Thursday, April 02, 2009

Almost Easter.

On this day in 1879, President Rutherford Hayes and First Lady Lucy Hayes hosted the first Easter Egg Roll on the lawn of the White House itself. For many years there had been a tradition of an Easter Monday festival in the grounds of the Capitol, but in 1878 Congress determined that the damage and destruction wreaked upon the gardens by hordes of little egg-toting, lawn-trampling darlings was too great, and the fun-seekers were prevented from entering by the police. Luckily, the Rutherfords came to the rescue and a new tradition was born.

I remember this Easter ritual as a child in the north of England. A less-than-grand venue was a hilly field not far from home. The trick in that particular location was to try to race down the hill ahead of your pre-painted egg and catch it before it rolled into the stream at the bottom. I never managed it.

Easter is a moveable feast. Easter Day (that is, Easter Sunday) falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon that occurs on or after March 21. In the Northern Hemisphere it is (obviously) in Spring, which accounts for the heavy egg symbolism. In the Southern Hemisphere (obviously) it is in Autumn (or Fall, if you must) - not so good a time for eggs in theory, but seasons being irrelevant in modern chook batteries, we Down Under don’t have to forsake our breakfast eggs or (mercifully) have to resort to preserved eggs in one or other of their abominable forms.

The least abominable form of preserved eggs is the pickled form. Actually they are rather good, and a great standby (or used to be) on the bar of British pubs. No use for cakes or omelettes though. Here is a recipe for them from one of my favourite sources, Domestic Economy, for rich and poor, by a lady (1827).

To pickle Eggs, an excellent Sea Store.*
Boil the eggs hard, and put them into cold water, to preserve their colour; when they are cold, take off the shells without injuring the egg: a jar should be chosen that will pack the eggs, that there may be no waste of room, which also makes a waste of vinegar; they may likewise be pickled in the shell.
Season and boil good vinegar with pepper or mace, and salt and strain it over the eggs; let it cool, and then have a fitted bung, which must be pressed tightly in with a cloth. Look at them in a week, and if they require the vinegar to be boiled, do it for sea store or keeping, but for immediate use it is not necessarv. The same vinegar will answer again and again. A cook will find a store of pickled eggs very useful, both in first and second-course dishes, as well as ornamental.
*For a sea store they may be boiled hard in strong vinegar, salt, and spices, in the shell, and so packed: they will keep any length of time.

Quotation for the Day.

I am not strict vegan, because I'm a hedonist pig. If I see a big chocolate cake that is made with eggs, I'll have it.
Grace Slick


Lili said...

Have you ever tried preserving eggs in water glass? I hear they're good for everything but hard-boiling.

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Lili - I was thinking about doing a couple more posts on preserved eggs - a bit of a variation on the easter egg theme. I've never tried the method myself, but there are plenty of old books with instructions. sounds a bit messy.

Lili said...

I saw it demonstrated on The Wartime Kitchen and Garden. It seemed quite straightforward. The link I've provided is to a site where you can download the torrent for the series, which is well worth your time if you enjoy seeing wonderful old wartime recipes prepared by Ruth Mott, a professional cook who lived through it. She also has an interesting method of preserving apple slices that involves a sulfur candle.

The Old Foodie said...

Wonderful, Lili, many thanks indeed!

Easter History said...

You seem to be very much attached with past history. Its good. Liked your post.