It’s been an odd sort of winter here so far with lots of fluctuations in temperatures. We’ve had a few weeks of cold, crisp sunny days with lots of snowfall in between, which I love. But last week was not one of those weeks; over a couple of days we watched the thermometer quickly rise from -20 Celsius to an unseasonal +10 Celsius. Warm days at this time of year usually bring damp, grey, depressing days and I was looking for something sharp and tangy to brighten things up. How about some lemons?
Our chickens have started laying daily again, after several months of giving us none and the egg basket on my counter was looking quite full. So what to make with eggs and lemons? How about lemon curd?
But first I’ll tell you about a little trick that I used to get our hens laying eggs again. Our girls had not been laying for a number of months, in fact they’ve hardly given us any eggs since the early months of last summer, and while I understand that chickens go through a spell of not laying each year, they didn’t appear to be showing any interest in starting up production again.
The reason that birds slow down or stop laying is due to the pituitary gland in their eyes. When this gland has less exposure to daylight during the winter months, it signals to them to slow their laying. In order to keep them laying through the winter we always put a light in their house, and using a timer, we can extend the number of daylight hours. Fourteen hours of ‘daylight’ will stimulate the hens to start laying again.
In the past, this little trick has always worked to keep a steady supply of eggs coming into the kitchen; but not this winter. Friends suggested that my chickens were getting too old for egglaying. They’re four years old, but they’ve had a pretty easy life and still look like they have plenty of living left in them.
They have thick, soft feathers and bright red combs, and they strut around the back yard with plenty of vigour, so I’m not yet ready to give up on them and replace them with a younger flock. A bit of research was needed.
An Internet search turned up a suggestion of adding cayenne pepper to their feed. Apparently it warms them up and encourages them to lay. Seemed like a pretty simple solution and even if it was an old-wives tale, they would have had a good dose of a natural de-wormer. What was there to lose?
So I sprinkled cayenne pepper on their feed for a few days and amazingly they started laying again! Since there was no scientific method used in my experiment, I have no way of knowing if the cayenne pepper actually worked or if they were about to start laying again, but whatever the reason, I had eggs that needed to be used. Back to the lemon curd.
Recipe for Lemon Curd
- 4 Egg Yolks
- 1 Tbsp Grated Lemon Peel
- 1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
- 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Butter
Whisk the egg yolks, lemon peel, lemon juice and sugar together in a saucepan. Cook on a medium heat, whisking continually until the mixture thickens and becomes foamy, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring until the butter has melted and the curd is smooth and uniform. Pour into jars and refrigerate until firm.
Keep handy to spread on toast and enjoy by the fire during the next snow storm! (Like the one we had yesterday)