April Newsletter: Our Easter Traditions, Mexican Easter Recipe, Farm Eggs, The Birds & Bees!
Alma’s Easter Family Traditions:
Capirotada: Mexican Easter Bread Pudding. My most favorite Easter tradition was my grandmother’s Capirotada. The smell of cinnamon, clove, and sweet honey would fill our house Easter morning and was the most wonderful way to wake up!This bread pudding combines humble ingredients with holy symbolism makes a special beloved dessert during Easter. The bread, symbolizing the body of Christ; the dark syrup, echoing Christ's blood; the cinnamon sticks, symbolizing the wood of the cross; the cloves, representing the nails used in the Crucifixion, for us the HONEY is the sweetness of everlasting life with Christ and the cheese that cloaks the dish, suggesting the holy shroud. Some families add nuts, raisins and fruit. Check out our recipe:
* 2 cups dark brown sugar (or 16 ounces of piloncillo)
* 2 cups water
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1 24-inch loaf of French bread, cubed and toasted (about six cups)
* 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
* 1 cup Mexican crumble cheese
* 1 cup toasted and chopped pecans
* 1/2 cup raisins
* 1/3 cup of raw Honey (we use our Sarasota Raw Gold for its mild taste)
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
2. Make a syrup by boiling the sugar, water, cinnamon, and cloves together for 10 minutes or until it’s slightly thickened and reduced.
3. In a greased large cast-iron skillet or an 8-inch square pan, place half the bread and pour over it half the melted butter. Toss to coat. Drizzle about ¼ cup of the syrup over the bread and toss to coat. Layer on top of the bread the cheese, pecans, raisins. the rest of the bread on top, drizzle over the honey, remaining butter and then pour over the rest of the syrup. Make sure that each piece of bread is properly coated in syrup.
4. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 15 more minutes. Serve warm.
Our Family Traditions:
Mexican Confetti Eggs
When I was a kid growing up Easter time was special. Not only did it represent the resurrection of our lord and savior Jesus Christ but it meant family time. On the Saturday before Easter, my grandmother would get my sisters and I together for the traditional coloring of the eggs, which back then was only a few colors.
Being Hispanic, my mother and grandmother always made sure we inherited some Mexican traditions as well, like making cascarones. Cascarones are eggs filled with confetti. Of course, you remove the egg from the shell and replace it with the confetti. Being raised Catholic we would eat a lot of eggs during lent…saving the eggshells for Easter fun! Nothing goes to waste as you can use the egg that's been removed for other desserts and treats. Moreover, those hard-boiled eggs don't spoil simply because you never got around to eating them.
The best part of the cascarones is finding an unsuspecting friend and cracking the confetti-filled eggs on their head, especially if they don't know what's in them or don't know about the tradition. It was always big fun chasing my siblings and cousins around the back yard cracking eggs on each others heads. Sneaking up on the aunties and mommas while they were getting caught up on the latest gossip was also fun! Some people believe that if you make a wish and gently bump the egg before you break it over someone's head, that wish will come true. Tradition has it though, that cascarones are supposed to bring good luck to the person the egg hits. The best part of the cascarones is its religious meaning "because they are made from eggs, they symbolize rebirth and Jesus' resurrection."
Let’s talk Eggs: Washed vs Unwashed.
In honor of Easter we thought it would be a good time to write about eggs, washed vs unwashed. If you've ever taken home farm-fresh eggs, or visited a grocery store outside of the country, you may have been surprised to learn that eggs don't necessarily need to be refrigerated. In fact, the United States is one of the few countries that promotes the washing and refrigeration of eggs.
A lot of customers ask us questions about our pastured eggs, so here, we answer a few common ones here.
The difference between washed vs unwashed eggs
Before a hen lays an egg, her body creates a protective layer called the "bloom" over the shell. The bloom protects the egg from any bacteria getting inside by sealing the 6,000-8,000 shell pores.
Back in the early 1900’s people did not have good hygienic practices. They would collect eggs some of which may have been exposed to chicken poop and eat them. Well, people started getting sick. So to remedy this, the US required that all eggs be washed before being sold for “human consumption.” By washing the eggs it was protecting the end consumer no matter what their hygienic practices were.
Now days, large commercial egg producers spray their eggs with a chemical sanitizer before they package them, to reduce the risk of bacteria like salmonella contaminating the egg. When eggs are washed, the "bloom" is removed, leaving the egg pores open to potential new bacteria. Without that protective layer, it's recommended that you refrigerate washed eggs at a temperature around 45 degrees to prevent any bacteria growth.
If eggs are left unwashed with the bloom intact, you can place them on your kitchen counter. Unwashed, room temperature eggs should keep for several weeks. If you aren't planning to use your eggs for a while, we recommend refrigerating them. The cooler temperatures increase the shelf life, with eggs keeping for up to three months in the refrigerator.
Let’s take a look at what Backyard Poultry has to say:
The biggest health risk associated with eggs is being exposed to Salmonella bacteria. Most types of Salmonella grow in the intestinal tracts of animals and are passed through their feces. Most humans become infected with Salmonella after eating foods that are directly or indirectly contaminated with animal feces. With chicken eggs, the eggshell is exposed to Salmonella usually after the egg has been laid as a result of poor animal management practices (i.e. the bird is living in a feces infested condition) and not necessarily from backyard chickens.
Hopefully, if you have chickens and you properly care for your chickens you should A) have healthy chickens free of disease and B) keep your coop clean which will result in very few dirty eggs. Which pretty much eliminates the salmonella issue!
Fun Fact: We would also like to point out that in pretty much any other country besides the United States even their commercial eggs remain unwashed. In fact, in some cases like in France, it’s illegal to wash commercial eggs. Ironic, right?
How fresh are your eggs?
Whether you leave your farm-fresh eggs on the counter or in the refrigerator, fresh eggs that come from a farm will taste better than anything you can get at the grocery store.
In the United States, some washed commercial eggs look shiny and new, but the average egg in the grocery store can actually be up to 8 weeks old by the time you buy it (I’d look shiny and new, too, if I’d been sprayed with mineral oil!).
Think of the unwashed eggs like tomatoes on a vine. Once taken off the vine the tomatoes start to die. Once the eggs are washed the eggs start to die. This is why the grocery store eggs are nothing like the farm fresh eggs.
Interested learning how to get fresh farm eggs? What are your options?
Option 1: Get some chickens! In Sarasota, you can have up to 4 hens. In the summer months we will have a limited supply of standard egg laying hens and exotic chicks that also lay eggs available. Contact us to learn more and to add your name to the waitlist.
Option 2: We offer farm fresh eggs at our store or you can place an order for “pick up” at our summer pick up site at the Philippi Creek Park starting in May. (more info on this pick up site is coming soon) Please note: Due to state regulations, like raw milk… our un-washed eggs can only be sold for pet consumption. The Florida department of Agriculture requires that all eggs must be washed to sell for “human consumption” We have always had the set up for the eggs to be sold for human consumption but the demand for un-washed eggs was much greater. We still tell all our customers to wash their eggs before they use them and use warm water. Don’t allow your eggs to stay wet. If you wash them ahead of time (which we don’t recommend) at the very least dry them off thoroughly before placing them back in their carton.
Water + Pourous eggs = bacteria able to soak in.
So what does a Honey Bee Company have to do with Chickens?!
Chickens and Honey Bees go hand in hand and are a part of the circle of giving life...
We raise our chicken in "deep litter" coops...their litter is fertilizer for the garden...the bees pollinate the garden and give us honey... we harvest the fruit and veggies the bees pollinate... the chickens get the remaining vegetation... give us eggs... and the process repeats.
Moreover the bees here in the south can have major problems with small hive beetles, a pest to our hives. The beetles will go into the hive and lay eggs in the beehive frames, which will hatch worms that can destroy a hive. When we find a hive that has a frame filled with these worms, we pull them out and give them to the chickens to "clean up". Honey covered worms! YUMMY Treat for the chickens...which will give us MORE eggs! Additionally the chickens will scratch around the hives eating the dormant beetle cocoons in the ground before they can emerge as live adult hive beetles! All our beeyards that have chicken have significantly less issues with this pest! Check out the video below: