egg-carrier

As is often the case, the lunch discussion yesterday revolved around troubleshooting homestead issues. The day’s topic was egg production, spurred on in part by my reading of Little House in the Ozarks. But also because oddly low egg-production has been an on-going issue around these parts.

So we kicked around some ideas for what to change, what needs fixing up, and so on. By the time we had finished all of the salad, broth-boiled rice, and leftover meat and potatoes, we got to what is often the end of such conversations – a list of things we’d do when we had the time and money for it.

Stewart and I often joke about how futile such conversations can be. Not that the brainstorming and idea batting isn’t helpful, but if it is not peppered heavily with Lord willing it simply becomes a don’t-worry,-we’ll-figure-it-out conversation.

And that never ends well.

We parted ways, Stewart back to his work on propagating boysenberries, me back to organizing and labeling my recent canning endeavors. Generally after lunch I give the boys a short list of chores to do before school and so off they went as well.

Moments later Abram shot through the screen door beaming from ear to ear. I turned around from the kitchen sink in time to hear “Egg nest! Ma, I found an egg nest!“. The boys and I have been hunting for some such thing for weeks now, knowing that something wasn’t lining up with the numbers.

And so there it was, in an old tote filled with baby things once worn by the egg nest-finder himself – the Lord’s answer to our attempts at figuring it out. We had scrambled eggs this morning after fourteen of the nineteen eggs tested fresh using what I call the “Water-Test Method”.

The process is simple.

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Water-Testing Eggs for Freshness

  1. Fill a pint-sized vessel 75% of the way with clean water.
  2. Carefully submerge egg in water.
  3. Observe for any vertical movement of the egg. You want the egg to lay on its side as in the photo above. A small variation of horizontal is fine but any large movement puts the egg into questionable territory. Some say the reason for this the air pocket in the egg, some say otherwise. Frankly, I don’t know for sure what the reasoning is but it seems to work as I’ve never cracked a rotten egg I’ve properly tested.
  4. Straight up and down, as in the photo below, is not good. Chuck that thing as far away from the house as it can get. Anything nearing a 45 degree angle is also out, in my book.

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I only test the eggs just before cooking, as the washing process removes the protective coat that allows us to keep our eggs on the counter without refrigeration. Once you have culled the bad eggs, crack the fresh ones into a cast-iron skillet with a bit of lard and continue on with breakfast.

Sourdough toast, hot coffee with goat milk, and milk kefir are all good accompaniments to unexpected egg blessings.

pumpkin-pie-slice

I have taken to using the moniker Homestead in recipe titles now, apparently. This is more accidental than deliberate though now that I think through it a little more, it kind of works.

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My very (un)professional thinking is that food can qualify for this title if a.) it uses common homestead ingredients (eggs and milk in this recipe, for instance) and b.) feeds a hungry work crew with good old simple food. There is a recipe for Homestead Chi in Traditionally Fermented Foods, for instance, that is named as such because it makes use of one of our most fruitful crops – the humble turnip.

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Similarly, this pie uses eggs from our hens and milk from our goats to create a custard. It is sweetened with a combination of honey and molasses, balancing all of the components you want in a pumpkin pie – sweet, rich, and spicy. A homegrown pumpkin or squash would work beautifully here and you betcha I’ve got that on the list for next summer’s garden.

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The result is a nicely spiced, rich and creamy, gently-sweetened pumpkin pie with less than half of the sugar of the usual suspects. The top of the custard turns a deep mahogany upon baking while the middle retains a very pumpkin-like appearance.

pumpkin-pies

At the end of the day, when company came for a visit, we all thought this was a pumpkin pie to repeat. I decided I would write down the recipe so that we could actually recreate it a second time, and share it here with you. It’s so good, you don’t really need to gild this lily, but might I recommend whipped cream made in a mason jar as a possible topping?

Homestead Honey-Molasses Pumpkin Pie

Your pie crust options are many here, but might I make a few recommendations? If you are looking for a Gluten-Free Pie Crust, this one is always a winner. If you are looking for a Sourdough Rye Pie Crust, check out the flaky deliciousness in my book, 100% Rye. Otherwise, wing it with 2 cups flour, 1.25 cups fat (butter, lard, palm shortening), a pinch of salt, and cool water as needed.

Makes two 9″ pies

Ingredients

  • 2 pie crusts (see note above)
  • 2 cans pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk (I used goat milk)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Make and roll pie crusts. Line two 9″ pie pans with crust and flute edges as desired.

Mix all other ingredients in a large mixing bowl until completely homogenous. Pour into prepared pie crusts and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the heat down to 350 degrees. Bake an additional 30 – 40 minutes, or until just set in the middle.

Remove and allow to cool completely before slicing and serving.

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P.S. Coconut oil buckets are just the right height for little pie-maker stools.