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The best part of keeping chickens is receiving the little gift they give you most days, their eggs. If you have an egg, and the means to cook it, you have a meal. If you add a few other tasty ingredients and a little imagination you will be able to create some truly delicious food. However before we get into the exciting foodie bit, let’s consider what an egg is really all about and what it consists of. I will keep it simple.

Remember your egg is basically the beginnings of a chicken. It’s the unfertile eggs we really want for our food. Before fertilisation an egg basically consists of;

  • a shell,
  • a yolk
  • the white

 

There are a few other bits as well but these three are the bits we are most concerned about.

The Shell

If you live in the UK and, normally, buy your eggs from a supermarket, you will notice that the shells are normally brown. Hens eggs however also come in White, Blue and speckled, or red. We are normally only supplied brown eggs because we prefer to buy brown eggs. In other parts of the world white eggs are thought to be superior. It really is all down to cultural taste and marketing.  In fact research has shown that of all colours Blue are slightly better, as the shells are harder, however they all taste the same. Egg colour is driven by the breed of chicken you keep. As UK cooks prefer brown eggs the majority of hens available will produce brown eggs because there are more of them available. So if you want a different colour you will need to do some research first.

The egg shell is the hard outer coating that protects and keeps the contents together. It is made of calcium carbonate, the same stuff as limestone, and is produced by a chicken as the egg forms in her oviduct. The shell is porous so it will gradually allow the egg to absorb air however as it is laid it is coated in a liquid that helps to preserve the contents, this is really so the fertile eggs are ready to incubate and grow chicks once the required number have been laid. For the consumer it is a preservative that extends shelf life.

Calcium carbonate can be dissolved in vinegar. An interesting experiment you can do is to leave an egg in a cup for a few days soaking in vinegar. Have a go and see what happens! Simon did and I recommend you take the result outside before you use it as a bouncy ball. (a side note from simon: the experiment did work and i was able to use an egg as a bouncy ball without a massive mess)

The shell shape is as it is for a very good reason. The pointed end comes out first and has to take the impact of being dropped, sometimes from a height. The shape allows for the shell to absorb the impact of that landing without the egg sustaining any damage. The shell is extremely difficult to break if you push on either end simultaneously, if you squeeze an egg  either side the shell is quite fragile. The shell however is the same thickness all around, the egg strength really is down to the shape. Give it a go and see what happens!

The White

Egg whites are not actually white but a clear liquid however, they do go white once cooked. The egg white or albumen is formed around the yolk during production and its primary purpose is to protect the precious yolk by providing a cushion when the egg is laid helping to avoid any damage as it falls. It also provides additional nutrients to the embryo as it forms.

The white is made up of 90% water and 10% proteins. It contains no fat, so all of those wanting a low fat diet the white is the bit you can eat with a clear conscience, check out our egg white recipes. It is also very good at holding air when beaten. This is why they make great meringues and light spongy cakes.

As the egg ages the proteins in the white start to break down and your eggs go watery. There is no water getting through the shell it is just the egg aging process, remember there is 90% water in the white. Your egg is still good to eat but better used in recipes where the egg is to be beaten. When poaching or frying eggs you should aim to use the freshest eggs you have, within a day of having been laid for the best results really.

The Yolk

The yolk is the yellow ball of proteiny goodness at the heart of your egg. It contains most of the nutrients required to produce one healthy chick and is made up of a whole host of vitamins, minerals and proteins. As a food they provide us with protein carbohydrates and unsaturated fats. There is also an amount of cholesterol in there.

In cooking the egg yolks act as a coagulant which helps all the ingredients to bind together from their constituent ingredients into one mass of foody goodness. Egg yolks also add extra body and richness to our food as well as colour. If you think about such things as mayonnaise, custard, ice cream, cake and lemon curd the yellow colour comes from the egg yolk content. If using a batch of whites for meringue do not bin the yolks, check out our egg yolk recipes first or add them to a batch of scrambled eggs for a richer meal.

As well as a food source egg yolks are used for a whole host of other things follow this link for more information. (Wiki)

For more information about eggs and the data relating to their composition check out The Egg Info website  www.egginfo.co.uk

If there is anything you want to know, and it is not covered here, let us know.

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