Easter means eggs
But why? What on earth do chickens’ eggs have to do with Easter? Where does this tradition come from?
Well, the custom actually has two different origins. Firstly, in Christianity the egg is a symbol of new life and the resurrection of Christ. In the Middle Ages, Christians would dye eggs red to symbolise the spilled blood of Jesus.
Secondly, it was forbidden to eat meat or eggs during Lent in medieval times. Of course, chickens continued to lay their eggs over those six weeks, but they could not be consumed. During that time, the eggs needed to be preserved, so they were boiled. In the run-up to Easter, people ended up with an abundance of boiled eggs. This led to the custom of taking them to church or painting and hanging them from trees and bushes. Eggs that were laid in Holy Week – the week leading up to Easter Sunday – were considered sacred. Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Church’s calendar, was also the day on which Christians could indulge in meat and eggs again, so it was customary to eat boiled eggs for breakfast.
Families continue to celebrate the tradition of egg-dyeing to this day, and breakfasting on brightly coloured eggs remains a popular way of marking the occasion.
Speaking of dyeing eggs ...
Have you ever had a go at dyeing eggs with red cabbage, beetroot or turmeric? It’s possible to dye eggs different colours with all sorts of foods; there’s no need to resort to chemically manufactured colourings. You can even find a recipe for dyeing eggs using natural foodstuffs on your Monsieur Cuisine connect, in the app or on www.monsieur-cuisine.com.
Turmeric will give you gorgeous saffron-tinged eggs. To make this dye, simply boil 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric in 300 ml water at 100°C on setting 2 for 5 minutes. Then pour this hot concoction into a freezer bag and add a tablespoon of vinegar, plus the eggs that you want to dye. Pour 1 litre of water into your blender jug. Knot the freezer bag at the top so that no liquid can escape, then place the freezer bag in the shallow steamer basket and steam the eggs.
Click on this link for the whole recipe and more dye inspiration: https://www.monsieur-cuisine.com/en/recipes/detail/coloured-eggs-using-natural-dyes/.
According to the United National Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), China is one of the world’s largest producers of chicken’s eggs, at over 200 million tonnes a year. Germany comes in at 14th, producing 923,000 tonnes. In 2019, citizens of EU countries ate an average of 12 kg eggs per head. France and Spain are the biggest producers in the EU, followed by Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.
Not everyone has a chicken coop in their garden or a farm just around the corner, so it's helpful if you can decipher the sequences of digits printed on cartons of eggs from the supermarket. After all, if we’re going to be eating lots of eggs at Easter, then ideally we want them to have come from happy hens. ;-)
0-UK-1234567: Every sequence of digits begins with a number, which indicates how the chickens are kept.
Here’s a quick guide to the numbers:
0 = organically reared chickens
1 = free-range chickens
2 = barn chickens
3 = chickens kept in cages or compartments for small groups
The lower the number, the more space the chicken has in the barn, the more often it can move around outside, and the more appropriate the method of husbandry.
0-UK-1234567: After the first number comes the country code. So where do your eggs come from? UK = United Kingdom, NL = Netherlands, and so on. Do your bit for the environment by checking this to make sure that your eggs haven’t travelled long distances. The more local their place of origin, the less CO2 will have been consumed in transporting them.
0-UK-1234567: The numbers that come at the end allow you to find out which farm the eggs come from, and even pinpoint the exact barn number.
How long does a supermarket egg stay fresh?
There are big differences in the ways that eggs are displayed in shops. If you go grocery shopping in Europe, you won’t find eggs in the refrigerated section, but on shelves where they are kept at room temperature. In the USA, by contrast, they’re always kept in chiller cabinets. This is because in Europe eggs are simply brushed down, so as not to impair the eggshell’s natural protective layer. But in the USA, eggs are washed, which can damage the protective coating, allowing bacteria to enter the egg if it is not refrigerated. If eggs are only brushed down, they can be stored at room temperature for 18 days after laying; after that, they need to go in the fridge. The important thing to remember is that once an egg has been in the refrigerator, it needs to stay there until you use it in cooking. The cold chain cannot be interrupted, as otherwise condensation could form on the eggshell, allowing germs to find their way into the egg itself.
It easy to forget exactly how long your shop-bought eggs have been sitting in the fridge. There are two ways of determining whether they can still be used. One is to crack the eggs into a bowl. If they're no longer fresh, you’ll know it, as the rotten egg smell will hit you straight away. :-) The other method is the cold water test. Simply fill a glass with cold water and place the egg gently into it. If the egg floats up to the surface of the water, it is old and shouldn’t be eaten. If it lies horizontally at the bottom of the glass, it’s still fresh. If only the bottom of the egg lies on the floor of the glass, while the top stands up, then it’s a few days old, but you can still cook with it.
Myth: White eggs come from unhappy chickens
Brown eggs are sometimes said to be healthier because their colour indicates that the chickens have been well treated. Unfortunately, this is false. The colour tells us absolutely nothing about how the animals have been kept. A gene is responsible for brown or white eggs. Chickens that lay brown eggs form red and yellow pigments in their shell glands, which can colour their eggshells different shades of brown. Chickens that lay white eggs have a gene that prevents the formation of colour pigments. That’s why eggs have different-coloured shells.
Which of these you choose to create your brightly coloured Easter eggs is entirely up to you. ;-)
Have fun dyeing, boiling and enjoying lots of delicious egg-based dishes this Easter.