15. Several years ago I had a sandwich shop, and we used about 30 dozen eggs a week, half for egg salad and half for devilled eggs. One day we couldn’t get the shells off the eggs because the whites were like colorless jello and just crumbled away, but the yolks were hard cooked. I thought someone had put soap or something in the water, so we cooked another batch. Same thing happened. I called the egg man, and he was very apologetic, and sent us another case of eggs immediately. He said the egg farm had left out one single ingredient from the chicken feed, and the proteins were incomplete, so they wouldn’t set when cooked!

    Comment by iona Ali — April 1, 2008 #

  16. I have 6 rhode island reds. I get about 3 dozen eggs a week, and have tried about every thing Ive found on the web! including the methods described here. sometimes I have 4 pots going at once in my experiments. I even waited 2 weeks, gave the eggs to a friend who pickels and they looked like the pot marked eggs in the picture. I have since started dating the cartons and will try boiling at three weeks.

    Comment by dan howard — February 4, 2009 #

  17. Rhode Island Reds are among my favorite chickens, Dan. The ones Grandma had were always very sweet tempered and gave a ton of eggs–and I always thought they had really pretty feathers. They were just pretty chickens in general.

    As I said, Grandma just had ugly deviled eggs in the end, and just dealt with it. They tasted so good that no one really gave a hoot, but it still bugged her a little bit.

    For the record, I have no other methods to try and make pretty boiled eggs from really fresh eggs laid by well-cared for chickens–I just don’t really make deviled eggs for instances where it matters what they look like.

    And, I do love egg salad, so I make that a lot, too.

    Comment by Barbara — February 4, 2009 #

  18. Barbera, Rhoge Island Reds are great! They are very harty. We ordered 6 cute little chicks in the spring and still have them all. I dont live in the country, my yard is under an acre. I think eveyone should have a couple chickens. If we had the same problem with chickens that we now have with cats and dogs no one would be hungry They are easy to take care of and in most citys there are no laws against owning less than a dosen hens. We had our first garden last summer and it went ok. We learned alot and are looking forward to this spring when we can try again. We are “getting back to the land!” I found your web site yesterday, and enjoy it very much. Thank you for taking the time to share so much.

    Comment by dan howard — February 5, 2009 #

  19. Dan, I keep threatening to get some chickens–but so far, Zak (my husband, who agrees with me on nearly everything) has not been convinced. I love having chickens around–and ducks, too, now that I think of it.

    It was my job to take care of the fowl at Grandma’s farm, and I loved it. Grandma discovered that when I sang to the chickens, which I did while cleaning the coop, feeding and watering them and gathering eggs, they gave more eggs….Grandpa teased me about it until Grandma showed him the numbers of eggs per week, and the weeks I was there, and singing and the weeks I wasn’t. Accounting for differences in season, they still gave about 5-8 percent more eggs when I sang to them.

    Grandpa, ever the pragmatist, said, “Whatever works. If we still had milk cows, I’d have her sing to them, too.”

    ;-)

    I’m glad you like the site–I just got back to writing on it, so it is good to have encouragement.

    Comment by Barbara — February 5, 2009 #

  20. Barbara,to say my wife,Ankha,was reluctant would be an understatement! It all started when she went to boil eggs for a salad and there were none. I had made a large omelette the day before and egg salad for lunch. She couldnt believe I had eaten a dosen eggs. I do eat a lot of eggs but it was rare to eat that many. As a joke I sugested we get a few chickens. She laughed. I spent the afternoon reading about chickens via the information super highway. I shared all that I had learned with her that night and sugested we get rhode island reds. She said no. I put a picture of six cute little chicks as the background picture on our computer and our four year old thought they were just the cutest things. I then spent the next few weeks eating every egg she put in the fridge and sending her cute pictures of baby chicks. She finally folded but said she wasnt taking care of them… Nobody spent as much time with those chicks as Ankha did, she loves them. We are getting six more in the spring! I have heard Emily singing to them, maybe thats why we get so many eggs. Do ducks and chickens get along well? Baby ducks are so cute!

    Comment by Dan Howard — February 6, 2009 #

  21. Yes Dan, Your Reds will get along with most barnyard animals. During the day we have them out with goats, geese,(check your breed with geese, some types can’t even get along with themselves.)and ducks. Our Reds roost alone at night, but the ducks like to be free to wander around. (we live in a warm climate) Be sure to give the ducks a little pool at least–they’ll love you forever! Good luck! Judi

    Comment by Judi Dixon — April 4, 2009 #

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