As Mark Zuckerberg makes headlines for feeding his cattle macadamia nuts, I'd like to share that one of the many fortunes of homesteading is getting to raise your food how you want. I have peeled hundreds of farm-fresh eggs yearly to feed my oat-fed pasture-raised Berkshire hogs for an unmatched table fair that can't be bought in stores.
As a homesteader, I have peeled so many eggs that I have to tape my thumbs and do it double-fisted, one egg in each hand to save time. This has made me an expert on peeling eggs. They weren't always perfect, but the hogs didn't care. I'll show you how to make them flawless every time.
It's not that you have been misled about the best way to peel eggs with oil, by aging, or whatever; it is that the process of raising commercial eggs has changed, and so has the shell and membrane. Several factors determine what makes a chicken shell and the membrane underneath. This is why everyone has a different idea of what works well – most of the time.
Cheap eggs come from chickens that eat inexpensive feed that is micromanaged down to the tenth of a percent for caloric burn per day for each chicken on the warehouse floor. No "extra" is being fed for great flavor, ample protein, or calcium required in excess for chickens to make a good solid hard eggshell. The manufacturer only wants it to look like an egg on the market shelf, not provide you with ease of peeling. Typically, the more expensive the eggs are, the more that goes into the care and feeding of the chicken, but that is not always the case, even with farmer-fresh eggs. Your own research is needed about the origin of your eggs if you care about your health and the hens where the eggs come from.
Those laying hens are a future extension of yourself because you consume those eggs that make you grow and heal. They should be fed good food and well cared for.
Get your eggs from a trusted source.
Chickens undergo a yearly molting process that lasts eight to sixteen weeks, depending on environmental stressors. The chicken sheds its feathers like a dog sheds its fur, and then it has to regrow all of its feathers, which takes calcium away from the egg-making process. This makes the shell and membrane that lines the shell's inside thinner. Suppose the chicken is in an excessively stressful environment. In that case, the egg shells can become very thin and brittle as the chicken's endocrine system isn't functioning correctly, and it shouldn't support life in that harsh environment for new chicks.
The hen's diet also determines eggshell strength and protein density. If the chicken isn't eating a healthy feed with enough protein, the protein (egg white) isn't as dense when cooked due to weak protein chains. Calcium is needed to make a strong shell, as that is what the shell is made of, just like your fingernails. Ground oyster shells are usually fed to chickens to support their bodies for laying eggs regularly.
Eggs are graded into size classes and checked for shell strength for packaging, but those subtle variances still make a difference when being cooked for peeling using older methods. Chickens raised on a homestead go through all kinds of diet changes, weather stress, and seasons where bugs are abundant and scarce, so I had to find a way to cook and peel eggs no matter what the shell is like, and the method is simple. It's salt. Lots of it. And it works every time.
Here's how I do it.
Fill a non-reactive pot with the eggs. This means high-quality stainless steel, enamel, or
nonstick. If you are still using aluminum, I pray you have an intervention. In any case - this method will ruin cast iron or aluminum pots and poison your eggs, so don't do it. And quit using aluminum.
Cover the eggs with enough water to boil them.
I have eggs that are all different ages in this pot. Three are from this morning; others are up to three weeks old. It is not a myth. You can tell the freshness of an egg by putting it in water, but that is another blog. The oldest eggs in this pot are breaking the water's surface. The fresher eggs are laying on the bottom.
Pay attention to the eggs in the picture; neat things will happen.
Notice that four eggs are breaking the surface of the water.
Seven eggs are lying on the bottom in the photo above.
Add ¾ to one cup of salt.
Honestly, I never measure. I know it's more than enough.
If you have ever cured meats with salt, you would quickly discover how having your hands in it will destroy your fingernails because the salt pulls the moisture out of them and makes them brittle. Curing meat with salt works by pulling so much moisture out of the meat that bacteria can't grow on it, so it doesn't rot, but it does take a LOT of salt!
Think about surfers for a second. None of them have long, flowing locks of hair. The salt in the seawater makes it dry and brittle unless they use a product to protect it.
Turn the stove on med-hi and bring to a boil.
Don't be tempted to turn the stove on high; sometimes, this can make a brown spot on your egg whites from burning the egg on the bottom of the pan while still inside the shell.
Once at a boil, turn the heat down med-low to simmer.
Salt will sputter out all over your stove if your pot isn't deep enough. It doesn't bother me or ruin my stove but take note.
Here is where you know you got your salt content perfect. It's like magic. All your store-bought eggs will become perfectly buoyant and float because the salt solution has a similar density to the egg. Yes, just like humans can float in the Dead Sea, we gonna peel eggs with the same magic here. The three that are not floating are fresh from this morning. Almost no air pocket is in them; they are heavier.
Set a timer for 15 minutes.
For all you egg aficionados, this article is about peeling eggs, not getting the perfect colored yolk or texture. I assure you the egg yolks will be fine, and the eggs are not salty.
When the timer goes off, immediately run cold water on the eggs. You can see that only one of them is floating now, even though most were floating when being boiled.
Keep running water on them until it is cool enough to dump all the water out. It is essential to get all of the salt out of the pan. Now, run more cold water on the eggs until they are covered, and place ice on top of them.
This quick cooling firms up the protein, the same way a tender dinner steak that has been refrigerated overnight gets tough. Peeling hot eggs is a no-no. Sure, it works sometimes, just like the old methods.
Let the ice melt until the eggs are thoroughly cold. This is an important step in patience, and it takes about 40 minutes. This gets them colder than the water or the fridge would, making them super firm.
Crack the large end of the egg on a hard surface. There is an air pocket there that is easy to get underneath the membrane that holds the shell. Then, finish peeling the egg.
Don't roll the egg. Although fun, rolling the egg often damages the membrane by punching holes or tearing it, making it harder to peel. Rolling only works if the membrane is super thick and always in perfect condition, which is rare in store-bought eggs.
There they are! Beautiful! It works! Every time!
You can see how tiny the air pocket is in a freshly laid egg versus an egg that is three weeks old.
Fresher eggs make prettier deviled eggs! Happy peeling!
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