Farm-Fresh, Pasture-Raised Easter Eggs

For those of you wondering, yes, Bob painted the eggs pictured here.

Growing up on the farm, I always had mixed feelings about Easter. The chocolate was certainly great, and I truly enjoyed sitting around the table in my grandmother’s kitchen dyeing Easter eggs, and I looked forward to the egg hunt the next morning. But after that, it was all downhill, as I would stare at those loathsome cartons of store-bought hard-boiled eggs on the long ride home, dreading their appearance in my lunch and on the breakfast table for the next week.

My Grandmother was right about a lot of things, but the store-bought Easter egg was not one of them. Like many folks, she insisted on buying white eggs from the supermarket for Easter, in spite of the abundance of brown eggs our hens were showering us with as the light changed and the length of the days increased. She argued that the white eggs took the dye better, and since supermarket eggs weren’t fresh, they’d peel easier upon hard-boiling.

“Buy the yucky eggs because they’re not fresh” isn’t an especially tempting selling point for a celebratory food. Yet many people still agree with that notion today, and eschew farm-fresh pasture-raised eggs every Easter, in favor of the bleach white industrial orbs with those flavorless, insipid yolks.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. First of all, brown eggs take Easter egg dyes just as beautifully. The hue is slightly earthier, and the flecks and natural color variations among the farm eggs make the finished craft a glorious feast for the eyes. Our home experiments have revealed that both the commercial Easter egg dyes and the natural dyes made with household ingredients such as red wine, cranberries, blueberries, turmeric, paprika or beets will both work with brown eggs (although many pasture farmers also sell naturally colored or pale eggs from different breeds of chickens). Bob and I occasionally make a few pysanky eggs with the girls as well (those elaborately decorated Ukrainian Easter eggs), and we’ve come to prefer the rich tones of the brown eggs for these in-depth projects.

When it comes to eating Easter eggs, it is true that slightly older eggs will peel easier than eggs that are fresh from the chicken, but that can mean your eggs need not be more than a week old, as opposed to several weeks or even months old (which is what you’ll find in the grocery store). In a pinch, I’ve even successfully boiled fresh eggs. The trick is to know how to boil a fresh pasture-raised egg properly, so that it will peel without falling apart and taste delicious, bursting with the flavor of a bright-yellow, creamy yolk, surrounded by a soft and yielding egg white. I spent a lot of time working with my food editor, southern food guru Damon Lee Fowler, experimenting with farm fresh eggs when I wrote Long Way on a Little, and here is the method that we found works best:

    1. Cover your eggs with one inch of water, put the lid on the pot, and bring to a full boil, then lower the heat and simmer for one minute.
    2. Turn off the heat and allow the eggs to rest for 8-10 minutes for gas and induction cooktops, and 4-5 minutes for electric cooktops.
    3. Drain off the water, then crack each egg and hold it under cold running water. Put them in a bowl of cold water for five minutes, then drain them off and refrigerate them for 12-24 hours before peeling. This added chill time makes all the difference when peeling your eggs the next day.

So go forth happily into this year’s Easter holidays. Celebrate joyously with your family, taking the time to savor delicious, fresh, pasture-raised eggs from your local farmer. And for those of you who’d like to make something truly tasty with the leftover boiled eggs, here’s my favorite recipe for devilled eggs, which always draws forth a bounty of complements. The secret? Homemade mayonnaise, made from our fresh, pasture-raised eggs, of course!

Deviled Eggs

(This recipe is taken from Long Way on a Little: An Earth Lover’s Companion for Enjoying Meat, Pinching Pennies and Living Deliciously, by Shannon Hayes).

2 dozen hard-boiled eggs

1 batch mayonnaise (see recipe below)

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Smoked paprika, for garnish

Remove the yolks from the whites. Set the whites on a platter, cut-side up, and add the yolks to a bowl. Mash the yolks thoroughly with a fork. Add the mayonnaise and mustard and mix well. Spoon this back into the cavities of the egg whites, sprinkle with smoked paprika, and chill 1-2 hours before serving.


(This recipe is taken from Long Way on a Little: An Earth Lover’s Companion for Enjoying Meat, Pinching Pennies and Living Deliciously, by Shannon Hayes).

Makes 1 cup

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon mustard

1 teaspoon fine salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 cup olive oil

Place the egg yolk in a shallow bowl and whisk until it lightens to a lovely lemon yellow. Whisk in the mustard, salt, pepper, vinegar and lemon juice.

And now for the magical part: You must drizzle the oil into the egg mixture extremely slowly, whisking it all the while. To be exact on just how slow, set a timer for four minutes. During that 4-minute period, you should whisk in no more than ¼ cup of the oil. After that initial period, you can drizzle in the remaining ¾ cup a bit faster (about two or three times that initial rate), whisking steadily the entire time. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for up to two days.

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