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Egg Farm in Shizuoka City: Bi-Ou-Ran (Part 2)

Mr. Shigeru Shimizu/清水茂

As explained in my previous article I was back on the bicycle trail on Saturday with the difference was that I reached the place in record time in spite of the oppressive heat!

I wonder how many tonnes of feed are contained in these silos and accordingly, how many birds are inside the coops!
After all, the whole place covers no less than 1,500 tsubos (4,300 quare meters), big for a single producer in Japan!

The whole complex is surrounded by a tall hedge to protect it from the wind and help control the ambiant temperature.

Incidentally, I noticed that the silos were also protected against the variations of temperature.

I finally found the real entrance to the compound which opens at the very back, away from unknown eyes!

I quickly met Mr. Shimizu who asked me to wait for a while as he was busy with a small emergency. He offered me to stay inside in the cool, but I declined as snooping around is a bad habit of mine!LOL
It is located very much in the middle of the nature with a beautiful mountain background.

Hand egg-calibrating machine.

I was finally admitted inside, and knowing we were limited in time, I started firing questions.

-When was the egg farm founded?
-1996

-How long have you been actually working in the business?
-Let’s see. I’m 57. I started at 25. 32 years!

-When were you awarded a brand name for your eggs?
-In 1996 (that was quick!).

-How many hens (no cockerel needed whatsoever. I didn’t know!)?
-14,000 (geez!).

I had trouble keeping my hands off these beauties.

-Then how many eggs do you produce a day?
-About 1,200, but that’s little compared to industrial farms. We strive for quality, not quantity (even so, that’ s a lot to me!). We expect each to produce between 280 and 300 eggs.

-You need quite some staff, then?
-We are 10 in all. That’s enough, although we do have to work in shifts (that was said with a knowing smile, meaning Mr. Shimizu was working all day!).
-How long lasts a working day, then?
-7:00 to 7:00, 12 hours. The hens have to sleep. No forced laying here! (good to know!)

-How do you grade your eggs?
-By size first, into 7 different sizes. The largest are reserved for cake-shops and restaurants. The shell quality has to be the same, and the only way to check it is by touch, sight and experience.

-How many kinds of hens do you breed?
-Two only, Sakura and Momiji. It is enough since we strive for only one kind of yolk, whatever the color of the shell.

-That is a lot of hens, still. How long is their life span?
-As far as the egg-laying season is concerned, only one year. Which means an almost constant turn over. Even so, the hens have to be regulary vaccinated after we get the chicks from a designated hatchery. There are many keys to producing a good product (I didn’t have to ask the questions, as Mr. Shimizu warmed up to the subject. I had told him I was born in the country, and that the questions would not be too general, although I would be careful not to delve in trade secrets!):
The hens must naturally stay healthy. We personally check them everyday. This is not an industrial farm where productivity is placed above the animals’ comfort. They are actually penned in smaller numbers than usual.

Interestingly enough, the hens were not nervous at all. Their crests looked so healthy!

-How do you dispose of the droppings?
-Mixed with other ingredients, they will become fertilizer we sell to local farmers.
-Almost organic, then?
-Yes, almost.
-What about the hens which die on the way?
-We ask a specialized disposal company to take care of them.
-What do you do with the hens after the year has elapsed?
-We sell them to a specialized butcher.
-For how much?
-5 yen per head.
-That’s not much, isn’t it?
-You are telling me!

-What kind of feed do you nourish them with?
-A recipe of our own only.
Mr. Shimizu handed me then a pamphlet with all the ingredients clearly stated. I counted no less than 22, 12 of them not found in industrial egg farms. Enumerating them would be fastidious but I have kept the pamphlet for your questions. It is certainly impressive! At least I can affirm that the corn used is not GM and that some ingredients include garlic and paprika!

The egss! I came too late. They had already been collected!
One thing is for sure: a soft shell wouldn’t take that shock. No wonder Mr. Shimizu’s eggs are so popular!

The eggs are transported in a cute van!

Mr. Shimizu delivers his eggs to no less than 21 main distributing shops and to no less than 40 restaurants and cake shops. I counted them, but I’m pretty sure they do not include special customers!

The sign to the original shop!

Please remind me I have to buy some for the Missus’ tamagoyaki!

Bi-Ou-Ran
Shimizu Chicken Farm
421-2112, Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Endo Shinden, 41-3
Tel.: 054-296-0064

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Egg Farm in Shizuoka City: Bi-Ou-Ran (Part 1)

Eggs do come in many shapes, don’t they?

The Japanese have always eaten of lot of eggs. Not so long ago, in the Edo period,they were even considered as a rare delicacy.
Since then, with the abundance of high quality eggs the Japanese have turned this supposedly simple farm product into many world-known delicacies: tamagoyaki, dateyaki, oyakodon, onsen tamago and so on.
On the other hand the same Japanese have increasingly become more exigent and precise about their eggs, requesting for better shape, color and quality.

Bi-Ou-Ran sign

For a long time I have been intrigued by the above sign I regularly passed along during my bicycle trips to Miwa along the Abe River in Shizuoka City.
After some belated enquiries, I found out that the eggs produced by Bi-Ou-Ran/美黄卵/Beautiful Yellow Eggs Farm are not only top-class in this country, but that they have also been awarded a brand name/controlled appellation by the Japanese Government!

An investigation was long due!
After lunch yesterday I took the bicycle and first rode to their small shop (a lot of their eggs are directly distributed all over the country from their farm) up in Miwa (a good 30 minutes ride from my work place).
A small shop it is, but interestingly enough you can buy eggs there through a vending machine almost all day long (that is until everything has disappeared in spite of being re-filled regularly).

A look at the praise received in many neswpapers and TV interviews.

Beautiful eggs inside the vending machine!
Sakura Mixed batch: 300 yen for 12
Sakura Small: 300 yen for 12
Sakura Large: 300 yen for 11
Red Treasure Medium: 300 yen for 11
Red Treasure Large: 300 yen for 10

Onsen tamago: Eggs slowly cooked into running yolk soft-boiled eggs. A delicacy!

Eggs waiting to go!

Home-made chiffon cakes on sale!

Very eclectic: they also sell fresh products from neighbors’ gardens!

From the left bank of Abe River in Ashikubo District.

People/employees at the shop were very kind. They put me through to the farm where Mr. Shimizu and employees are raising their chicken.
Interviewing on that very day was not possible. Wrong time! They were busy at something I couldn’t catch on the phone.
Nevertheless, Mr. Shimizu, who didn’t seem to understand much of what I was trying to tell me agreed on an interview at the farm tomorrow, Staurday, at 13:30!

Their farm is still a 10 more minutes ride up river.
Knowing myself and having some time on hand, I decided to find the farm as directions were a bit scant.
Even knowing the address is not much help in the country where almost nothing is indicated.
At least the Ashikubo River was easy to find.
That did not prevent me from venturing onto the wrong bank of the river!

But riding a bicycle has an enormous advantage: it does not matter how many times you get lost, you will eventually find your way around, whereas by car would tax any driver heavily!
As I said I took the wrong (larger) road.
So I turned back and enetered th very narrow road along the left bank of Ashikubo River.
I can’t miss it on Saturday thanks to the little red Shinto Gate (Torii) at its entrance!

Neither wide nor long, the Ashikubo River is renown for for its great water coming down the nearby mountain slpes all year round. The Abe River might get completely dry, but not this little river.
Even now, many local Sake Breweries come here to collect water in large tanks!
No wonder that the farm has chosen this location. A constant supply of water ought to be vital!

Still a long way to ride. Two cars would be in real difficulty if they happened to meet halfway.

I finally reached my destination, although I didn’t know for sure at first!
No sign at the entrance, and no clue of how such a farm should look like from the outside.
But the fact I was born in farmland did help me as I noticed some silos obviously used to store feed.
But I couldn’t see any bird in spite of the imposing size of the farming complex.
Bear in imd I was in the middle of nature without a homestead within sight (that is on the left bank).

The heat was a scorching 35 degrees by then and I wondered how chicken scould be kept inside. But,… I also noticed large ventilators here and there. I couldn’t be wrong (if I were I was in for a long frustrating search!)!

Since the appointment was not not for that particular day and knowing people working there were very busy, I rode a few seconds on until I found a side entrance,… and heard the unmistakable sound of chicken amid the roaring of the giant ventilators!

I certainly felt relieved knowing it would be a faster ride thanks to my little investigation next Saturday!
An employee did notice me and came to me without being asked to check if I was looking for something or somebody. I explained (after a polite greetings and taking off my shades) that I would come on Saturday and was just checking my way.
-“I see! See you, then!”

Bi-Ou-Ran
Shimizu Chicken Farm
421-2112, Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Endo Shinden, 41-3
Tel.: 054-296-0064

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Mushrooms Gratin

When the Missus came back home from work last night, the night was miserable with wind and rain.
As I came back a lot earlier, I decided to prepare a simple hot dish to warm her up.
I had just bought plenty of mushrooms at the supermarket and they were to come handy!

I used five of them, three shimeji varieties, one eringe, and the last maitake.
Of course you can use absolutely any kind of fresh mushrooms in that simple recipe:

Mushrooms Gratin!

There are two ways to go about this recipe:
Either you make less sauce and include only one egg white and 50 ml of fresh cream, or you use the whole ingredients like I did to avoid any wastage. In the latter case many will call this gratain an open quiche, although a recipe is slightly different!

INGREDIENTS: For 2~4 people

-Mushrooms: as much/many as you want! At least two big fistfuls.
-Eggs: 4
-Butter: 50 g
-Fresh cream: 200 ml
-Salt, pepper, nutmeg: to taste

For frying the mushrooms:
-Olive oil + butter: 1 large tablespoon of each
-Shallot: 1 (chopped fine)
-Garlic: 1 clove (chopped fine)
-Fresh herbs: to taste, finely chopped (this where you can further improvise)
-Slat (a little!), pepper. Other spices are OK, but think about the whole balance!

RECIPE:

-Preheat oven to 250 degrees Celsius.

-Separate yolks from whites.

-Drop the olive oil and butter in frypan to fry the mushrooms. on a medium fire, fry shallots and garlic until they become translucent.

-During that time, melt 50 g of butter over a small fire in a pan or frypan. Once the butter has melted, add egg yolks and keep stirring all the time to obtain a smooth sauce. Stop for a only a few seconds to drop the mushrooms into the frypan. Fry the mushrooms over a medium high fire. Toss them from time to time while you stir the egg sauce.

-Once the egg sauce has attained a smooth and creamy aspect, add the egg whites and keep stirring energically for a while. Once everything is well mixed add fresh cream and stir again. Once it is smooth, add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix and switch off the fire.
Fry the mushrooms until tthey have become soft and releae their juices.
Add salt, pepper and spice and stir for a few more seconds.

-Pour all the mushrooms and their juices in a flat shallow oven dish.
Pour all the egg sauce evenly over the mushrooms.

-Bake for about 10 minutes and serve hot!

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French Cuisine: Duck, Prunes & Hazlenuts Pound Cake

DUCK-CAKE

Pound Cakes should be all cakes. The recipe can be adapted for meat eaters into an eminently presentable dish!
Duck/Magret is an exceptionally easy to adapt meat in such a case.
Here is another easy French recipe with another log name (it is becoming a habit! LOL):

Cake aux Magrets de Canard, Pruneaux et Noisettes
Duck Breast, Prunes & Hazlenuts Pound Cake!

INGREDIENTS: for 4 persons

-Eggs: 3
-Flour: 150 g
-Baking powder: 3~4 g
-Sunflower Oil: 100 ml
-Unskimmed milk: 125 ml
-Gruyere/Emmental Cheese: 100 g (grated)
-Duck breast: 150 g
-Prunes (pitted): 80 g (roughly cut)
-Hazenuts (roughly broken): 30 g
-Salt: a pinch
-Pepper: 2 pinches

RECIPE:

-Preheat oven to 6/180 degrees Celsius

-Cut the duck breast in small enough pieces with their skin on. dry fry them (no oil or fat needed) on both sides 3 minutes each.
-In a big bowl or processor, mix the eggs, flour, baking powder. . Mix well. Add sunflower oil and milk. Mix well. Add cheese. Mix again.

-Add the duck, prunse and hazlenuts.
Pour the lot into a buttered pound cake mold and bake for 45 minutes.

NOTE:
-You could use rabbit instead of duck.
-Let cool down completely before taking it out the mold.

Drink a sweet white wine with it!

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French Cuisine: Broad Beans, Parmegiano & Basil Clafoutis

BROAD-CLAFOUTIS

Clafoutis are not all desserts. The recipe can be easily adapted to vegetables and others. Living in Japan it is a bit reminiscent of tamagoyaki!
Here is another simple French recipe with a long name:
Clafoutis de Fevettes au Parmesan et Basilic
Broad Beans, Parmegiano & Basil Clafoutis!

INGREDIENTS: fro 4~6 persons

-Broad beans (choose them small): 500 g
-Eggs: 4
-Milk: 200 ml
-Fresh cream: 100 ml
-Grated Parmegiano Cheese: 70 g
-Flour: 2 tablespoons
-Sweet basil: a small bunch (finely chopped)
-Salt: a pinch
-Grated nutmeg: a pinch
-Freshly ground white pepper

RECIPE:

-Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees Celsius

-Drop the brad beans in a big pan of boiling salted water and cook for only a minute. Strain immediately and cool under running cold water. Drain again and put aside.

-In a large bowl break the eggs. Add milk and fresh cream. Strongly beat into an omelette.

-Add salt, flour, parmegiano, nutmeg, pepper and basil. Mix well. add brad beans.

-Butter the inside of a clafoutis dish.
Pour in the broad beans mixture.
Put inside oven immediately and bake for 35 minutes.

-Serve hot or cold with a roquette salad.

-Best appreciated with sparkling rose wine!

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French Cuisine: Lukewarm Carrots Salad with Orange Flower Vinaigrette

CARROTS

As a kid, I was not a fan of cooked carrots, whereas I could have never enough of grated carrot salad.
Age helping, my palate is finally accepting cooked carrots, especially new ones or the red Kyoto variety.
Here is a simple French recipe for new carrots with a very long name:
Salade de carottes fanes tiedes, vinaigrette a la Fleur d’Oranger
In English: Young carrots with part of their leaf stems, served lukewarm with a Orang Flower Vinaigrette!

INGREDIENTS: For 4 persons

-Carrots (young, small, with their leaves): a “bunch (at least 12 of them)
-Eggs (absolutely fresh!): 4
-Olive Oil (EV): 3 tablespoons
-Lemon juice and zeste (grated skin) from 1 whole lemon (organic if possible)
-Eau de Fleur d’Oranger/Orange Flower Water: 3 tablespoons
-Fine salt and ground pepper

RECIPE:

-Heat 1 litre of water to boil in the bottom of your steamer.

-Cut the leaves off the carrots leaving at least 2 cm of the stems on.
Quickly grate the skin off down to root point.
Make an incision all along their length.
Clean under clear cold running water.

-Place the carrots in the basket of your steamer. As soon as the water starts boiling, put the basket on top. Close your steamer and cook for 8~12 minutes.

-During that time heat some water to boil in another pan.
As soon as it starts boiling , carefully drop the eggs in the water (use a large strainer) and boil for 12 minutes.

-Clean and dry the lemon. cut the yellow part of the skin and chop finely. Pres the juice out into a glass.

-Cool the eggs under cold running water. Tap the eggs onto your kitchen board. Take off the shells.

-Mix in a bowl the lemon juice, olive oil, orange flower water, chopped lemon skin/zeste, salt and pepper. Place the warm/lukewarm carrots on 4 individual plates. Pour the vinaigrette on them. Last grate one boiled egg over each plate. Serve at once.

An Alsace type white wine would be best!

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Tofu and Egg Dumplings in Sweet and Sour Sauce

TOFU-EGG-1

Here is another very easy tofu recipe for the “Tofu Tribe” (Terecita, Elin, Jenn and all tofu lovers!

INGREDIENTS: For 4 people
-Tofu: 350~400 g
-Eggs: 2
-Soy sauce: 1 large tablespoon
-Dashi/Japanese stock soup. Add a little sy sauce and mirin/sweet sake for taste
-Cornstarch: 1 large Tablespoon
-Trefoil (mitsuba) or available leaves: enough for decoration and taste

RECIPE:

-Drain water from tofu. Put in a bowl and break it up. Break eggs in and add soy sauce. Mix well.

TOFU-EGG-2

-Divide into 4 bowls. Cob\ver ach bowl with kitchen cellophane paper (30 cm wide square).

TOFU-EGG-3

-Turn over bowl and wrap tofu inside cellophane paper. Secure with a rubber band.

-Bring water to boil inside a lare dep pan. Drop tofu dumplings in boiling water and cook for 15 minutes to make sure they properly coked inside.

-Place each dumpling inside its cellophan paper in a serving dish. Cut top of the cellophane paper and carefully pull out the cellophane paper or turn over (whatever way you feel comfortable with.

-In a separate pan prpare the sweet and sour sauce.
Pour in dashi to which you would have added soy sauce and mirin (Taste varies with individuals. Need for a lttle experimentation!).
Heat sauce.
Mix cornstarch in some water and then add to sauce.
Once ready pour over dumpling and serve it decorated with trefoil cut to size.

NOTE:
Take care that cellphane paper does not get in contact with bare parts of the pan as the cellophane paper might melt on contact!

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