“In all times and in all ages, among all races and in all lands, as far back as written history and tradition can be traced, the egg has ever been regarded as chief among Nature’s most precious gifts to mankind”. No truer statement has ever been made. Eggs as food are dateless, and recorded recipes date from those of Apicius, famous epicure of ancient Rome. Preparation techniques changed little initially, but in 1665 Robert May told readers about sixty-two ways of cooking eggs.
Any bird or reptile which lays eggs may nourish a human whether it be lizard, alligator, fish, turtle, terrapin, turtle, water bird, etc. On the farm we eat duck, goose, and turkey eggs right along with the chicken eggs.
I tailor my usage according to what my hens produce and have not bought eggs in almost four years. When my hens lay extra eggs I can look for recipes which require a larger number of eggs. Let’s look at ways great grandma might have prepared her eggs.
The most important advice pertains to determining freshness unless gathered faithfully daily. I use the floating in water method, keeping sinkers, discarding floaters and any that stand on end more than a slight degree. Boiled freshly gathered eggs do not peel well.
“Eggs are not fit for any purpose unless they are perfectly fresh. An easy method of ascertaining the freshness of an egg is to hold it toward the sun or toward a good light. If fresh, it will be perfectly clear; if it is clear on one side and cloudy on the other, it is stale. Another good test is to place the eggs in a pan filled with water; those that sink to the bottom are perfectly fresh; if they float at the top or stand on end in the water, they are unfit for use”. Filippini, Alexander. “One Hundred Ways of Cooking Eggs”. 1892.
EGGS TO CODDLE. Mrs. Bliss. “Practical Cook Book”. 1850. Break the eggs and slip them separately, so as not to break the yolks, into a stew-pan of boiling water, let the whites just set, then take them up in a skimmer, drain off the water, and serve on slices of buttered toast.
EGGS AND TOMATOES. Bliss. Peel six tomatoes and cut them in slices into a stew-pan, add two table-spoonfuls of butter, a little salt and pepper; when they begin to stew, break in six eggs, stir well, and serve. This is a nice dish for breakfast.
EGGS A LA DEUX. “Better Food”. 1917. Cut four hard-cooked eggs in slices, add one cup of tender cooked ham cut in cubes, half a cup of fresh mushrooms broken in pieces, and two cups of white sauce. Mix lightly, turn into a baking dish, cover with buttered crumbs and let bake until the crumbs are browned.
SCALLOPED EGGS WITH CHEESE. “Twentieth Century Cook Book”. 1921. 4 hard-cooked eggs, 2 cups White Sauce, ½ cup cheese cut fine, ½ cup buttered crumbs. Cut eggs in eights lengthwise; put half of them into a greased baking dish, cover with half of sauce, and sprinkle with half of cheese; repeat; cover with crumbs, and bake about fifteen minutes or until crumbs are brown. [These were also called Eggs Au Gratin. We had this for Father’s Day breakfast].
ASPARAGUS A LA WESTMINSTER. Frich. “The Housewife’s Cook Book”. 1917. Buttered toast, scrambled eggs, grated cheese, white sauce. Arrange scrambled eggs on buttered toast, asparagus on top of scrambled eggs, and grated cheese on top of asparagus. Serve with hot white sauce.
EGG CROQUETTES. “The Home Cook Book”. 1905. Boil four eggs till they are perfectly hard. Then rub through a fine sieve [mash], add three tablespoons of cream, a dash of pepper, a saltspoon of salt, and stir well all together. Add also a teaspoon of butter. Stir thoroughly and thicken with pulverized cracker stiff enough to form into balls. Make up in little balls, roll each ball in cracker dust and drop into deep, hot fat. When the croquettes are brown, take out with a perforated or wire spoon and drain. Serve with crisp, hot bacon or cold with a lettuce salad.
PICKLED EGGS. Home. 1905. First boil the eggs half an hour. Drop them in cold water to cool, remove the shells and put the eggs in an earthen or glass jar. Cover them with hot vinegar. Or if you wish to give them a spiced flavor, pour over them vinegar in which peppers, allspice, cardamom seeds, and cloves have been boiled. . .Let them stand twenty-four hours before serving. [Pickled eggs are a tremendous time saver when making salads and add a bit of extra flavor].
BAKED EGGS WITH MASHED POTATOES. “The Rural Cook Book”. 1907. The potatoes should be well seasoned, and beaten smooth with hot cream or milk and butter, so they will be very light. Put in a buttered baking dish, and then . . . make deep little hollows in the potatoes. Drop an uncooked egg carefully into each of these hollows, dust with salt and pepper, and dot the top with bits of butter; set in the oven until the eggs are cooked and serve at once.
STEWED SPINACH AND EGGS. Glasse, Hannah. “The Art of Cookery”. 1788. Pick and wash your spinach very clean, put it into a saucepan, with a little salt; cover it close, shake the pan often. When it is just tender, and whilst it is green, throw it into a sieve to drain, lay it into your dish. In the mean time have a stew-pan of water boiling, break as many eggs into cups as you would poach. When the water boils put in the eggs, have an egg-slice ready to take them out with, lay them on the spinach, and garnish the dish with orange cut into quarters, with melted butter in a cup.