Sunday, March 31, 2013

Using Your Eggs :: Pucker Up with Lemon Curd

In exploring other ways to use those wonderful farm fresh eggs, we made a favorite sweet treat of ours:  lemon curd.  It is a versatile dessert which can used alone with digestives or scones.  It can also be a custardy base in a fruit tart.  We've used it to fill cupcakes (made a delicious strawberry cupcake that when filled was reminiscent of strawberry lemonade.)

If you pick up a jar of lemon curd at your grocer, you'll find the list of ingredients familiar until about halfway down the list, where things like locust bean gum, "natural flavor", and yellow #5 start to show up.  I don't know about you, but i am curious to know just what makes "natural flavor" and why is it something that they need to list in quotes?  Our eggs are so wholesome that i guarantee you won't need to add any "Yellow #5" to make your homemade curd look yellow.

"What about all those laborious recipes, dirtying half the cooking implements in your kitchen," you ask.  I have a secret for you--you don't have to do all that fru fru stuff (or all those dishes!)  I mean, there's already a dirty bowl from making scones, eh?

Here's what you do:

Homemade Lemon Curd
recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa 
In a saucepan, combine

1.5 cups organic evaporated cane sugar
zest of 3 organic lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
pinch of salt
4 larger eggs

Mix all of these together over low heat until combined.  Then add

1/4 pound of unsalted butter, room temperature

Stir rather consistently, you don't have to helicopter, but you'll want to be nearby.  The mixture will start to thicken in about 10 minutes, or if you like to use a thermometer for these things, at about 160 degrees F.

At this point, you could strain it, but i find that i like those bits of lemon peel in my curd.  Also, if you keep the cooking temperature low enough, you shouldn't find curdled eggs in the finished product at all.

And why stop at lemons?  We are experimenting with oranges, limes, and up next i have plans to experiment with honey rather than sugar.

What other creative uses do you have  for citrus curd?  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Fowl Experiment

Please, don't fence me in.
Up until a couple weeks ago, we were trying to corral our ducks out in the back pastures (boy, who would have figured on them being such escape artists!)  One of our ducks was taken as vittles by some wild critter.  It was time to come up with another plan for these guys, but we weren't quite certain what.

We'd heard that ducks and chickens get along quite well, but hadn't had a lot of luck with that in the past.  Now it seemed we had no choice but to try. 

So in they went.  Kiddie pool and all.
We worried that this little dude would cause a ton of trouble with Cheevy, our drake.  So far, he's been on his best behaviour.
Teddy Crowsavelt, Resident Roo
 The ladies haven't been really impressed by Cheevy's manners.  He is a bulldog with those hens.  They look in the same direction as the hen duck, and Cheevy's racing toward them, biting their feathers.  Seems as though we picked the perfect name for him when we named him "Mis(ter) Chevious".  We've had to break up a scuffle or two, but for the most part, it's gone better than we expected.

Leaving you with some more pictures of the poultry pasture and some of the hens.
Sun's out, so i am going to take this break in the rain showers to tackle the daily chores out there.

Honey Boo Boo and her sissy getting out of Cheevy's way

Caroline.  She lays the green eggs in your cartons.

Kathleen (Teddy's dame), Meringue, and Honey Boo Boo

Bird's eye view of life in the Poultry Pasture
Have you ever raised mixed poultry before?  How did it turn out?  Do you have any suggestions for keeping the peace (besides a cardboard cutout of Marshall Dillon)?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Using Your Eggs :: Making Mayo

Basil Garlic Mayo with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

One of the ways to reduce your food bill and guarantee nutritious food for your family is to make as much of your own frequently used food items as you can from wholesome ingredients you already have around your home.

Mayonnaise is a popular condiment that is simple to make, but unfortunately has been shrouded in so much mystery that it seems easier to buy it from the local one stop shop, even better in "family size" so that the customer "gets a good deal". 

Can you believe it's as easy as slowly mixing drops of oil with an egg yolk until a sauce is made?

Did you know that the US FDA regulates mayo?  In those plastic jars you'll find approved amounts of various oils, egg or egg yolk, vinegar, and spices, which are coincidentally the same ingredients in a bottle of salad dressing, just in different ratios.  The eggs are pasteurized, thereby killing all the good stuff with the bad, because they are likely produced by factory chickens, where incidence of disease runs high.  The oil used is typically derived of the soy bean plant, which is the most genetically modified crop in the country.  The vinegar is derived most likely from a process using distilled alcohol.  If we're talking "low-fat" versions, egg yolks are removed, replaced with egg whites and something called "modified food starches" that act as thickening agents.  And we haven't even covered the shelf stablizers and preservatives they add.  Even "organic" or "natural" versions can still contain ingredients that really aren't necessary for a wholesome mayo.

A fresh, flavourful mayo can be made using 4 ingredients, a bowl, and a handheld beater or a whisk and an arm of steel.

The recipe is as simple as remembering that one egg yolk accepts up to one cup of oil to make mayo.  This 1:1 ratio will yield about a pint of mayo.  If you are in need of a bulk quantity, quadrupling this ratio yields about a quart.  Just make sure you can use it all in about 3 days.

Here's the deal-i-oh:

Place one egg yolk in a bowl.  Add a drop of lemon juice to help with stabilizing.  Then slowly add two to three drops of oil at a time (oils like olive or walnut pack even more nutrition) while continuously mixing it together with the yolk.  This will slowly evolve into a thickened sauce, and with the addition of more oil, over time, you'll get the consistency of mayo from a jar.  It will look very different however, because you have used wholesome, fresh, and nutritious ingredients.  You can add up to one cup of oil, but more than that will break the emulsion and the magic will be gone. You'll also need to add a little lemon juice--make sure you start with small quantities (adding a teaspoon at a time, unless your goal is to have lemon-flavoured mayo) and a pinch of salt.

Speaking of taste buds, at this point you can add a minced clove or two of garlic and any kinds of herbs--heck, you could live a little and add saffron or tumeric (which are forbidden in trade mayos because it gives the appearance of added extra yolks.  Eek! The horror!)

What to do with those leftover egg whites?  They can actually be frozen for up to 3 months.  Most macaroon recipes need 3. :)

Hoping you will give this recipe a try.  Just another way to incorporate healthy vitamins and fats into our diets.