Farm Eggs and Fresh Pasta

Eggs-top-Web

Summertime is egg season on our tiny farm. We only keep a few chickens (just 7 right now), but we’re still getting more eggs than we can sanely store or eat. Our fridge is bursting with eggs. Our bellies are bloated with quiche, custard and poachers. Fortunately, the extras are easy to give away. If they weren’t we’d have to build a shed and fill it with junky, used refrigerators. We have to go on the Rocky Balboa diet; jiggers of raw eggs all day, everyday.

Chickens, like all poultry, lay many more eggs in summer than they do any other time of the year. It’s about sunlight. With thirteen or more hours of light the hens lay at maximum capacity (5-7 eggs/wk for most breeds). With less light their laying slacks. By November, most birds will be down to 1-3 eggs per week. Over the winter, many naturally raised chickens stop laying all together. Winter can be a sad time from an egg-centric point of view.

To combat production decline in winter, commercial egg farmers raise thier birds under artificial light. This allows them to produce at maximum all year long. Unfortunatly this takes years off a hens laying life. A hen raised without artificial light might lay for 3-4 years. Under lights, the same hen might stop laying in as little as 12-18 months (then comes the forced molting at conventional farms and we don’t want to talk about that).

Egg-and-Pasta-final

We don’t winter our chickens under lights. I’m not sure why not. Probably because we don’t have enough birds to bother. But that means that we will soon be egg-less (or very nearly so). The summer abundance I’ve found so overwhelming will fade and wane to nothing. It will leave us without a farm produced protein and we will have to revise our entire menu. Eggs were absolutely integral to our summer cooking. It will be a shock to see them go. Actually, I’m feeling a bit sentimental thinking about it.

Fortunately I have fresh pasta. Fresh pasta is to eggs what canning is to peaches and what charcuterie is to meat. It allows us to preserve some of summers abundance and extend the season through the winter months. Good pasta is all about good eggs. It preserves their color and locks in their flavor. But best of all, fresh pasta can be frozen for 90+ days without suffering any serious decline in quality. It allows us to eat September eggs for Christmas. It preserves October eggs into January. Fresh pasta is an egg-tastic miracle.

Over the last few days we’ve been making fresh pasta in large batches and freezing it away. Our huge egg abundance has slowly migrated from our refrigerator to a chest freezer. If all goes to plan, this won’t be an egg-less winter.

Making fresh pasta is fun and easy. It’s one of my favorite jobs in the kitchen, probably because it forces me to slow down. It needs to be kneaded (giggle). But it can’t be rushed. Attack pasta dough too vigorously and it’s glutens will break. Knead it too little and it’ll fall apart. The secret is to work it slowly until it has a soft, velvety texture.

Fresh pasta is joy all year around. But this year I’m very much looking forward to a simple bowl, with butter and just a bit of cheese on some particularly frozen winter’s day.

Fresh Pasta with Summer Eggs

Ingredients

  • 3 ea. Whole Summer Eggs (12 oz)
  • 1 1/2 c. Flour (18oz.)

Method

Mound flour on a work bench or in a deep mixing bowl. Form a cup in the middle of the flour mound, lightly mix the eggs and pour them into the divot. With your fingers or a fork gently swirl the eggs, drawing flour into the mix and slowly combining it. At some point the dough will be to thick to use the fork and you will have to resort to using your fingers. Continue incorporating flour until the dough is firm but sticky. If you think it’s too dry add a few drops of water. If it’s too wet add a bit more flour. Time for some kneading! lightly flour your bench and turn the dough out on to it. Using the heels of your hands, press and roll the dough, fold it over, give it a quarter turn and press again. Repeat this kneading process, working slowly until the dough becomes soft and velvety. It usually takes me 10-ish minutes. Remember not to rush the kneading. The gluten can only develop so quickly. If you work too hard or too quickly the dough will become stringy and friable. When done, wrap the dough in plastic and let in rest in the refrigerator for between 10 minutes and 24 hours. You can either roll the dough by hand or with a pasta machine. The hand method produces variation and interesting textures, but I prefer using the machine. It produces a more more consistent noodle more quickly. Set your machine to it’s largest setting and crank the dough through. Letter fold the dough into thirds, give it a half-turn and crank it through again. Fold it, turn it and crank it one more time. Turn the roller down by a click and run the dough through. Turn the machine down by another click and pass the pasta through again. Continue this, narrowing the gap between the rollers and turning the pasta through once until it reaches the thickness you are looking for. If the dough gets too long, cut it in half and roll it in sections. When the dough is at the correct thickness can it either be used as a sheet for filled pasta, can be cut for flat noodles or formed into ears, rolled shapes or just about anything you can imagine. Personally, I usually lightly flour the rolled dough, fold it up and cut 1/2 thick noodles with my knife. Dry you pasta for 10-20 minutes. I hang mine off a wooden clothes drying rack. This recipe doubles nicely if you’d like to make extra. Bagged in plastic, fresh pasta can frozen for up to a month with no loss of quality.

Cooking time (duration): 30

Number of servings (yield): 4

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