The 1965 edition of Yeffee Kimball and Jean Anderson’s classic The Art of American Indian Cooking says wild fowl eggs served as a source of protein to the Plains nations who obtained them from hunting the nests of partridge, quail, duck and plover. I am told by scholarly friends that the Native people of New England and Canada practiced the same procurement of eggs.
My family regularly eats them alone, as we’re big fans of breakfast. In early fall, we became the proud owners of a dozen chickens. Collectively they lay an average of seven to twelve eggs a day. They taste far better than store-bought; the freshness is undeniable.
I love the fact that I can feed the chickens scraps, peelings, bread and vegetable leftovers—most foods excluding meat, lemons and high acidic foods.
Our son constructed the chicken house during his building frenzy last spring, following a playhouse and treehouse for his daughter. The chicken house includes many modern innovations: 2×4 roosts, a rain barrel collection and water pump—necessary for winter. There is a low wattage bulb under the inside water feeder to prevent it from freezing, cross ventalization and a timer controlled brood light at night. They have a nice fenced-in yard and are also allowed to free range a few times a week. So far—knock on wood—we have not experienced much trouble from nocturnal critters aside from one racoon that has since left.
Tips for cooking eggs:
The egg is what binds the ingredients in a recipe together.
The color of the egg—brown, white or green—does not change the taste or level of nutrition.
Before beating egg whites, let them reach room temperature. Do the same to make fluffy scrambled eggs.
Let boiled eggs cool down to room temperature before refrigerating.
Save your egg shells for the compost or grind it up for plant fertilizer.
If you’re not sure if an egg is good or not, an easy way to tell is put it in water. Bad eggs float—throw it out.
Eggs have a decent shelf life though—about a month.
Since our chickens began laying plenty of eggs, I’ve been making egg-based things like quiche (they freeze well) and meringues—delicious confections that are low calorie and make great gifts. I also make stratas, frittatas, puddings, breakfast burritos, deviled eggs and more.
Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
2 egg whites, room temperature
½ cup sugar OR substitute equivalent
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup very fine chopped walnuts
Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper (regular printer paper or a brown paper bag will work just fine).
Beat egg whites until they are very stiff. Next, beat in sugar one teaspoon at a time. Then add the vanilla and fold in the walnuts. Use spoons to make small rounds on the cookie sheet. Bake about one hour, or until meringues are dry and firm. et cool slightly before removing from paper.
Dale Carson, Abenaki, is the author of three books: New Native American Cooking, Native New England Cooking and A Dreamcatcher Book. She has written about and demonstrated Native cooking techniques for more than 30 years. Dale has four grown children and lives with her husband in Madison, Connecticut.