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Why egg yolks are yellow…and what makes the best custard?

Eggs are a versatile food that a lot of people enjoy eating. You can poach, fry, boil, bake them, and more. The yolk – essentially the nutrition for a chicken embryo, contains mostly proteins that are easy to incorporate into other foods. These days, an egg with a rich yellow yolk is the best.

Kenji López-Alt, chief culinary consultant to Serious Eats and the author of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science, winner of a James Beard Award, professes that it is best to buy the freshest eggs possible, regardless of how you will be cooking them. López-Alt has tested different eggs and looked at the science to derive this simple recommendation for better cuisine. He also encourages people to purchase their eggs based on how they like chickens to be treated (organic, free-range, pastured, etc.). At The Golden Pig, eggs are a week or less old by the time they are used in the quiches, topped on burgers, or baked in custard. When you order the Mason Jar Custard for dessert, you know it is the best, in part because only the freshest pastured eggs and egg yolks are whisked into this creamy treat. Culinary technique, proper equipment, and the best ingredients, including the freshest eggs from humanely-raised chickens, make this custard delicious.

Only the best eggs make the best custard.

Make your own custard at home! See if you can taste the difference…

Makes 5 servings  – 6 ounces per serving

4 cups whole milk 

4 eggs
4 egg yolks 
1 tsp lemon zest 
⅔ cups sugar 
2 tsp vanilla extract 
Freshly ground nutmeg 


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place 5, 6 ounce jars into a deep baking pan, just large enough to hold them. In a medium saucepan, warm milk over medium-low heat to 170 degrees fahrenheit.

Meanwhile in a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks, lemon zest, sugar and vanilla. Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, heavily whisking and tempering the eggs. Pour mixture through a fine strainer into a measuring pitcher. Then pour mixture into the jars. Pour hot, not boiling water into the pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the jars. Bake custard for 2 hours (until set). Let the custard cool in the water bath on the back kitchen prep counter for 1 hour before serving..

Once the custard is cool, Sprinkle lightly with fresh nutmeg.put the lid on the jar and place in the refrigerator.

Egg yolk color is almost entirely influenced by the hen’s diet. The deep yellow, almost orange yolk of the eggs from Heart Arrow Ranch is due to the fact that our chickens pasture on green grass. Currently in the Biodynamic olive orchard, the egg-laying chickens enjoy foraging for bugs and grasses, including perennial clover. When the rainy season has stopped and spring plant growth peters out, irrigation for the olives begins. The clover and grasses are thus also watered and continue to grow. It’s the perfect pasture environment for poultry.

Xanthophylls, primarily lutein, are pigments found in plants that contribute to the yellow color in egg yolks, as well as yellowish chicken skin and fat. It is true that chickens are sometimes fed pigmented supplements, like marigolds, to boost the color of the egg yolks. Just as people expect bacon and ham to be red, people want their eggs to have a rich yellow yolk. In terms of nutritional value of the birds and their eggs, the yolk color actually won’t tell you anything.[1]

However, the eggs from Heart Arrow Ranch and used in recipes at The Golden Pig are not from chickens sitting in a warehouse or free-ranging in dirt lots or barns. You can see the happy chickens getting exercise and sunshine. The chickens have an important role on the farm. As they are enjoying the olive orchard and producing eggs for food, they are also adding fertility to the soil. This is one of many reasons we call our restaurant FARM-DRIVEN.

[1] Chowhound Editors, “Does the Color of an Egg Yolk Indicate How Nutritious It Is?” August 14, 2016. Date Accessed July 5, 2018.

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