Sunday, January 29, 2017

Egg Preservation -- Month One

It has been one month since I put two dozen eggs into liquid storage.  It is time to check them out!

For the original procedure, look at the post "Preserving an Eggciting New Year."

My goal is to look at two eggs a month to see how the preservation method is working.  I wanted to use one egg that was coated with Vaseline and one that was not.

The storage container was undisturbed for the entire month.  When I took the lid off, I noticed a "crust" had formed on the surface:

I poked it with my finger and sure enough, the crust broke up like ice on a pond.

I pulled out the first two eggs I could find that met the requirements.  The first was without Vaseline so I had to touch a few others before I found one marked with the "V".  I was surprised to see the uncoated egg had split open while in storage.  It looked like the white had leaked out in a few places but had firmed up.

The split egg felt a little heavier.

For comparison, I placed a fresh egg right out the refrigerator next to the stored eggs.

Fresh egg on the left
Then I heated a cast iron skillet, coated it with olive oil, and started breaking in the eggs.  **I should have considered the split egg better.** While the fresh and the V egg broke open and emptied into the skillet just the same, the split egg almost exploded when I tapped the shell against the pan.  The contents looked scrambled and were very wet.  I wish I had thought to put it into a separate pan.

Fresh on left, V on right, split all over!
After taking the picture, I took the pan over to the sink and poured out the liquid.  That left the fresh and the V egg to cook.  I was impressed that the V egg had a beautiful yellow yolk and the white seemed to have the same texture as the fresh.  It honestly looked more appealing than the fresh because the yolk was so large and pretty.

When they were done cooking, I and a guest taster tried bites of each.  We could not taste a difference between them.  The guest could not taste a difference between them and what he was used to when eating fried eggs.  We couldn't see a difference between them, either.

I think I could taste the presence of the calcium hydroxide on both eggs.  I suspect it was from the split egg washing its contents all over the other eggs.  Now I know to avoid using split eggs!

The Verdict

Success!  The V egg was indistinguishable from the fresh egg in look and flavor after one month in a calcium hydroxide solution, in a ceramic container, in a cool room in the house.  What a boon to people who have producing hens and want to spread out the bounty over time!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Medley Pie -- Oh My!

You have to look at this website if you are a foodie, an historical cook, or an Anglophile.  Or just interested in interesting recipes!

It is The Foods of England and has an amazing selection of recipes.  Here is an excerpt from their home page:

 The Foods of England

"Cooking in England, when well done, is superior to that of any other country in the world."
Louis Eustache Ude 'Le Cuisinier fran├žais'


*Yes 'receipts' (
'recipe' is French). On the way to restoring the glory of English food - finding the story behind every single traditional dish ... 3,355 dishes listed - more than 2,500 with the original receipt - 60 Major cookbooks online totalling more than 4 million words - Food Events for every month of the year, search the lot by Counties and ... 

Honestly, you'll be amazed what this has stirred up.

When I saw this, I was excited to see what they had to offer!

My daughter was in town and she wanted to try a decorative top crust for a pie, so I perused the site and found this temptation.

Screenshot from
Medley Pie (Derbyshire Version)

10 oz plain flour
5 oz dripping
pinch of ginger or cloves
8 oz back bacon
1 large cooking apple
3 medium onions, sliced
1 teaspoon sage
egg yolk for glaze
salt and pepper

I used only two onions.
Make the pastry with the flour and salt by rubbing in the dripping and mixing to a dough with cold water, roll out 1/4 in thick and line a deep pie dish with two-thirds of the pastry.

Peel, core and slice the apples, and cut the rind from the bacon.  Arrange the bacon, apple and onion in layers in that order.  Sprinkle each layer with sage and seasoning.  Add 150 ml (1/4 pint) water or stock.  Add the cover and seal well.  Cut slits in the top and decorate.  Glaze with beaten egg.

Bake in the centre of a preheated oven at 180C, 350F, Gas 4 for 40 minutes, then reduce to 150C, 300F, Gas 2 for a further 40 minutes.

If the pie begins to brown, cover with foil or greaseproof paper to prevent burning.

My Notes

We used a double batch of my daughter's favorite pie crust recipe instead (Look here, about half way down the post).  My deep dish pan needed 2/3 of that amount to be covered well without the crust being too thin.

I weighed out the bacon and actually used more like 12 ounces since eight looked, well, like too little.  Then I cut each slice in half.   I also used only two onions once they were thinly sliced.

You can see in the picture that I used fresh sage, so I doubled the amount called for.

Here is the first layer.  I used a pinch of cloves on each layer and was generous with the pepper.

Three layers filled the pan.  I did not even use all of the two onions.  Also I used chicken broth last.

My daughter had her fun with the top crust!

The egg yolk wash made the top bright yellow.

Fresh out of the oven!  The scent while baking was marvelous.  We were all hanging around enjoying it.

The Verdict

I served it with a tossed green salad, keeping the menu simple so we could focus on the flavors of the pie.

We cut thick slices.  I appreciated the layers and seeing all the goodies inside.

There were four of us at this meal.  Everyone liked what they ate!

I think I would increase the spices more and my mouth wanted more of the apple and less of the onion.  I think having similar amounts of each would be better.

We all agreed that the bacon would be better cut up into smaller pieces.  It would make it easier to serve each piece and easier to eat each bite.  But the taste was excellent!

My daughter believes that she would caramelize the onions before putting them into the pie, just to get a deeper flavor from them.

I'm not sure the 1/4 pint of liquid is necessary.  The vegetables provide moisture and the bacon enough fat to keep it from drying out.  If I were to add anything, I would put it in when the pie came out of the oven, like I did for the Elizabethan pie I made here.

Considering that nearly the entire pie was eaten at that one meal, I would call it a success!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Preserving an Eggciting New Year

I am in amazement over the idea that this post begins my sixth year of food blogging.  When I first started I wasn't sure I would be posting consistently at all.  Now I have 129 posts and over 34,000 page views! I've lagged in posting a few times when life got really busy but I have always looked forward to picking out a recipe and giving it a try.

One of the joys of this blog is that I am not restricted to any time period, food stuff, or culture.  I can pick and choose based on what I feel like doing, what looks intriguing, or any other criteria I want to apply.  The joy and freedom is very attractive.

For today's post I tapped into a video posted by Jas. Townsend and Son, Inc.  It is a survey called "The Top 6 Historical Egg Preservation Techniques" where they tried these techniques and reported the success rates of fresh eggs eight months after they were stored without refrigeration.  I was intrigued by the most successful method of storing eggs in lime water.  I have the perfect ceramic container and eggs are reasonable in price so why not?

I researched the web for instructions from any time period and found this document published in 1935 by the US Department of Agriculture:  "Home Method of Preserving Eggs."  They list two methods, one that coats the eggs in water glass (sodium silicate) and the other uses lime water.

Here is a clip from the document:

I used the directions as specified but scaled down to a usable quantity for my needs.

Preserving in Lime Water

Scald 2 pounds of unslaked or hydrated lime in a little water and then stir this into 5 gallons of water that has previously been boiled and allowed to cool.  Allow the mixture to stand until the lime settles and pour off the clear liquid.  Place clean, fresh eggs in a clean earthenware crock or jar and pout in the clear lime water until the eggs are covered.  At least 2 inches of the solution should cover the top layer of eggs.

Two dozen eggs and some Cal.
My Notes

Before purchasing the eggs I had to acquire the hydrated or slaked lime.  Here was the challenge!  I saw some at a building supply store but it came in granules and I wasn't convinced it was pure enough for food use.  It was in the gardening section.

I looked online and saw that another name for it is "pickling lime" because it is used to make pickles crunchy.  I could buy it in one pound bags for as low as about $3 but the shipping was often $10 or more.  I wasn't sure how much I would need but I really didn't want to have a great quantity sitting around after the experiment.

So I decided to check out some local grocery stores.  My daughter had this brilliant idea:  Check out a store that specializes in Mexican/Hispanic foods since pickling lime is also used to make masa.  That was the key!  At the tortilleria they had huge bags of "Mississippi Lime" and were willing to sell me a pound of it.  At the cost of 85 cents per pound.  This was amazing!  I knew it was food grade and I learned the Spanish name for it was "Cal", as in "Calcium hydroxide."  It is a pure white powder, very finely ground.

I read a wide variety of websites that talk about using lime water to preserve eggs.  Most suggest you use freshly laid, wiped-but-not-washed eggs because they come with their own natural sealant.  This wasn't going to happen with store-bought eggs but someone suggested that Vaseline might be a good replacement.

We decided to preserve two dozen eggs.  One dozen used just as we got them from the store.  One dozen marked with a "V" and lightly coated in Vaseline.  It is a petroleum jelly that is safe for human consumption and, being non-organic, will not go rancid like butter or other animal or plant fats.

I guessed that I would need about 1 gallon of lime water to cover the eggs, so I adjusted the 5 gallons to 2 pounds ratio down to 160 ounces water and 8 ounces of lime.  The day before I wanted to preserve the eggs I measured out the water (it nearly filled my 6 quart kettle), brought it to a rolling boil, then turned off the heat and allowed it to cool over night (it was covered the whole time).

Then I weighed out the lime and stirred it a little at a time into the water.  I forgot to scald it first!  The powder was not inclined to dissolve into the water immediately but constant stirring and adding it slowly helped.  The water went from clear to cloudy to opaque and very milk-like in its look.  Once all the lime was in I let the container sit until the cloudy part settled.

The eggs were marked and rubbed with the Vaseline and then placed into my ceramic crock.

We took ladles and carefully scooped out the clear liquid.  I noticed a thick layer of white powder at the bottom of the kettle.  It was good that I mixed up more than I needed since I had to leave some of the liquid behind with the white layer.

See the white layer in the kettle?
I carefully poured the lime water over the eggs until the crock was as full as it could be.  Yes, the level was about two inches above the eggs.  I put the lid on and put a note on it with the date and contents.

Ready to sit.
The left-over lime water went into the compost pile.

The Verdict

The method for making the lime water was certainly easy to do.  I would call the process a success.  As to its actual ability to preserve the eggs...

My plan is to check two eggs (one Vaseline, one not) a month to see how they are doing.  Do they smell right?  Are they firm enough to use?  If I use them, do they taste right?  This gives me a little side post to add every month.

Some websites mentioned that the lime water will eventually start eroding the egg shells.  In fact, I found an old patent application that suggested putting crushed shells into the water so they would erode first, though I am not sure how that would guarantee the crushed shells would have priority over the whole shells.  Perhaps the Vaseline will stop that.

You can see in the document that "Fresh, clean eggs, properly preserved, can be used satisfactorily for all purposes in cooking and for table."  It says the eggs should be good for 6 to 9 months!  The Jas. Townsend video had a 100% success rate after 8 months (no bad eggs).  I hope this works for me.  Stay tuned for monthly updates.

The USDA document mentions that the best results are using lime water without added salt.  This is because some records mention putting in salt to help preserve the eggs.  I have the feeling that the salt does not help keep the eggs in "newly laid" condition by pulling water from the white.