I’m ready to see some green. The other night while I was starting some more seeds and caring for those that have already emerged, I glanced up at the kitty keeping me company and realized her eyes were the same green tone as the young celery. Worthy of a quick pic, a quick post, a quick share of a sneak peek at spring!
Archive for ◊ March, 2011 ◊
This week, I was struck by two moments that made me think about egg yolks. The first was a lovely salad in a nice restaurant. This very unique local restaurant continually champions local farmers and local products, and uses these in their meals to a great extent. So I was particularly surprised to note the color of the hard-boiled, halved egg on my plate. I couldn’t eat it - I realized I’d grown accustomed to our eggs and their healthy-looking, brightly-colored yolks. I used to have many egg aversions - utter nausea at the sight of a runny soft-boiled egg, distaste for other people’s scrambled eggs, complete avoidance of anything with a raw egg in it. Many of these feelings have changed a lot with using our own eggs. This egg, though, brought those aversions back to me suddenly. It was pale, kind of beige. It looked unappealing. I brought it home in a box and photographed it to show what I’m talking about. And then it went on the compost pile.
The other moment occurred the next day when I made our traditional springtime lemon curd. Lemon curd is basically a pudding made out of lemon juice, sugar, and egg yolks. I halve the sugar, at least, and increase the egg yolks and lemon. Our homemade lemon curd is the most gorgeous bright yellow. Again, I was struck by the comparison, and I took a photo to show it. Lemon juice is pale or nearly clear - all the yellow color in this recipe is provided by the egg yolks. What you’re seeing is the color of egg yolks from pastured hens fed a wide variety of foods. What this post is about is this naturally-sourced color that has gone missing from commercial foods.
When I was a kid, mustard yellow or autumn harvest gold were popular colors for kitchens, appliances, and linoleum. Probably due to this oversaturation, I remember declaring that yellow was my least favorite color, and I would never have a yellow kitchen.
I find it fascinating now that this color fad of the late ’60s and early ’70s happened to be timed to coordinate with about the time that eggs were beginning to be castigated, and healthy yellow yolks systematically eliminated from Americans’ diets. Americans were encouraged to remove and discard egg yolks and scramble the whites only (have you ever tried this? eww…), to use low-cholesterol egg “substitutes”, and to use boxed mixes for cakes, muffins, and puddings, brilliantly tinged with artificial yellow color that you mixed with zero to two pale supermarket eggs, rather than make a “high cholesterol” nourishing homemade pudding, custard, or dessert out of 6 or 8 farm eggs. Our kitchens looked bright and nutritious, but the food? Not so much.
I wish people asked themselves more often why there is any need for artificial yellow color. I mean, if it doesn’t add anything to flavor, consistency, recipe performance… why should you care if your “yellow cake” is yellow or not? The answer is, “Yellow just looks better - it’s supposed to be yellow”… and this leads to the next question of why? Why are people attracted to “golden” in their food? Why was I averse to eating the pale egg?
In my opinion, at least, the answer is that our bodies are trying to tell us what’s good for us nutritionally. Naturally occurring golden yellow is a visual signal telling us that the food contains important nutrients, like carotenoids. But we’ve allowed ourselves to be duped - we’ve taken out the natural food sources that make things yellow, and replaced them with an artificial color to fool our eyes and brains into being drawn to it because it looks like nutrition. Or, in the case of the egg straight-up itself, we’ve gotten used to the pallor and forgotten how to think about what it means. How outrageous that people have done this to themselves, and fallen for it. I wonder sometimes if part of why so many of us are driven to blog about food, to marvel at what we grow and produce ourselves, is because it is so astonishing, so difficult to assimilate, the extent of the deterioration of quality we’ve allowed in our food. Rediscovering the colors and flavors and nutrition of real food is a revelation, and shows up the sad state mainstream food is in. Check out this site, sporting a sick-looking egg, that insists color has nothing to do with nutrition, even as it discusses the fact that pale yolks are associated with feed problems. Strange disconnect, eh? And here’s info about pastured egg nutrition from a source we trust more.
Before we started keeping chickens and making sure that their diets contained enough greens, berries, bugs, and vegetables to produce nice eggs, I never thought about the color of yolks and how that affects the foods that you make out of eggs. I made lemon curd with commercial eggs, and never gave its weak pallor a thought. I actually wondered why there was such a thing as “yellow cake” and why it should need to be yellow. My first baking projects with our own eggs were almost a shock - we couldn’t stop admiring the golden color of batters and the products.
This is a really interesting link to a European egg information site. I have somewhat mixed feelings about it because if you follow the links, it’s done by a manufacturer of supplements - promoting feeding hens supplements to improve the nutrition of the egg. I agree with improving the nutrition of the egg, but I think it should be done by the vegetable-and-bug approach if possible, instead of synthesizing the nutrients. It’s not so hard to raise a pumpkin patch and some extra kale, and feed the hens from that well into or through the winter. Still, regardless, I love that European site because it talks about things that just aren’t “significant” mainstream considerations here in the U.S., like how important the color of the yolk of an egg is to your nutrition.
The maple sap is running, and we are having adventures with the various forms of maple sugar!
It’s been pretty stop-n-start for the past two weeks. For a couple days of warmer weather the sap will run, then it stops for the longer freezes again. So the batches have been smaller, and more conducive to experimenting with going beyond the maple syrup stage.
With the very first boiling down, we made maple cream. We haven’t had this since 2009, when we discovered this delicacy, and that it can be accomplished in your own kitchen. We got the temperature wrong though, and didn’t take it quite high enough, so the maple cream was runnier than last time…. no problem! That just made it easier to drizzle over things like fruit and homemade pound cake…
When you make maple cream, you take it up to a certain temperature above the boiling point, then cool it rapidly in an ice bath. We didn’t pour quite all the hot syrup into the ice bath, but returned a little bit of it to the stove top, and while the part that would become maple cream was cooling, we boiled the rest some more, to a higher temperature.
When this was ready, we poured it over a bowlful of the incredible light beautiful clean snow that had fallen that evening - creating maple taffy/the original sno-cone. Yes, it means eating yellow snow, and it’s exquisite.
The next maple sugar project was actually a complete mistake. We had a couple days of a slow, small sap run, and just kept adding the small amounts to the big reducing pan that sat atop the woodstove. The pan ever so slowly evaporated away, and we actually forgot about it, until I checked it finally and found a crust of hardened sugar around the edge of some very reduced syrup. I knew that if you got the syrup to a certain temperature,
it will granulate as it cools if you start stirring it, so I tried stirring it. It was like magic - suddenly from dark syrup color, the whole thing turned light yellow, and began turning into grains. It didn’t take much stirring, just another turn here and there as it cooled - and right before us we had two-thirds of a quart of our first homemade granulated sugar! It’s amazing: like a maple-flavored cross between turbinado and brown sugar. It is much lighter than we thought it would be - likely being early in the season it’s a high grade syrup with a lighter color.
Wow, we sound like sugar fiends. All this, after every day in my other job, I counsel people about how and why to avoid sugar. I guess my bottom line is, if you’re going to have some sugar, have some GOOD sugar. We have some processed white sugar in the house, but it is used
almost exclusively for certain baking projects and making jams and fruit preserves. Nearly everything else we do is based around maple, or local honey, including sweetening coffee. And maple sugar candy and cream are special treats that only happen once a year or less!
Here’s my favorite reference page for temperatures and recipes for maple sugar products.