Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Eggs Preserved.

I am almost equally interested in and terrified by old methods of food preservation. A few centuries ago, according to the cookery books of the time, the thick hard pastry ‘coffin’ of a meat pie would keep the contents edible for a year. I don’t think I am unadventurous with food, but I am pretty sure I would not try a twelve month old unrefrigerated pie. Knowledge of ‘germs’ and their role in the useful processes of fermentation as well as in producing disease did not come about until the mid-nineteenth century, but centuries before the scientific explanation was known, cooks had used the empirical knowledge that excluding air from the container kept foods edible for a longer period.

The exclusion of air method is behind most of the old ways of preserving eggs, and a number of these were explored in a previous post. Other common alternatives for preserving eggs are drying them to a powder, and pickling them. I thought these methods pretty well covered all the options for keeping eggs, but yesterday’s source, Eggs: Facts and Fancies about them (Boston, 1890) suggested another, supposedly ‘Australian’, idea. I really don’t see how this would exclude enough air to make it work. It seems to me to be a formula for a very foul sulphurous explosion of the preserving jar, but I await your valuable opinions.

Australian Method of Preserving Eggs.
Glass jars with patent stoppers having vulcanised India rubber joints, making them perfectly air-tight, are used.
These jars are placed in hot water until the air in them is warm and rarefied.
As soon as the eggs are collected they are wrapped in paper to prevent knocking, and are placed in the warm jars, with the pointed ends up. The jars are immediately closed up, and removed from the hot water.
If this process is skilfully carried out the eggs will be fit for the table months afterward. The secret is to heat the air in the jars thoroughly; the papers may be baked and used warm.
Any stopper will do that excludes the air.

Quotation for the Day.
I bet you think an egg is something you casually order for breakfast when you can't think of anything else. Well, so did I once, but that was before the egg and I.
Claudine Colbert.


Leaking Moonlight said...

My grandmother (born in 1899) preserved eggs by sinking them whole in olive oil. She learned to do this in rural Italy when fresh eggs were readily available only in the Spring.

When she lived with us in the US, being able to eat an egg for breakfast every day gave her much pleasure.

Anonymous said...

I have an ecopy of a WWI Belgian refugee cookbook, in which it is stated that dipping eggs in wax (candle) will preserve them. Seems to be keeping out the air is critical. Thanks for your info!

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Leaking Moonlight and Anonymous. Thanks for your comments.
I have heard of wax being used to seal and preserve fruits, but not eggs - so very interesting, and makes sense. I had not heard of eggs in olive oil either, but again, sounds good (I wonder if the eggs became olive-flavoured?)

Kathryn McGowan said...

There was lots of interesting talk about good and bad bacteria and what they do at Oxford this year. Nothing on preserving eggs that I ran across though. I have also heard of the "dip in wax" method.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother (born in 1878) also preserved eggs in a large crock with some kind of glop which as I think back reminded me of a thick, clear, looser Jello-like glop. As a kid I was sent to the cold cellar to get the needed eggs. I can still remember how I hated putting my hand in the crock. Still don't know what the gloppy stuff was.

Christine said...

water glass? Ithink that's the term.

The Old Foodie said...

Yes, I am sure it was waterglass; nasty gloppy stuff, for sure.