Cooking with Eggs and How to Store Eggs
Cooking with eggs
Lovers of good food appreciate that eggs play an integral part in most branches of cookery. Though they are often taken for granted, once you have a constant supply of fresh eggs from your own birds you will enjoy experimenting with the many and varied ways they can be used for feeding the family.
Sometimes called ‘the complete meal in a shell’, eggs are rich in protein but contain no sugar and very little carbohydrate. They are therefore particularly valuable for anyone on a calorie-controlled diet. They can be used in savoury or sweet dishes; to garnish, enrich, bind or glaze, and also as a raising agent.
With one or two eggs, it is possible to produce a satisfying meal in a few minutes.
The ideal storage temperature is about 10°C (50°F). For this reason, if you keep eggs in a refrigerator, do not store them too near the ice box. Keep eggs well away from strong-smelling foods, as the shells are porous and the contents may become tainted.
Ideally, store eggs pointed end down. When required for use in baking, bring them into the kitchen an hour or so before they are needed.
Suitably prepared eggs will keep for nine to ten months in the freezer, so in times of glut it can be helpful to store some in this way. Pack them in sealed containers in quantities suited for everyday use in the kitchen.
To store whole eggs, beat them lightly and add 4 teaspoon of either sugar or salt to each egg. Place in a covered container, with a label showing the quantity, the date and whether they are sugared or salted.
Egg yolks or whites can be frozen separately, with 4 teaspoon of sugar or salt added for every two yolks or whites. Pack and label as for whole eggs.
Eggs left in their shells crack if stored in the freezer, and hard-boiled egg becomes ‘rubbery’.
Poaching, boiling and scrambling
Contrary to common practice, when poaching eggs it is unnecessary to add either vinegar or salt to the water.
To cook without an egg-poacher, pour a 14 in. (40 mm.) depth of water into a shallow pan. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat until the water is barely simmering.
Crack an egg into a cup or saucer, hold this close to the water and slide the egg out. Cook it for 2 to 3 minutes, according to taste, then lift out with a perforated spoon.
Drain well before serving.
When poaching more than one egg, remove in the order that they went in. When poaching eggs for use in a recipe, cook until the white is just set, then lift out and place the cooked egg in cold water. This holds the egg at that stage until you are ready to use it in the recipe.
When boiling eggs, lower them into a pan of cold or simmering water to cover completely, and time from the moment the water comes to a gentle boil. If possible, have eggs at room temperature before boiling as this helps to prevent shells cracking while heating. Salt in the water helps to harden any escaping white if the shells do crack.
Avoid boiling the water too fast, as this sets the white hard before the yolk is ready.
Cool hard-boiled eggs as rapidly as possible by placing the pan under a cold tap. This prevents an ugly grey-black ring forming between the white and the yolk.
For scrambled eggs, it is usual to allow two eggs per person. Break them into a bowl, add seasoning and beat well to blend the yolks and whites.
Melt a little butter in a pan over medium heat. Pour in the beaten egg, then stir and lift as the egg starts to cook. Mix in 1 dessert spoon of milk or cream, as this helps to cool the mixture and ensure that it cooks evenly. Too fierce a heat, or over-cooking, makes eggs ‘rubbery’.
Remove the pan from the heat while some of the mixture is still liquid, stir well, then turn out and serve immediately.
Hot scrambled eggs, mixed with ingredients such as chopped cooked mushrooms, chopped prawns, flaked smoked fish or chutney, make a delicious filling for vol-au-vents or pastry cases. When cool, use scrambled eggs as a sandwich filling, adding chopped chives, cucumber, celery or beetroot. A little mayonnaise will help to bind the mixture.
Place the eggs in gently boiling water, then place a lid on the pan and switch off the heat. Allow about 64 minutes for a small egg, and 9 minutes for a large egg.
Young children who dislike eggs cooked in the usual ways will often enjoy custards. To make a custard of pouring consistency, allow 3 eggs (or 2 whole eggs and 1 yolk), 1 pint (600 ml.) milk, 1 oz. (25g) sugar, and 1 teaspoon cornflour. A thicker custard, for use in trifles or other puddings, requires 4 eggs (or 2 whole eggs and 2 yolks), 1 pint milk, 1 oz. Sugar, and 1 teaspoon cornflour. Follow the same method to make either type of custard.
Beat the eggs with the sugar and cornflour until smooth and well blended. Heat the milk and stir about half of it into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over gentle heat until the mixture is creamy and will coat the back of a spoon.
Strain the custard into a bowl to remove any possible ‘threads’ of cooked white. If not to be eaten immediately, cover the surface of the custard with a circle of damp greaseproof paper to prevent a skin forming.
Baked custard requires 3 eggs (or 2 whole eggs and 1 yolk), 1 pint (600 ml.) milk, and 1 oz. (25g) sugar.
Beat the eggs and the sugar together, add the milk and strain into a buttered dish. Place the dish in a baking tin containing sufficient cold water to come halfway up the side of the custard dish. Bake at 170°C (325°F), ormark 3, for 45-50 minutes.
The water in the baking tin ensures slow, even cooking, and helps to produce a creamy texture without bubbles or separation. Adding extra yolks will produce a firmer custard — capable of holding its shape when cold — which can be turned out if wished.
All the above custards can be flavoured with a sprinkling of grated nutmeg, a little finely grated orange or lemon rind, or vanilla sugar.
Using eggs for coating
Beat 1 egg with 1 dessert spoon of milk. Dip the food in this mixture, taking care to coat it thoroughly, then roll it in flour, breadcrumbs or crushed cornflakes.
When used for shallow or deep-frying, the egg and crumb coating helps to keep the food moist.
Using eggs for binding
Beat 1 or more eggs as required and mix thoroughly with ingredients such as mashed potato and minced, cooked meats when making croquettes, rissoles and similar mixtures.
The egg cooks as heat penetrates the mixture, and holds the food together.
Using egg white as frosting
Lightly beat 1 egg white. Dip fruits such as grapes, cherries or currants in the egg white, roll them in caster sugar and leave to dry. Use frosted fruits for decorating cakes or cold sweets.
A useful egg wash or glaze can be made from 1 egg lightly whisked with 4 teaspoon salt or sugar, or 1 egg yolk whisked with 2 teaspoons water and 4 teaspoon salt or sugar. Brushed evenly over the surface, this glaze produces a shiny, golden finish on pastry, buns, scones and bread.
The glaze can also be brushed over the base of pastry cases before filling with liquid (as for a custard tart) to help prevent the liquid seeping through.
Mayonnaise that is freshly made and flavoured to your own taste makes a delicious change from bought types and is another good use for home-produced eggs. You will need :
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch each of pepper, dry mustard and caster sugar.
Either 1-2 tablespoons vinegar (preferably wine or cider vinegar)
Or 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 pint (300 ml.) olive oil
Before making, keep the yolks and the oil at the same room temperature for an hour or two. Place the yolks and the seasoning in a bowl and add 1 dessertspoon of vinegar or lemon juice.
Whisk these ingredients together thoroughly.
Continue whisking, adding oil drop by drop at first, then in a fine steady stream until all the oil is used and the mixture thickens. Adjust the flavour by adding more vinegar or lemon juice to taste, and thin down with a little hot water if necessary.
If the mixture curdles, put another egg yolk in a clean bowl and gradually add the curdled mixture to it.
Mayonnaise does not freeze well, but should keep for up to a week in a closed jar in a refrigerator. It can be given additional flavourings, such as chopped cucumber, watercress, capers or gherkins.