Food Timeline FAQs: eggs..... Have questions? Ask!
When? Since the beginning of human time.
Where? Wherever eggs could be obtained. Differerent kinds of eggs were/still are eaten in different parts of the world. Ostrich and chicken are the most common.
Why? Because eggs are relatively easy to obtain, excellent protein sources, adaptable to many different types of recipes (from simply boiled, fried, or stuffed to complicated quiche, custards or meringue), and fit the bill for meatless fasting days required by some religions. In this last role? Eggs have been the object of much socio-religious symbolism and tradition. Over time, some groups have encouraged the consumption/decoration of eggs in celebration of certain events. Others have decided eggs are filthy food which must avoided. None of this is arbitrary.
"It is likely that female game birds were, at some time in the early history of man, perceived as a source both of meat and of eggs. Men discovered that by removing from the nest eggs that they did not wish to have hatch (or that they simply wished to eat), they could induce the female jungle fowl to lay additional eggs and, indeed, to continue to lay eggs throught an extended laying season." ---The Chicken Book, Page Smith and Charles Daniel [University of Georgia Press:Athens] 1975 (p. 11-12)
"Eggs have been known to, and enjoyed by, humans for many centuries. Jungle fowl were domesticated in India by 3200 B.C.E. Record from China and Egypt show that fowl were domesticated and laying eggs for human consumption around 1400 B.C.E., and there is archaeoligical evidence for egg consumption dating back to the Neolithic age. The Romans found egg-laying hens in England, Gaul, and among the Germans. The first domesticated fowl reached North America with the second voyage of Columbus in 1493."
---Encyclopedia of Food and Culture, Solomon H. Katz, editor, William Woys Weaver, associate editor [Charles Scribner's Sons:New York] 2003, Volume 1 (p. 558)
Why do we call them eggs?
"The egg...tracks it name back to a prehistoric Indo-European source related to words for 'bird'...The Old English term was oeg, which survived in Middle English as ey (plural eyren)....But in the fourteenth century the related egg was borrowed from Old Norse. For a time the two forms competed with each other (William Caxton, in the prologue to his Book of Eneydos (1490), asked 'What should a man in these day now write, eggs or eyren, certainly it is hard to please every man'), and the Norse form did not finally emerge as the winner until the late sixteenth century." ---An A-Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxrod] 2002 (p. 117)
How many different kind of eggs are there?
Birds and reptiles lay eggs. Of these, some are consumed by humans. Preferences vary according to place, taste and economic conditions.
"Eggs from many species of fowl (birds) have doubtless been consumed since the very beginning of humankind's stay on earth. In historical times, ancient Romans ate peafowl eggs, and the Chinese were fond of pigeon eggs. Ostrich eggs have been eaten since the day sof the Phoenicians, whereas quail eggs, as hard-cooked, shelf-stable, packaged prdoucts, are now featured on many gourmet food counters in the United States and Japan. Other eggs consumed by various ethnic groups include those from plovers, partridges, gulls, turkeys, pelicans, ducks, and geese. Turtle eggs have been highly prized, and in starvation situations, any eggs, even those of alligators, have been relied upon."
---Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Conee Ornelas [Cambridge University Press:Cambridge] 2000, Volume One (p. 499)
When did people start using eggs in baking and why?
Food historians tell us the practice was ancient but they do not venture an exact place, date, or reason. The domestication of fowl (esp. chicken) greatly increased the availabiltiy of eggs to ancient peoples. This is thought by some to have begun in China in 6,000BC. About chicken.
Culinary evidence confirms breads and cakes using eggs were made by Ancient Egyptian and Roman peoples. The reason most often sited was the recognition that eggs worked as binding (thickening) agents. How did that begin? The food historians to not venture into this territory. Possibly it was a discovery based on trial and error. Many foods and cooking methods (leavened bread, roasted meats, yogurt) were "invented" this way.
"It is clear that Egyptians enjoyed their food. Nobles and priests were particularly well served, with at least forty different kinds of bread and pastries, some raised, some flat, some round, some conical, some plaited. There were some varieties made with honey, others with milk, still others with eggs."
---Food in History, Reay Tannahill [Three Rivers Press:New York] 1988 (p. 53)
"Farming the prolific chicken has allowed us to make eggs a part of our diet without harming its reproductive cycle. However, the very few ancient Greek recipes to mention eggs date from after the time of Pericles, when the chicken was introduced to Africa. It took some times for the habit of using eggs in cooking to catch on. We do hear of thagomata, made from egg whites, and various stuffings using egg yolks. On the other hand the classic cake offered as a sacrifice by the Romans, the libum, called for one egg to a pound of flour. In the Roman period pastry cooks made much use of eggs for desserts as well as cakes. Apicius (25 BC) invented baked custard: milk, honey and eggs beaten and cooked in an eartheware dish on gentle heat. Eggs really made their way into the kitchen with Apicius, who mentioned them frequently in the Ars Magirica. Beaten eggs were used as a thickening and to bind sauces and ragouts; hardboiled eggs became an ingredient of various dishes, sometimes with cheese, but here is no evidence that eggs were eaten just as they were, as a dish in themselves. This does not mean that they were not so eaten; it could simply indicate that they were not thought interesting enough for special mention."
---History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, translated by Anthea Bell [Barnes & Noble Books:New York] 1992 (p. 356)
Ancient Roman libum recipe (ancient translation & modern version)
These sources are good starting points for an understanding of the topic:
The Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Conee Ornelas, Volume One: Chicken eggs [Cambridge University Press:Cambridge] 2000 (p. 499-508)
---includes extensive bibliography for further study; use the index to locate information on other types of eggs
Eggs, and how to use them, Alphonse Meyer 1898
---Part I. A historical, Theoretical and Practical Chapter on Eggs. Part II, egg cooking methods & recipes (extensive catalog).
History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat [Barnes & Noble:New York] 1992 (p. 355-363)
---uses & customs, including Easter traditions
Food and Drink in Britain: From the Stone Age to the 19th Century, C. Anne Wilson [Academy Chicago:Chicago] 1991 (p. 137-148)
---as they relate to English cookery
Nectar and Ambrosia: An Encyclopedia of Food in World Mythology, Tamra Andrews [ABC-CLIO:Santa Barbara] 2000 (p. 86-87)
---rituals, customs & myths
Need facts, trivia & science? The American Egg Board is the place to go!
"Because eggs embody the essence of life, people from ancient times to the modern day have surrounded them with magical beliefs, endowing them with the power not only to create life but to prophesy the future. Eggs symbolize birth and are believed to ensure fertility. They aslo symbolize rebirth, and thus long life and even immortality. Eggs represent life in its various stages of development, encompassing the mystery and magic of creation. Creation myths commonly describe how the universe was hatched from an egg, often laid by some mythical water bird swimming in the primordial waters...Early mythmakers viewed both the sun and the egg as the source of all life; the round, yellow yolk even symbolized the sun. Clearly, eggs had great symbolic potential...In Europe of pagan and Christian times, eggs symbolized life and resurrection. Human being have long consumed eggs of all sorts--of hens, ducks, geese, partridges, pigeons, pheasants, ostriches, peacocks, and other bird species. In legends, fairies consumed eggs of mythical birds such as the phoenix. People ate eggs for a variety of reasons. Some sought to absorb their magical properties by eating them. Others ate them to ensure fertility. In the Slavonic and Germanic lands, people also smeared their hoes with eggs, in the hope of transferring the eggs' fertility to the soil...In Iran, brides and grooms exchange eggs. In seventeeth-century France, a bride broke an egg when she first entered her new nome...The perception of eggs a symbols of fertility and embodiments of life force compelled people of certain cultures not only to shun them as food but to avoild destroying them at all costs...Some people avoided eating eggs laid by their tribal totems; certain groups of aborigines in Australia...believed they descended from the emu, so they placed strict taboos on eating eggs of these ancestral birds...Though people frequently forbade the eating of eggs, eggs were often used for divining purposes. Their widespread use in divination likely stemmed from the belief that they symbolized life--particularly life in the future. The Chinese and certain tribal groups in souther Asia used the eggs of chickens or ducks to divine the future. One method involed painting the eggs, boiling them, and reading the patterns in their cracks. Another method involved tossing the eggs, and divining the future with eggs, a process known as oomancy...The concept of eggs as life symbols went hand in hand with the concept of eggs as emblems of immortality, and particularly the resurrection of Christ, who rose from a sealed tomb just as a bird breaks through an eggshell... The Jews traditionally serve eggs at Passover as a symbol of sacrifice and rebirth."
---Nectar and Ambrosia: An Encyclopedia of Food in World Mythology, Tamra Andrews [ABC-CLIO:Santa Barbara CA] 2000 (p. 86-7)
"Eggs were not really part of the diet until poultry-farming became common, and, when they did, those most usually consumed were hen's eggs...Was there some taboo...on eating the eggs of the earlier domestic fowls? It depends on the sense in which the trm is used. Not necessarily a religious taboo, but more of an economic interdiction, since 'the egg is in the chicken, and the chicken is in the egg'. The Mossi of Burkina Faso in Africa have never troubled themselves with such philosophical reflections, but simply emply common sense. They will not let their children eat eggs for fear they will become thieves. The idea is not that...he who steals an egg will steal an ox...but because he who steals an egg is stealing a chicken. Poultry lives at large in the villages of Africa, laying eggs anywhere. Children must therefore be prevented from eating future broods, which would be community property,...An egg unnecessarily stolen and eaten will never become a chicken...Morever, and even more seriously, the spirits will be offended, for all the poultry the Mossi eat has first been sacrificed to the local tutelary spirits...The Mossi are a special example. All over the world, form the dawn of time, eggs have been collected from birds' nests in times of need...In the Far East the egg is not so important an item of diet as in Europe,...It is a luxury for the rich, with all the symbolic and philosphical connotations that might be expected...The dyed or painted egg...is an Easter tradition of the Christian West which has proved particularly tenacious in Central Europe...The tradition of easter eggs coincides,...with a self-explanatory universal symbol, in this case creation, rebirth and spring..."
---History of Food, Maugelonne Toussaint-Samat, translated by Anthea Bell [Barnes and Noble Books:New York] 1992 (p. 355-362)
"Considering the strange biological history of the egg, it is not surpring that its symbolic power is rivaled only by that of the cock. In Egypt eggs were hung in the temples to encourage fertility, and everywhere, of course, they have been associated with birth and renewal. The Hindu description of the beginning of the world saw it as a cosmic egg. First hrere was nonbeing and then that nonbeing became existent and turned into an enourmous egg, which incubated for a year and then split open, with one part silver and the other gold. The silver half became the earth; the gold, the sky; the outer membrane, mountains; the inner, mist and clouds; the veins were rivers, and the fluid part of the egg was the ocean, and from all of these came in turn the sun. In certain other religions the egg was equated with the sun and the yolk was seen as a kind of mixture of earth and water..."
---The Chicken Book, Page Smith & Charles Daniel [University of Georgia Press:Athens GA] 2000 (p. 184)
Why are eggs sold by the dozen?
The number 12 has many symbolic meanings. In the Christian world, it is most closely associated with the number of Jesus' disciples. American embrace of the dozen as standard measure descends from English roots. Our food history sources confirm retail eggs were sold by the dozen during Elizabethan times. They do not tell us why this standard was chosen, nor do they credit a specific person or place for making this decision. Colonial-19th century wholesale exchanges were conducted in boxes or bbl (bushelbarrels); no count provided. In the days of industrial food packaging, it makes sense for eggs to be sold in even increments from a practical standpoint. No "bakers dozen" in the egg carton.
It is interesting to note some grocers through time argued eggs should properly be sold by weight, not count. Why? Because the actual size of the eggs were different. Today's egg sellers take this into account. Products are graded by size and grouped/packed/priced accordingly. While the dozen remains the standard for statistical purposes, eggs are now sold to retail consumers in packs ranging from 6 to 18.
[Anglo Saxon England]
Eggs sold in lots of 20 (no price supplied)
---A Second Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Food and Drink, Production and Distribution, Ann Hagen [Anglo-Saxon Books:Norfolk England] 1995 (p. 263)
"...ten eggs for a penny..."
---Food and Eating in Medieval Europe, Martha Carlin and Joel T. Rosenthal editors [Hambledon Press:London] 1998 (p. 38)
"Eggs ranged in price from 3 1/2d to 4 1/2 d a hundred."
---A Baronial Household of the Thirteenth Century, Margaret Wade Labarge [Barnes & Noble Books:Totowa NJ] 1965 (p. 82)
"The only long-term series for the price of butter and eggs, goods that were associated in particular with salse made by the farmer's and cottar's wife, come from the accounts of the St. Andrews colleges...The price of eggs was about 1s.1d. a dozen in the late 1580s, and 62 per cent higher by 1617-21."
---Prices, Food and Wages in Scotland 1550-1780, A.J.S. Gibson and T.C. Smout [Cambridge University Press:Cambridge] 1995 (p. 200)
[NOTE: chart illustrating eggs (mean price per dozen, St. Andrews University 1587-1780 appears on p. 224.]
[18th century America]
"...a dozen eggs for 3 pence..."
---Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery, transcribed by Karen Hess [Columbia University Press:New York] 1981 (p. 9)
"Eight dozen eggs pays for a pound of tea."
---The Philadelphia Evening Post, May 4, 1804 (p. 3)
"Eggs have been sold in Boston market the present winter at One Dollar a Dozen."
---Pennsylania Correspondent and Farmers' Advertiser, February 19, 1805 (p. 3)
"It is bad economy to buy eggs by the dozen, as you want them."
---American Frugal Housewife, Mrs. Child, facsimile 1833 edition [Applewood Books:Boston] (p. 2)
"In your comments upon the efforts to get rid of Spanish coin and give our decimal currency its proper position I have seen no suggestion concerning the disuse of dozens and grosses. As long as the fashion is to sell eggs and pen-knives and chissels and screws by the dozen, so long will the prices be computed in shllings and pence, and the fractions of cents be charged upon the purchaser. Manufactuers of articles who have been accustomed to put them up in dozens can do much to promote the use of decimal currency by putting them up in tens and hundreds. The price of a package will tehn readily indicate the price of a single article, and the nuisance of factions be avoided. There is no rational reason why twelve knives and forks, or teaspoons or cups and saucers should constitute a set, and that ten or twenty should, and no reason why screws cannot be put into papers of 100 as well as 144."
---"Decimal Currency," letter to the editor, New York Times, February 14, 1857 (p. 9)
"The Metropolis is supplied with eggs from all parts of the kingdom...supposing them on an average to cost fourpence a dozen..."
---Mrs.. Beeton's Book of Household Management, Isabella Beeton, facsimile 1861 edition [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2000, abridged edition (p. 322)
---Grocer's Companion and Merchant's Handbook [Benjamin Johnson:Boston] 1883 (p. 53)
"Two hundred thousand dozen eggs have been received at this port from Europe during the past nine months...The eggs came packed in straw in long cases containing 120 dozen each."
---""Eggs From Foreign Lands," New York Times, June 14, 1883 (p. 8)
"...pay twenty-five or thirty cents a dozen..."
---Boston Cooking School Cook Book, Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, facsimile 1884 edition [Dover Publications:Mineola NY] 1996 (p. 198)
"How to Pack Eggs. Receivers have a good deal of trouble with eggs that come in loose packages, have not been properly packed, and arrive more or less broken. When cases are not used, the barrel is the next best package. In packing, oats should not be used, because they are heavy and increase the cost of shipment, and the eggs are apt to work through, and coming in contact with one another, there is sure to be some breakage if great care is not taken. By using straw the eggs can be got through in good shape and are in suitable condition for reshipping, provided the proper rules have been followed. In using straw, see that it is clean and dry so that there will be no musty smell. The eggs should be laid with the ends toward the outside of the barrel. Betweeen each layer of eggs there should be a thick layer of straw. See that plenty of straw is placed between the eggs and the sides of the barrel. A barrel, if properly packed, should not have more than about sixty or sixty-five dozen. When the package is filled, place considerable straw over the top, put the head of the barrel in securely, and then mark the package plainly: Eggs, so many dozen; and all is complete, and a good condition is certain."
---The Grocer's Hand-Book and Directory for 1886 [Philadelphia Grocer Publishing Co.:Philadelphia] 1886 (p. 67-68)
[1890+ ] The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has been tracking retail sale of eggs in lots of one dozen from 1890+ [go to page 31]
 Artemas Ward's Grocers's Encyclopedia 1911: "The egg is one of a dozen that the farmer takes to the nearest village store and either sells for a small sum of money or barters for sugar, calico, tobacco or some other commodity that he needs more than he needs eggs."
What size were the eggs in Ancient Rome?
Our food history sources offer much information on the production, consumption and preparation of poultry eggs in the Ancient world but scant references to size or weight. Those references suggest eggs came in different sizes. Then, as today, season, breed, feed, and cooping conditions played key roles. Primary agricultural accounts (Cato, Varro, Columella, Pliny) are your best sources for researching this topic.
"The quality of poultry in Roman Italy was distinctly below that of the well-established strains of to-day. The best hens laid about 60 eggs. That eggs were smaller than to-day, may be inferred from the fact that Varro and Pliny give 25 as a suitable maximum for a setting; Columella's figure is 21."
---Animals for Show and Pleasure in Ancient Rome, George Jennison, facsimile 1937 edition [University of Pennsylvania Press:Philadelphia] 2005 (p. 106)
Andrew Dalby's new translation of Geoponika [Farm Work] provides insight into Roman/Byzantine egg sizes (c. 10th century AD):
"Book Fourteen, 11. Making hens produce large eggs...You will make hens produce large eggs if you crush Laconian pots, mix the powder with bran, moisten it with wine and give it to them or mix a saucer of crushed pot with two choinikes of bran and give as food. Some who want large eggs to be produced crumble up red earth and mix it with their food."
---Geoponika [Farm Work], a modern translation of the Roman and Byzantine Farming Handbook by Andrew Dalby [Prospect Books:Devon] 2011(p. 288) [NOTE: Domesticated fowl & their eggs are also addressed in section 7.]
Egg sizes the USA
What size hen's egg was used to make a cake in the 1840s? Excellent question with no simple answer. Today's consumers find eggs clearly marked with quality grades in different sizes. In the 1840s, many consumers found eggs under the chicken in the family coop. Pre-industrial American cook books regularly acknowledge the relationship between fresh eggs and best product but are silent on size. Cook books focus on identifying "good" eggs, proper storage, and preservation techniques. In those days, the size of chicken eggs depended upon breed, feed, season and cooping conditions.
Recreating old recipes with modern products always poses special challenges. When eggs are on the shopping list, think small or medium. Timelining the evolution of USA egg sizes is interesting because different standards were formulated by states, federal agencies, and companies at the same time. Most of these standards were voluntary, not mandated. Below please find selected milestones based on grocer's notes, industry standards, government recommendations, domestic scientists, market advertisements and consumer advocates.
"Eggs vary so much in size and weight (varying according to the breed of the fowl), that it is claimed in justice to the consumer, they should be sold by weight and not by number."
---Grocer's Companion and Merchant's Hand-Book [New England Grocer Office:Boston] 1883 (p. 53)
"The average weight of twenty eggs laid by fowls of different breeds is two and one-eighth pounds. The breeds that lay the largest eggs, average seven to a pound, are Black Spanish, Houdans, La Fleches, and Creve Coeures. Eggs of medium size and weight, averaging eight or nine to a pound, are laid by Leghorns, Cochins, Brahmins, Polands, Dorkings, Games, Sultans. Hamburgs lay about ten eggs to a pound. Thus there is a difference of three eggs in one pound weight. Hence it is claimed that in justice to the consumer eggs should be sold by weight."
---The Grocers' Hand-Book and Directory, Artemas Ward [Philadelphia Grocer Publishing:Philadelphia] 1886 (p. 67)
"A pound of eggs (nine)is equivalent in nutritive value to a pound of beef. From this it may be seen that eggs, even at twenty-five cents per dozen, should not be freely used by the strict economist."
--- Boston Cooking School Cook Book, Fannie Merritt Farmer (p. 92)
"...to the man who handles [eggs] between the farm and the breakfast table there are Fancy Fresh, Fresh Gathered, Storage Packed, Storage, Limed, Known Marks, Extras, Firsts, Seconds, Dirties, Checks, etc....There is a wide difference in the weight of eggs--although all cooking receipts say 'take two eggs,' or whatever number seems suitable, without any allowance for variations is size! The breeds that lay the largest eggs, averaging seven to a pount, are the Black Spanish, Light Brahma, Houdan, La Fleche, and Creve Coeur. Eggs of medium size and weight, averaging eight or nine to a pound, are laid by the Leghorn, Cochin, Minorca, Red Cap, Poland, Dorking and Games. Hamburg eggs average about ten to the pound. There is thus a difference of three eggs in one pound of weight. The average weight of twenty eggs laid by different breeds is 2 1/8 pounds...The size of the egg varies also with the care and treatment of the fowls. Those from the South formerly averaged small for all breeds, but a marked improvement has been noticeable during recent years."
---"Eggs," Grocer's Encyclopedia, Artemas Ward
"Fresh gathered extras...extra firsts...firsts...seconds and lower grades...fresh gathered, dirties...checks...refrigerator, special marks, fancy, season’s storage....firsts on dock...seconds...thirds...refrigerator whites...hennery browns...fancy large new laid...selected whites..."
---"Country Produce Markets, New York Times, December 7, 1912 (p. 19)
""Eggs...There was a better trading in fresh-gathered eggs and dealers are still on the market looking for desirable qualities...The seriously mixed and lowed grades are quiet and irregular. Storage eggs are wanted beyond the supply available and prices are naturally strong, with profit limitations having more effect on prices than differences in quality within reasonable limits. Nearby white eggs of strictly fancy quality and large size are scarce and firm. The bulk of the supply is mixed in size or quality and is moving slowly at a wide range at comparatively easy prices. Some further sales of Californias of prime quality at 88 c; fresh-gathered extras...extra firsts...firsts... seconds... undergrades... dirties, No. 1... & No. 2 and poorer...check good to choice, dry...undergrades...refrigerator."
---"Butter and Egg Market," New York Times, November 23, 1918 (p. 15)
"It will be noted that in the formulas, as well as in the remixes, toppings and fillings, eggs are specified by weight. Formulas calling for a given number of Shell Eggs or a given number of Whites or Yolks are essentially inaccurate, because of the fact that eggs vary so much in size. A thirty-dozen case of small eggs my yield only thirty pounds of egg meat. A case of extremely large eggs would yield thirty-eight or thirty-nine pounds, the maximum being at least 25% more than the minimum. If Shell Eggs are used in the bakery, the following conversion basis will be adaptable for use where small amounts of eggs are called for; 1 lb Whole Egg equals 9 to 11 Shell Eggs, 1 lb Whites equals 17 to 20 Whites, 1 lb. Sugar Yolk equals 19 to 22 Yolks."
---A Treatise on Baking, Julius E. Wihlfahrt [Fleischmann Division, Standard Brands Inc.:New York] 1927 (p. 396)
[NOTE: Commericial baking texts generally promote powdered egg substitutes over fresh shell eggs for product consistency.]
""Eggs--Prices...white henneries large...white henneries small...Government graded and dated white eggs; U.S. extras, large...medium...U.S. standards, large."
---"Washington Produce," Washington Post, December 1, 1932 (p. 14)
"Size and Shape. Quality eggs should have a ... weight of at least 24 ounces per dozen, and should be uniform in size. A 23-ounce egg and a 25-ounce egg in the same carton will pass, but if one 28-ounce egg should be included in the carton, the customer gets the impression that all the other eggs are small, even though they may be 24-ounce eggs. Odd-shaped eggs should be culled out and not included in the carton."
---Purina Poultry Guide [Ralston Purina Company:St. Louis MO] 1933, first edition (p. 52)
""There is a tendency for body size to be associated with egg size; that is, in any given flock the largest birds usually lay the largest eggs. Most poultry breeders and flock owners could do quite a bit toward increasing the average size of eggs laid by the flock as a whole by culling out the smallest birds every year. Among the birds that are left, those that lay very small eggs should be culled rather than used in the breeding pen. This is quite important because it has been found that pullets that lay very small eggs at commencement of laying are very likely to lay small eggs for the rest of the year. Also, it has been found that in many cases the heavier producers in a high-laying strain lay smaller eggs than the average producers. This is not to say that high production and good egg size cannot be combined in the same bird, for this has been accomplished a thousand times over by poultry breeders...One of the most important things to keep in mind in developing a strain noted for good egg size is to select males as breeders that are the sons of dams that lay a good-sized egg. The market standard is a 2-ounce egg, and that is why females qualifying for record of performance are required to lay 200 eggs or more averaging at least 2 ounces in weight."
---Yearbook of Agriculture 1936, U. S. Department of Agriculture [Government Printing Office:Washington DC] 1937 (p. 981-982)
"Eggs--Receipts...fancy to extra fancy...extras...storage packed firsts...graded firsts...seconds...mediums...dirties.. .No 2....Refrigerator firsts...seconds...Resale of nearby heavier mediums."
---"New York Produce," Washington Post, February 3, 1940 (p. 22)
""The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recommended new letter grades--AA, A, B, C--which makes everything much simpler. The new grades correspond almost exactly to the old ones, that is, the quality of AA eggs is the same as that of the 'special' variety, and A eggs are equivalent to the former 'extras.'...This improved labeling system was approved by the department in December...although merchants are not ordered to adopt it; it is hoped they will...These grades indicate only quality and condition, an expert points out, and have nothing whatever to do with color or weight. With regard to the latter, the department gives the following classifications: 'jumbo' size weigh about twenty-eight ounces a dozen; 'extra large,' twenty-six; 'large,' twenty-four; 'medium,' twenty-one, and small,' eighteen. And it advises that customers pay careful attention to these weights when they buy, for they determine the amount of food value."
---"News of Food...Grading Eggs by Letter Seen as Help," Jane Holt, New York Times, February 13, 1943 (p. 15)
""Eggs...Size (minimum standards) Large--24 oz. per doz., Medium--10 1/2 oz. per doz., Small--17 oz. per doz...1 medium egg, 1 3/4-2 oz."
---America's Cook Book, New York Herald Tribune Home Institute, new and revised edition [Charles Scriber's Sons:New York] 1946 (p. 917)
""The grade of an egg refers to its quality as determined by candling...Within each grade, eggs are reclassed as to size of weight. You will find these weight classes marked on each carton in addition to the grade of the eggs. Eggs marked 'Jumbo' must weigh a minimum of 30 ounces per dozen., 'Extra Large,' 27 ounces per dozen; 'Large,' 24 ounces per dozen; 'Medium,' 21 ounces per dozen; and 'Small,' 18 ounces per dozen."
---"Relative Quality of Graded Eggs," Ask Anne, Washington Post, December 8, 1948 (p. B6)
"Eggs are graded on the basis of outside appearance, weight, and interior quality. They come in several official sizes: Extra large (26 ounces or 1 pound 11 ounces per dozen), Large (24 ounces, or 1 pound 11 ounces per dozen), Medium (21 ounces or 1 pound 5 ounces per dozen), Small (18 ounces or 1 pound 2 ounces per dozen). The smaller eggs are usually more plentiful in late summer or early fall. The size never affects the quality of the eggs, but it does affect the price, with the smaller eggs, naturally, costing less."
---Betty Furness Westinghouse Cook Book, prepared under the direction of Julia Kiene [Simon and Schuster:New York] 1954 (p. 272)
"Section 56.218. Weight classes (a) The weight classes of the U.S. Consumer Grades of Shell Eggs shall be indicated in Table 1 of this section and shall apply to all consumer grades...Jumbo, Extra large, Large, Medium, Small, Peewee."
---20 Federal Register 677, February 1, 1955
[NOTES: (1)US federal government egg size definitions first surface in 1943. They are invariably connected with product grades. (2) Early federal standards were encouraged, but not required. Most states imposed their own standards on the egg trade, which were sometimes stricter than federal recommendations. Consumers were actively encouraged to look for USDA graded (optional) markings on their egg products for quality assurance. (3) Table II (p. 679) sets forth weight classes for United States Wholesale Grades for Shell Eggs. This chart omits 'Jumbo' designation. (4) section 7 CFR 56.218 does not exist in 2012. Current 7 CFR 56 describes "Voluntary grading of eggs," no references to weight or size.]
"New York housewives will find jumbo eggs in the markets soon. Jumbo is a new weight classification in a revised list announced today by the State Agriculture Department. The department said the revisions would give New York poultrymen a better break in a highly competitive market. To be labeled jumbo, a dozen eggs must weigh thirty ounces or more. Other sizes and weights are: Extra large, 27 to 30 ounces; large, 24 to 27 ounces; medium, 21 to 24 ounces; small 18 to 21 ounces, and peewee, less than 18 ounces." ---"New Jumbo Egg Size Approved for Markets," New York Times, June 24, 1957 (p. 57)
[NOTE: the "new" jumbo size designation is not federal, it's for New York State.]
"Size has nothing to do with the quality of an egg. Jumbo eggs are largest and which at least 30 oz. a dozen. Extra large eggs weight 27 oz. or more a dozen; large, 24 oz,; medium, 21 oz.; small, 18 oz, and peewees, smaller. Most recipes such as cakes and cookies call for large eggs. But medium eggs are often a better buy. An extra breakfast egg may be served hearty eaters and extra eggs may be added to recipes in which the amount of egg is critical. Shell color also has nothing to do with the quality of an egg. Brown, white or mixed-color eggs graded AA are of top quality."
---"Quality Tips Grade AA: There's Good Egg," Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1962 (p. E18)
"Recipes in this book are based on 2-ounce eggs, usually described as 'large.' In many recipes it is unimportant if a little more or a little less egg is used."
---Fannie Farmer Cookbook, revised by Wilma Lord Perkins, 11th edition [Little, Brown and Company:Boston] 1965 (p. 7)
"What size eggs should you buy? Labeling of eggs by size as well as quality follows a suggested U.S. Department of Agriculture grading scheme. It is based on the weight of one dozen eggs, and it defines six sizes ranging from Jumbo down to Peewee. But most shoppers are confronted with only three descriptive sizes, and it is refreshing to be able to state that their meaning is much more specific than is usually the case on packages in the supermarket: Extra Large, 27 ounces per dozen, Large, 24 ounces per dozen, Medium, 21 ounces per dozen. The USDA standard suggest that, as long as the whole carton of eggs meets is minimum weight requirement, individual eggs may be 1/12 ounce below weight. Thus, a few eggs in a dozen labeled Large might weigh 1 11/12 ounces, but others would have to be heavier so that the average came to at least 2 ounces. New York's state law is much more rigid, and uniquely so among the 50 states. In New York no egg in a carton marked Large may weigh less than 2 ounces, and so the consumer would receive a slightly larger average egg in New York than in other states--if the law were enforced. But evidently the strict New York weight regulation is no more meaningful than the state's comparatively stringent quality tolerances. In CU's sampling, about 10% of the eggs graded weighed less than 2 ounces. As with quality, USDA-graded cartons same closer to the mark than company-graded cartons: Cartons below New York state weight minimum (Federal-state graded 6%, Company graded 14%). It looks as though you get larger quantity along with better quality by choosing USDA-graded eggs rather than company-graded ones. But with eggs the problem of quantity has another, more elusive side to it. Prices of various sizes of eggs fluctuate during the year. Especially in the late summer and fall, Small and Medium eggs are likely to be in plentiful supply and, ounce for ounce, may be a better buy than the Large eggs. The USDA has worked out a table for the guidance of shoppers, and some women might want to keep a copy of it in their purse for ready reference. Here it is: Assmuing a single quality grade, if Extra Large eggs cost 54 cents per doz., large eggs are a better buy at less than 47 cents per doz. and Medium eggs are a better buy at less than 41 cents per doz."
---"Are the eggs you buy making the grade?" Consumer Reports, February 1966 (p. 66)
[Chart offers 8 additional price points, ranging from 59-94 cents Extra Large eggs, dozen.]
"Buying eggs has changed a lot in the past fifty years--and much for the better, too. It used to be that a farmer's wife had her own flock of laying hens. She fed them scraps, a bit of grain, and turned them out to 'pick' in summer. Even farmer who was in the business of producing eggs used pretty haphazard methods compared to today's standard of excellence...Today, the mass production of this very important food is strictly scientific, And you, the modern homemaker, benefit. Imperfect and low-quality eggs never even reach your supermarket. Now eggs can be sorted out according to size and quality, so that you know exactly what you are buying...Here are some simple guidelines: Each egg sizes has a minimum weight per dozen: Jumbo--1 lb., 14 oz., Extra Large--1 lb., 11 oz., Large-- 1 lb., 8 oz., Medium--1 lb., 5 oz., Small--1 lb., 2 oz., Peewee--15 oz. The size does not affect the quality, but does affect the price. There are four grades of eggs: AA, A, B and C. Of these, AA and A are the best quality for all purposes, especially in recipes where appearance is important, such as poaching, hard-cooking in the shell and frying. Grade B eggs are suitable for use in scrambling, baking and recipes where they are mixed with other ingredients. In a high quality egg, the white is thick and stands up well around a firm, high yolk. Grade C eggs are rarely found in retail stores."
---"Egg Sizes and Grades," Chicago Daily Defender, May 11, 1967 (p. 27)
"A reader of Harper's Weekly recently wrote a letter to the editor asking why big eggs cost more than little eggs. The letter said size-12 shoes or socks cost no more than smaller sizes, although they contain more material. It also said that if you buy foodstuffs other than eggs in bulk, it's their total weight, not their size but unit, that determines the price. What then, is the justification for charging more for jumbo eggs than for peewee eggs? The letter-writer suspects that the price difference just pays for the machines that sort the big ones from the little ones. Because Harper's Weekly has been laggard in answering the reader's question, we thought we would look into it. The answer is because big eggs cost more than little eggs because big eggs are laid by bigger hens. Pullets lay peewees and don't eat much. Old hens heading for the stewpot lay jumbos and eat a lot. That's what it comes down to--chicken feed. Still, we can't accept that as a good reason. It seems to us that the overall price of eggs might be lower if the egg people got rid of their sorting machines and sold their eggs by the pound--big and little ones together. The egg people agree that it might lower prices. But they won't do it. They won't do it because consumers have a hangup on big eggs. They think they're better than little eggs. They're not. In fact, the bigger the egg, the runnier it is. Little eggs hold together better and don't stream all over the frying pan...There is...no nutritional difference--big or little--between big and little eggs. That's myth. Just like the myth that it's worth paying more for brown eggs because they're tastier and more nutritious than white eggs. They're not. Brown eggs cost more than white eggs because they're laid by hens that are bigger at the same age--and eat more--than the hens that lay white eggs of exactly the same size. OK?"
---"The Egg and You," Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1975 (p. H2)
Why are eggs sold by the dozen?
Food historians confirm people have been eating eggs from prehistoric times forward. Cooking methods and recipes vary according to period, place and taste. Boiling is thought to have been developed after roasting and baking, as it required both receptacles capable of holding water and a method for heating that water to 212 degrees F. (100 C). Soft boiled eggs were generally considered more digestible and refined.
Shell eggs & cooking times
"Cooking times for in-shell eggs are determined by the desired texture (they also depend on egg size, starting temperature, and cooking temperature; the times here are rough averages)...The French oeuf a la coque ('from the shell') is cooked for only two or three minutes and remains semi-liquid throughout. Coddled or 'soft boiled' eggs, cooked 3 to 5 minutes, have a barely solid outer white, a milky inner white, and a warm yolk, and are spooned from the shell. The less familiar mollet eggs (from the French molle, 'soft'), cooked for 5 to 6 minutes, have a semi-liquid yolk but a sufficiently firm outer white that they can be peeled and served whole."
---On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Harold McGee, completely revised and updated [Scribner:New York] 2004 (p. 88)
"Boiled eggs (soft boiled)--Oeufs Mollets--Plunge the eggs into a pan of boiling water. Cook 3-4 minutes...Eggs a la coque...Plunge the egg into a pot of boiling water. An egg of average weight should be left for 3 minutes. A larger eggs should be left for half a minute longer in the boiling water...Poached eggs...simmer very gently for 3 minutes."
---Larousse Gastronomique [Crown Publishers:New York] 1961 (p. 374-375)
Boiled eggs through time
"The Egyptians ate eggs of all birds...The Eighteenth Dynasty tomb of Haremhed at Thebes has an illustration of a pelican and a basket of eggs. Eggs were easily obtained and were recommended as wholesome food, being consumed hard- or soft-boiled, fried, poached, and used as a binding agent in cookery, especially in souffles and sauces...Goose eggs had to be lightly boiled; otherwise they were indigestible...Anthimus noted approvingly that a person could eat as many eggs as he or she wanted, but the correct way to prepare eggs was to place them in cold water and cook them over a low flame...Hard-boiled eggs were regarded as a more substantial food."
---Food in the Ancient World, Joan P. Alcock [Greenwood Press:Westport CT] 2006 (p. 75)
"Quails, and later domestic hens, were kept partly for their eggs, oion. These, hard- or soft-boiled, were served among desserts; egg yolk and egg white were ingredients in certain dishes."
---Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece, Andrew Dalby [Routledge::London] 1997 (p. 65)
"From Apicius' cookery book we learn that [the Romans] sometimes boiled their eggs and served them with simple sauces."
---Food & Drink in Britain: From the Stone Age to the 19th Century, C. Anne Wilson [Academy Chicago:Chicago IL] 1991 (p. 138)
"No foodstuff was more commonly consumed in the Middle Ages than chicken eggs--with the single exception of bread...Eggs in particular were vitally important in the cookery of the time in part simply because they were common and relatively cheap. A second reason for the universal popularity of eggs in late-medieval cookery was probably that which accounts for their continuing popularity today...versatility...In our recipe collections plain eggs are boiled, fried, scrambled...roasted...and poached. And eggs, liquid and hard-boiled, yolks and whites together or separated, entered into mixture for a very large number of prepared dishes."
---Early French Cookery: Sources, History, Original Recipes and Modern Adaptations, D. Eleanor Scully and Terence Scully [University of Michigan Press:Ann Arbor] 1995 (p. 230)
"The most usual way of dressing eggs at the end of the Middle Ages were to roast them in embers, to poach them in hot water or broth, or to fry them...By the later sixteenth century the boiling of eggs in their shells in water had become a common practice. Prepared thus they were more digestible than roasted eggs; but less so than poached eggs, which always earned the highest praise form the medical men...Hard-boiled chopped eggs were still put into pies of mixed ingredients."
---Food & Drink in Britain (p. 144, 146)
"Italians in the sixteenth century used hard-boiled eggs to garnish salads...Aldrovandi assures us that the practice was a common one throughout Europe."
---The Chicken Book, Page Smith and Charles Daniel [University of Georgia Press:Athens GA] 2000 (p. 367)
18th Century France
"Louis XV ate boiled eggs every Sunday...Parisians some in whole families to admirer their sovereign's dexterity with an egg. In an almost religious hush, he would knock the small end off the egg with a single stroke of his fork, while an officer of the table called for attention, announcing, 'The King is about to eat his egg!'"
---History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat, translated by Anthea Bell [Barnes & Noble Books:New York] 1992 (p. 359)
Soft boiled eggs
Food historians confirm boiled eggs have been consumed from prehistoric times forward. Eggs timed in minutes are usually cooked in their shells. The hotter the water and longer the boil, the more solid the finished product. From ancient times forward, soft boiled eggs are generally regarded as easier to digest. They were prescribed for invalids and preferred by wealthier classes. Four minute eggs fall in the "soft-boiled" category. Poached and shirred eggs fall into the same general category, although their method is more complicated and requires special equipment.
Medieval France: "soft-boiled" eggs were recommended for digestibility:
"...The fourth difference between eggs likes in the [culinary] preparation that is given them for eating...Those that are cooked on hot coals may be hard or soft. The hard-cooked ones are gross and heavy, digest poorly in the stomach and engender crude humors...The soft cooked ones are the opposite, for they soften the belly and stay only briefly in the stomach; they relieve a dryness of the chest and lung. Those eggs that are between hard-and soft-cooked are unlike either and are better to eat than either. Poached eggs strengthen natural warmth, especially when they are cooked to neither hard nor soft, because the water eliminates their harmfulness, and they are better eaten that way than any other way. Fried eggs are the worst of all sorts of preparation because they are converted into bad humors and engender vapors and nausea, and consequently are bad to eat. Eggs that are eaten in a broth or with meat or in a similar was are to be praised or condemned depending on the substances with which they are combined: for if they are eaten with good spices, such as cinnamon, pepper and ginger, and with meat, they are digested better and nourish better..."
---Early French Cookery: Sources, History, Original Recipes and Modern Adaptations, D. Eleanor Scully & Terence Scully [University of Michigan Press:Ann Arbor MI] 2005 (p. 231)
Boiled eggs through time
Ova elixa: liquamine, oleo, mero vel ex liquamine, pipere, lasere.
Bolied eggs: garum, oil wine or liquamen, pepper and laser. (Apicius 329)
[Modern interpretation] Prick a hole in each egg to let out the air, which might break the egg during boiling. Put the eggs into cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for about 5 minutes, then leave to cool. Peel the eggs and cut them in half. For 5 eggs, finely crush 1 clove of garlic with some pepper and 5 anchovies. Add the egg yolks and pound smooth. Add a little olive oil and a little wine and stir well. Pile the mixture into the egg whites."
"Boiled Eggs with Rue and Tuna or Anchovies
Mox vetus et tenui maior cordyla lacerto, sed quam cum rutae frondibus ova tegebant.
The salted tunas, larger than a cordyla (a type of fish) were served, covering eggs with stalks of rue....
"Soft-Boiled Eggs in Pine Nut Sauce
In ovus hapalis; piper, ligustcom, nucleos infousos. Suffundes mel, acetum; liquamine temperabis.
For soft-boiled eggs: pepper, soaked pine nuts. Add honey and vinegar and mix with garum. (Apicius 329)"
---Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome, Patrick Faas [Palgrave MacMillan:New York] 2003 (p. 315-316)
"Soft-Boiled Eggs in Vinegar (Oribasius 4.11.14)]
One should boil eggs in water whilst stirring them without pause; for when stirred they do not congeal or thicken; they are better boiled in vinegar; for then they stay still more moist...This recipe reads oddly; it makes sense only if the eggs are warmed in the shell rather than truly boiled. The constantly jostling in the shell will minimize coagulation, although given enough time, the eggs will firm up. The instruction that eggs are moistened boiled in vinegar may refer to the fact that if an eggshell contains a crack, the egg can leach out and solidify. If the egg is cooked in water containing vinegar, the vinegar will coagulate the escaping egg faster, sealing most of the egg in the shell."
---Cooking in Ancient Civilizations, Cathy K. Kaufman [Greenwood Press:Westport CT] 2006 (p. 165)
"There is no doubt that the menagier made great use of [eggs]. We are first given clear instructions about cooking eggs, and these are as valid today as they were six centuries ago.If you wet eggs and put them in boiling liquid, the yolk will not harden, but if you put them in without having wetted them first, they can become hard. If you want to hard-boil eggs, put them in simmering water and draw the pan to the side. Whether you want them hard- or soft-boiled, plunge them in cold water as soon as they are cooked and they will peel easily."
---Living and Dining in Medieval Paris: The Household of a Fourteenth Century Knight, Nicole Crossley-Holland [University of Wales Press:Cardiff] 1996 (p. 153)
[19th Century France]
Take 6 new-laid eggs; put 3 pints of water in a 2-quart stewpan; when the water boils, put in the eggs; cover the stewpan; boil for one minute; take off the fire, and let the eggs remain in the water for five minutes; take them out of the water; and serve them in a napkin."
---The Royal Cookery Book, Jules Gouffe, translated by Alphonse Gouffe [Sampson Low, Son and Marston:London] 1869 (p. 177)
[19th Century England]
"The usual time allotted for boiling eggs in the shell is 3 to 3 3/4 minutes: less time than than in boiling water will not be sufficient to solidify the white, and more will make the yolk hard and less digestible; it is very hard to guess accurately as to the time. Great care should be employed in putting them into the water, to prevent cracking the shell, which inevitably causes a portion of the white to exude, and lets water into the egg."
---Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, Isabella Beeton, 1861, edited with an introduction and notes by Nicola Humble [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2000 (p. 321-322)
[19th Century USA]
"To Boil Eggs for Breakfast
The fresher they are the longer time they will require for boiling. If you wish them quite soft, put them into a saucepan of water that is boiling hard at the moment, and let them remain in it five minutes. The longer they boil the harder they will be. In ten minutes' fast boiling they will be hard enough for salad. If you use one of the tin egg-boilers that are placed on the table, see that the water is boiling hard at the time you put in the eggs. When they have been in about four or five minutes, take them out, pour off the water, and replace it by some more that is boiling hard; as, from the coldness of the eggs having chilled the first water, they will not otherwise be done enough. The boiler may then be placed on the talbe, (keeping the lid closed,) and in a few minuntes more the will be sufficiently cooked to be wholesome."
---Directions for Cookery in its Various Branches, Miss [Eliza] Leslie [Carey & Hart:Philadelphia] 1849 (p. 207)
[20th Century France]
"1291...Method of Preparing Soft Boiled Eggs:
Place the eggs into boiling water and allow 6 minutes from the time the water reboils; cool in cold water and immediately shell them, reheat in hot water as for poached eggs. The Dressing and Serving of...Soft-Boiled Eggs: Before being used the eggs must be well drained on a clean cloth. They are usually dressed in one of the following ways
1) On plain or decorated Croutons of bread fried in clarified butter--oval shape for poached eggs and round for soft-boiled eggs.
2) on shapes of cooked puff pastry--round for soft-boiled eggs.
3) in a border of forcemeat of other similar mixture according to the requirements of the recipe. These borders are made with a piping bag and tube or moulded on buttered dishes; these can be round or oval, and plain or decorated...
4) in pale baked tartlet cases filled with a garnish according to the particular recipe being used..."
"1295. Oeufs Durs--Hard-boiled Eggs
Although the cooking of hard-boiled eggs may seem to be an insignificant operation the correct timing of the cooking is essential. It is of no use to cook them for longer than the exact time because overcooking will toughen the white and disclour the yolk. To ensure a uniform cooking time for a number of eggs, place them into a basket or receptacle with large holes and immerse completely in a pan of boiling water; when it reboils allow 8 minutes for medium eggs and 10 minutes for large ones. As soon as they are cooked, remove and plunge them immediately into cold water; shell the eggs without breaking them."
---Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery, Escoffier,  translated by H.L. Cracknell and R.J. Kaufmann [John Wiley & Sons:New York] 1979 (p. 155-156)
The origin of deviled eggs can't be attributed to one specific person, company, date or town. It is a culinary amalgam of history and taste. The concept of deviled eggs begins with Ancient Rome. Spicy stuffed eggs were known in 13th century Andalusia. The name is an 18th century invention.
Not long after the Ancient Greeks and Romans domesticated fowl, egg dishes of all kinds figured prominently in cookery texts. Eggs were eaten on their own (omelets, scrambled) and employed as congealing agents (custard, flan, souffles). The ancestor of deviled eggs? Ancient Roman recipes for boiled eggs (to various degrees) eggs were generaly served with saucy spices poured on top.
The first recipes for stuffed, hard-boiled were printed in medieval European texts. These cooks stuffed their eggs with raisins, cheese and sweet spices. Platina's De Honesta Voluptate [15th century Italian text] instructs cooks thusly:
"28. Stuffed eggs
Make fresh eggs hard by cooking for a long time. Then, when the shells are removed, cut the eggs through the middle so that the white is not damaged. When the yolks are removed, pound part with raisins and good cheese, some fresh and some aged. Reserve part to color the mixture, and also add a little finely cut parsley, marjoram, and mint. Some put in two or more egg whites withspices. When the whites of the eggs have been stuffed with this mixture and closed, fry them over slow fire in oil. When they have been fried, add a sauce made from the rest of the egg yolks pounded with raisins and moistened with verjuice and must. Put in ginger, cloves, and cinnamon and heat them a little while with the eggs themselves. This has more harm than good in it."
---Platina: on the Right Pleasure and Good Health, Critical edition and translation of De Honesta Voluptate et Valetudine, Mary Ella Milham [Medival & Renaissance Texts & Studies:Tempe AZ] 1998
The practice of hard boiling eggs was popular in Tudor England: "By the later sixteenth century the boiling of eggs in their shells in water had become a common practice. Prepared thus they were more digestible that roasted eggs; but less so than poached eggs, which always earned the highest praise form the medical men."
---Food and Drink in Britain, C. Anne Wilson [Academy Chicago Publishers:Chicago] 1991 (p. 144)
According to historic cookbooks, the practice of boiling eggs, extracting the yolks and combining them with savory spices (mustard, cayenne pepper) and refilling the eggs with the mixture was common in latter years of the 16th century and was the "norm" by the 17th.
"To Farce Eggs
Take eight or ten eggs and boil them hard. Peel off the shells and cut every egg in the middle; then out the yolks. Make your farcing stuff as you do for flesh, saving only you must put butter into it instead of suet, and that a little. So done, fill your eggs where the yolks were, and then bring them and seethe them a little. And so serve them to the table."
---The Good Housewife's Jewel, Thomas Dawson, with an introduction by Maggie Black [London 1596] (p. 86)
"The Second Way
Fry some parsley, some minced leeks, and young onions, when you have fried them pour them into a dish season them with salt and pepper, and put to them hard eggs cut in halves, put some mustard to them, and dish the eggs, mix the sauce well together, and pour it hot on the eggs."
---The Accomplisht Cook, Robert May [London, 5th edition 1685] (p. 435)
[NOTE: Robert May's text lists six ways "To dress hard eggs divers ways." Though none of these recipes are specifically called "deviled" they are strikingly similar to the deviled eggs we are served today.
"Eggs in Mustard Sauce
Sodde Egges: Seeth your Egges almost harde, then peele them and cut them in quarters, then take a little Butter in a frying panne and melt it a little broune, then put to it in to the panne, a little Vinegar, Mustarde, Pepper and Salte, and then put it into a platter upon your Egges."
---A Taste of History: 10,000 Years of Food in Britain, Tudor Britain, Peter Brears [British Museum Press:London] 1997 (p.162)
Where the devil?
According to the food historians the practice of "devilling" food "officially" began sometime during the 18th century in England. Why? Because that was when the term "deviled," as it relates to food, first shows up in print. The earliest use of this culinary term was typically associated with kidneys & other meats, not stuffed eggs:
"Devil...A name for various highly-seasoned broiled or fried dishes, also for hot ingredients. 1786, Craig "Lounger NO. 86 'Make punch, brew negus, and season a devil.'"
---Oxford English Dictionary (the 1786 reference is the first use of this word in print. Words are often part of the oral language long before they appear in print).
"Devil--a culinary term which...first appeared as a noun in the 18th century, and then in the early 19th century as a verb meaning to cook something with fiery hot spices or condiments...The term was presumably adopted because of the connection between the devil and the excessive heat in Hell...Boswell, Dr Johnson's biographer, frequently refers to partaking of a dish of "devilled bones" for supper, which suggests an earlier use."
---The Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (pages 247-248).
[James Boswell lived from 1740-1795, Dr. Johnson's biography was published in 1791]
"Deviled...Any variety of dishes prepared with hot seasonings, such as cayenne or mustard. The word derives from the association with the demon who dwells in hell. In culinary context the word first appears in print in 1786; by 1820 Washington Irving has used the word in his Sketchbook to describe a highly seasoned dish similar to a curry. Deviled dishes were very popular throughout the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries, especially for seafood preparations and some appetizers." ---The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, John Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (pages 110-111)
"Around 1868, Underwood's sons began experimenting with a new product created from ground ham blended with special seasonings. The process they dubbed "deviling," for cooking and preparing the ham, was new. But best of all, the taste was unique. Soon thereafter, the "Underwood devil" was born."
History of the Underwood Company
Many early 19th century devilling recipes were for meat and other items:
Devilled Biscuits...Butter some biscuits on both sides, and pepper them well, make a paste of either chopped anchovies, or fine cheese, and spread it on the biscuit, with mustard and cayenne pepper, and grill them."
---The Jewish Manual, by A Lady [London:1846] (p. 98)
"Devilling, Or broiling with cayenne, is also a good expident to coax the palate when you have relics of poultry of game. Fish can likewise be "devilled," or egged and fried with a small piece of butter and bread crumbs, mixed with a little dried tyme, marjoram, and fresh parsley crumbled and chopped very fine."
---The Dinner Question, or How to Dine Well and Economically, Tabitha Tickletooth, [London:1860] (p. 51)
Recipes for deviled eggs have changed with time, probably a result of culinary fads and ingredient availabilty. Compare the following:
Boil six or eight eggs hard; leave in cold water until they are cold; cut in halves, slicing a bit of the bottoms to make them stand upright, a la Columbus. Extract the yolks, and rub to a smooth paste with a very little melted butter, some cayenne pepper, a touch of mustard, and just a dash of vinegar. Fill the hollowed whites with this, and send to table upon a bed of chopped cresses, seasoned with pepper, salt, vinegar, and a little sugar. The salad should be two inches thick, and an egg be served with a heaping tablespoonful of it. You may use lettuce or white cabbage instead of cresses."
---Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery, Marion Harland [Scribner:New York] 1882 (p. 246).
If to be served hot, boil the eggs hard, and quarter or slice them, then lay them in a stewpan with enough gravy to cover them. Gravy a la Diable will be found excellent; but a plainer one can be made on the same principle by using a cheaper stock. A few drops of anchovy sauce is an improvement. Serve as soon as the eggs are hot throught, sith strips of dry toast, or put croutons round the dish.(p. 594)
Gravy a la Diable
Required: half a pint of clear brown stock...half an ounce of arrowroot, a tablespoonful of claret, a teaspoonful of French mustard, a dessertspoonful of Worcester sauce, and a little soluble cayenne, with salt to taste, and a few drops of soy. Mix the thickening with the claret, and the rest of the ingredients, and boil for a few minutes. Serve with kidneys, steaks, &etc., or with grilled fish. For a hotter sauce, increaes the Worcester sauce, or boil a few capsicum seeds in the gravy." (p. 85)
---Cassell's New Universal Cookery Book, Lizzie Heritage [Cassell and Company:London] 1894.
Boil eggs twenty minutes and when cool shell. Cut into halves crosswise and remove the yolks without breaking the whites. Put the whites of the same egg together, that they need not get separated. The yolks may be put in the bowl. Whe all are cut, rub the yolks to a c ream with melted butter, add a little made mustard or sauce from the chow chow bottle a little pickle or pilces and salt and paprika to season. Fill the mixture into the whites, put the halves together as they belong, and as if preparing them for the picnic basket fasten together with a couple of little Japanese wooden tooth picks before wrapping in waxed paper. The picks serve as handles in eating. If they are to be put on the home table press the halves together and arrange on a bed of cress or lettuce. For a change, finely minced meat highly seasoned is often added to the yolks. The devilled mixture that will be left over makes a spicy filling for sandwiches. Another way of using devilled eggs is to spread the yolk mixture left over on a shallow baking dish, place the eggs on it and cover with a thin cream sauce, veal or chicken gravy. Sprinkle with buttered crumbs and bake until the crumbs are delicate brown. A grating of cheese may be incorporated with the crumbs, if desired."
--- New York Evening Telegram Cook Book, Emma Paddock Telford [New York Evening Telegram:New York] 1908 (p. 28-9).
Remove the yolks from six hard-cooked eggs and force therm through a fine sieve. Add one teaspoonful of salt, one teaspooonful of dry mustard, one-half teaspoonful of freshly ground, black pepper, one teaspoonful of Worcestershire sauce, one-and-one-half tabelspoonfuls of chopped parsley, and at least a tablespoonful of mayonnaise. Beat well wtih a fork till it forms a firm paste, adding more mayonnaise if necessary. Fill the white halves. using a pastry tube and garnish wih chopped parsley or tiny strips of pimiento."
---Hors D'Oeuvre and Canapes With a Key to the Cocktail Party, James Beard [M. Barrows:New York] 1940 (p. 54)
Prepare: Hard-cooked eggs
Shell the eggs, cut them in halves, remove the yolks. Crush the yolks with a fork and work them into a smooth paste with:
Mayonnaise, French dressing, cream or butter
Season the paste with:
A little dry mustard (optional)
Fill the egg whites whith the paste and garnish the eggs with:
Chopped parsley or chives
Sliced olives, anchovies, capers, etc.
---The Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer [Bobbs-Merrill:Indianapolis] 1946 (p. 92).
Deep-fried deviled eggs
This departure from the usual is fun to do and fine to serve. After you have prepared your deviled eggs, dip them in fork-beaten egg, then roll in fine bread crumbs. (And this can all be done in the morning.) When cooking time comes, place the eggs in a frying basket (this is essential), and deep fry at 365 degrees farenheit until brown. Serve at once."
---Martha Deane's Cooking for Compliments, Marian Young Taylor [M.Barrows:New York] 1954 (p. 133).
The earliest reference we find for dried egg albumen (aka desiccated eggs, dried eggs) in USA print is from the 1880s. Newspaper articles suggest this product was invented to combat fresh egg shortages. A detailed description of this product in a grocer's hand book  suggests the item was readily available but not widely known. In the 1920s dried eggs became the focus of national attention when imports became big business. Tariffs were legislated to protect domestic producers. Anti-Chinese sentiments were expressed. We assume some of these products were imported from that country. One decade later, California producers were building factories to capitalize on growing consumer demands.
From the beginning, commercial baking and confectionery concerns composed the largest market for dried egg products. Cheaper, more stable, and easier to store than fresh eggs, dried counterparts were readily embraced. The earliest print reference we find for the use of dried egg albumen in royal icing is from the early 1920s.
Dried egg timeline(USA)
"Why not introduce an bill to compel Government vessels to carry desiccated eggs around the world, in order to discover whether they would become mellow with time and change like wine or would undergo some other transformation."
---"Senator Vance's Cordage Bill," New York Times, March 19, 1880 (p. 1) [NOTE: this bill was rejected.]
"One of the most remarkable features of the market at present is the high price of eggs. They have not been dearer since the last war. The supply is light-scarcely sufficient to meet the demand from the hotels, restaurants, and the bakers of the City. Desiccated eggs, and everything else that can be used as a substitute for cooking purposes, are brought into requisition. Choice fresh eggs from near points are worth 70 to 75 cents per dozen; those bought from the interior of this State and the West by express trains, 55 to 60 cents, and limed eggs 50 cents and upward."
---"What May Be Bought in the New York Market," New York Times, January 30, 1881 (p. 9)
"A process has been devised by which the freshness of the egg is said to be maintained for years, resisting the injurious effects of climate. It consists of the crystallization or desiccation of the egg, changing it into an amber-hued vitreous substance, or consolidated mass of yolk and albumen, and materially reducing its bulk. When wanted for use, it is restored to its original condition by adding the water which has been artificially removed. No salt or other foreign matter, it is said, is employed in this process; for which the further merit is claimed that an egg ever so slightly tainted cannot be treated by it at all, and the wholesomeness of the prepared product is thus assured."
---The Grocer's Companion and Merchant's Hand-Book, New England Grocer Office [Benjamin Johnson:Boston] 1883(p. 54)
In the 1910s, the US Dept. of Agriculture began keeping statistics on imports of commercially prepared egg products: egg and egg yolks dried, frozen or prepared. Numbers were expressed in 1,000 pound units. In 1910-1911, total imports all imports in this combined category were 433,000. By 1920, 28,768,000 pounds of these products entered American markets. At this point, the USDA began reporting commercial egg products in more specific categories: whole dried, whole frozen, yolks dried, yolks frozen, egg albumin dried and egg albumen frozen prepared and preserved. Egg albumen, dried" statistics first appear in 1921-1922. In that year, 7,388,000 pounds of this product entered USA markets. In 1933-1934, this number dropped to 308,000, recovering to 1,006,000 the following year. SOURCE: Yearbook of Agriculture, US Dept. of Agriculture [US Government Printing Office:Washington DC] 1936 (p. 1173).
"Eggs enter into commerce in many forms in addition to those in the shell--including whole eggs removed from the shell and stored in cans at a little below the freezing point, powdered yolks, crystallized whites, desiccated eggs, etc."
---Grocer's Encyclopedia, Artemas Ward [National Grocer:New York] 1911 (p. 224)
"Eggs, dried, yolk of eggs, dried, egg albumen including all dried egg products in this or other packages, 45 cents per pound."
---"Bring the Turkey Poult to Maturity," Henry W. Kruckeberg, Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1921 (p. IX15)
"In the general discussion of the new tariff bill there is one time that has received by little publicity yet which is of great importance to California...The duty on eggs is important to this State because of its status as an egg-producing center. 'Desiccated eggs (dried and frozen) are used by the bakery and confectionery trade and the importation of these two products is considerable,' it was stated. 'According to the bureau of agricultural economics of the United States Department of Agriculture, the imports of dried eggs whole, yolks and egg albumen, for the months of January and February of this year were 1,021,663 pounds, while that of the frozen product amounted to 713,226 pounds. 'From these figures...it will be seen that the new tariff schedule which runs from 11 cents a pound for frozen eggs to 60 cents a pound for dried egg albumen, is vitally important to the egg producers of California and the entire United States."
---"Tariff on Eggs Important," Los Angles Times, May 18, 1930 (p. D12)
"It is reported here today by Albert Zoraster, one of the leading chicken and egg authorities in the San Fernando Valley area, that a large dried egg plant my be the next modern industry to be established in this part of the valley area, to take care of the egg surplus each months of the year, and to stabilize the egg market when there is overproduction, and fresh egg markets are more ore less weak. The desiccated egg is the next thing in line in the way of large production for commercial use, Zoraster said today and it will be in keeping with a move that is being felt in various parts of the state. California's new egg law goes into effect in November. Already a desiccating plant has been opened at Hayward, and its output passed upon as up to standards required of foodstuffs. These plants are soon to be established in various sections where egg production is largest. San Fernando Valley is rated as the largest center in Southern California with Fontana next. Zoraster says that for home use the fresh egg will always be in demand for ham-and-eggs and scrambled eggs and boiled eggs and the like, but that more and more, large commercial bakers and other food manufacturers are leaning toward the use of the desiccated egg for numerous economic reasons, and that in time the dried egg will become as widely used as powdered milk and other dehydrated staple commodities."
---"Dried Egg Plant to Be Next Big Valley Industry," Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1931 (p. 8)
When did professional confectioners begin using dried egg albumin in royal icing?
The earliest print evidence we find for professional confectioners employing dried egg albumen is from the 1920s. Please note: our collection of texts in this area is very small. We offer our notes as benchmarks. A comprehensive study determining the introduction and evolution of this product requires examining several texts from different countries.
"Egg albumen. This is a product of many different grades. Two ounces of good grade of egg albumen to a pint of water is equal to 1 1/2 dozen egg whites. With the poorer grades of egg albumen it will take three ounces in a pint of water to equal this same amount of egg whites. Although it is necessary to thoroughly soak egg albumen in order to dissolve, it should never be left in water for over 15 hours as it stagnates and ferments, and in this condition in impossible to use."
---Rigby's Reliable Candy Teacher, W.O. Rigby, 19th edition [printed in the USA]undated, 1921? (p. 17)
"Icing for Decoration.
Take the whites of two eggs or an egg white substitute and whip for about a minute in a clean kettle, then stiffen to a body about as heavy as corn syrup by adding XXXX powdered sugar. Whip until nice and white. If too heavy to run out of decorating tube, add a few drops of acetic acid or citric acid solution. Icing can be colored and flavored to suit. In handling a decorating tube or bag, the results obtained depend entirely up the skill of the decorator."
---Rigby (p. 45)
"Albumen is a mixture of proteins in the white of eggs. That from hen eggs is the best quality. For commercial purposes the egg white is evaporated at a low temperature and the dried albumen is sold as yellowish flakes or as a coarse granular powder. Before use it requires soaking as it dissolves rather slowly in water. Great care must be exercised if any heat is applied as coagulation commences at 140 degrees F. (60 degrees C.). For most purposes, such as for frappe to be used in nougat, marshmallow, fondant cream or royal icing, a 10% solution is made. This has good foaming qualities and the foam remains stable when heated. It should be noted, however, that if the frappe is heated to above 140 degrees F...before beating is complete, it will be impossible to incorporate any more air and it is quite likely that the foam already made will collapse. Like other agglutinants referred to in this section, the solution will deteriorate rapidly and therefore only as much as is required for one or at the most two days should be made. During the War the supply of egg albumen was restricted, and many experiments were made to find satisfactory substitutes. There are now several products on the market and in the use of these the manufacture's instructions should be followed closely."
---"Confectioners' Raw Materials," Skuse's Complete Confectioner, revised and edited by W.J. Bush & Co., [W.J. Bush & Company:London] 13th edition, 1957 (p. 13-14)
When it comes to the origin of Eggs Benedict, food historians tell us there several stories and that we will never know which one is true. All versions occur in 1890s posh New York City restaurants (Waldorf Astoria & Delmonico's) and attribute title to wealthy related people with surname Benedict. (1) Lemuel Benedict (hungover yet hungry) concocts this dish with the help of Waldorf-Astoria kitchen crew (2) Mrs. LeGrand Benedict (sometimes with her husband, always on a Saturday) bored with Delmonico's lunch menu, requests something new for lunch. (3) Commodore E. C. Benedict "invents" this dish. The most cogent summary we've found so far (so much so, we hunted down his original references & reprinted them below) was authored by Gregory Beyer and published by The New York Times, c. 2007:
"The story of eggs Benedict is a hard one to tell. The beginning is shady at best, the main character has a hangover, and there are decades when nothing much happens. But the genre is certain, and the setting clear: Eggs Benedict is a mystery rooted in a long-vanished version of New York. Despite the dish's twisted history, it provides a link to one of the city's more glamorous eras. Of eggs Benedict's origins, much has been said, but little has been settled. Key witnesses are long dead. One cookbook contradicts another. Even the Oxford English Dictionary shrugs: 'Origins U.S.'...And while there are several eggs Benedict creation myths, some of which may be the subject of discussion among aficionados on National Eggs Benedict day...April 16, they share decidedly genteel roots: rich and distinguished New Yorkers, fabulous New York restaurants and an adventurous 19th-century dining culture unfettered by contemporary concerns about trans fats and cholesterol. If there is a starting point to the debate over the provenance of this quintessential brunch dish, it would be 1942. That was the year The New Yorker published an article about a stockbroker named Lemuel Benedict and a breakfast order he had placed nearly 50 years earlier, in 1894, at the old Waldorf hotel at Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street. By 1931, when the hotel, renamed the Waldorf-Astoria, moved to its current location on Park Avenue, eggs Benedict had been enshrined as a classic American dish...By all accounts, Lemuel Benedict was a dashing ladies' man, typically outfitted in fine dark suits and high white collars...His name appeared often in newspaper society columns, and he had a reputation for leaving huge tips at New York's finest restaurants...Although Lemuel Benedict had a hangover that morning in 1894, the New Yorker article recounted, he didn't shy away from breakfast. He ordered two poached eggs, bacon, buttered toast and a pitcher of hollandaise sauce, a rich, egg-based sauce flavored with butter, lemon and vinegar. Then he built the dish that bears his name. Lemuel's innovation attracted the attention of Oscar of the Waldorf, as the maitre d'hotel there was widely known. He promptly tested it and put the item on the menu, although Oscar's version substituted ham for bacon and an English muffin for toast..Lemuel benedict reveled in the attention and prestige that resulted from his breakfast order. But his original request had specified toast, and he never warmed to the idea of English muffins...Lemuel Benedict died at age 76 in 1943, less than a hear after the New Yorker article was published The article had, however, caught the attention of Jack Benedict, a real estate salesman from Colorado who was the son of Lemuel's first cousin. As other stories about the creation of eggs Benedict surfaced, Jack Benedict's interest in the dish grew into full-fledged activism and, eventually, obsession. He became dedicated to the task of making sure that his dead relative got credit for his famous breakfast order. Jack Benedict was particularly upset by an article published in March 1978 in Bon Appetit magazine titled 'Perfect Eggs Benedict, ' which credited a Mr. and Mrs. LeGrand Benedict as the founders of the dish. According to Bon Appetit, the couple requested the ingredients one morning around the turn of the last century at Delmonico's...The article noted that one account credited the dish's creation to a young man with a hangover at the Waldorf, but in an error that must have further inflamed Jack Benedict, it referred to the young man not as Lemuel Benedict but Samuel. And in 1894, the year Lemuel placed his order at the Waldorf, the legendary's chef Charles Ranhofer published a huge cookbook called The Epicurean that included and almost identical recipe, Eggs a la Benedick. The LeGrand version of the eggs Benedict creation story came to eclipse the account offered in The New Yorker in many cookbooks and food reference books...One seeming hitch in the version that credits Oscar of the Waldorf, who plays such a key role in that account, never confirmed the story, despite ample opportunity to do so. Oscar had no aversion to publicity...But Oscar never mentioned eggs Benedict, either by name or by description...Some food historians are also skeptical about Jack Benedict's claims. 'It's not a 100 percent invented dish...it's an evolution...'"
---"Was he the Eggman?" Gregory Beyer, New York Times, April 8, 2007 (p. CY1)
[NOTE: 1942 New Yorker & 1978 Bon Appetit articles below.]
What interests us more than the actual "invention" of the dish (which, food historian Mark Zanger quite rightly points out [American History Cookbook (p. 139)] was known in 1830s Kentucky, is the "invention" of the story behind the dish. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the earliest print reference to Eggs Benedict appeared in 1898: "Poached eggs...benedict, split and toast some small muffins; put on each a nice round slice of broiled ham, and on the ham the poached egg; our over some Hollandaise sauce." [A. Meyer, Eggs & how to use Them] . We agree with Mr. Zanger & Mr. Beyer: this recipe was not invented, it evolved. The oldest description we find for this dish predates the earliest creation legend by 50 years. None of the "creation" stories state a particular date. In the food world this is not unusual. Doing the "math" on Lemuel's story places the dish in 1894. Food historians remind us the gap between "invention" and print evidence can take years, if not decades. Newspapers do the best job reporting new recipes & food trends. Magazines follow close behind. Cookbooks us date general overall knowledge/acceptance of a particular dish/by name.
"To Poach Eggs.
Place a broad stew-pan of clean water over the fire till it boils, and set it level before the fire. Break the eggs separately into a plate or saucer, to ascertain if they are good, dropping them as you examine them into the boiling water. They must not be too much crowded, and there must be plenty of water to cover them well. Having put them all into the pan in this manner, let them remain till the whites become set; then place the pan again on the fire, and cook them as hard as you desire: they probably will be sufficiently hard by the time the water begins to boil. Raise them carefully from the water with an egg-slice, trimming the edges smoothly, and lay them separately upon small buttered toasts or broiled ham, arranging them neatly in the dish; sprinkle on a very little salt and black pepper; put on each a spoonful of melted butter, and send them up warm. They are eaten at breakfast. When prepared for the dinner table, omit the toasts or ham; serve them in a small deep dish, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and pour over the same melted butter. They are sent as a side side to accompany poultry and game."
---Kentucky Housewife, Lettice Bryan, facsimile 1839 edition [Image Graphics:Paducah KY] undated recent paperback reprint (p. 227)
Split some fresh muffins in two, toast them to a fine color and lay them on a dish. Cut cooked chicken white meat the same size as the half muffin, lay them on top, then a poached egg over, and cover with Hollandaise sauce, made as follows: Melt a quarter of a pound of fresh butter and when quite hot add two raw egg yolks and the juice of half a lemon; whip well till it becomes creamy and consistent, then use."
---The Cook Book by "Oscar" of the Waldorf," Oscar Tschirky [Saalfield Publishing:Chicago] 1896, 1908 (p. 588)
[NOTE: Interesting this cookbook does not offer a recipe for "Eggs Benedict" two years after the "invention" occurred. One would think the author would be proud to share.]
"a la Benedict--Benedict
Split and toast some small muffins; put on each a nice round slice of broiled ham, and on the ham the poached egg; pour over some hollandaise sauce."
--- Eggs and how to use them, Adolphe Meyer, 1898 (p. 43)
"Poached Eggs a la Benedict
Split and toast some muffins. Put on each a round slice of broiled ham, and on the ham poach an egg. Pour over some Hollandaise sauce. Beat half a cup of butter to a cream, add the yolks of two to four eggs (according to the consistency desired) one at a time, beating in each egg thoroughly before another is added. Add one-fourth a teaspoonful of salt, a dash of cayenne or paprika, and half a cup of boiling water. Cook over hot water until thickened slightly, adding gradually the juice of half a lemon. Remove the saucepan from the water occasionally, to avoid overheating and curdling the mixture."
---"Queries and Answers," Boston Cooking School Magazine, May 1, 1902, 6,10; Ameircan Periodicals (p. 473)
"Eggs a la Benedict
Split and toast English muffins. Saute circular pieces of cold boiled ham, place these over halves of muffins, arrange on each a dropped egg, and pour around Hollandaise Sauce II (see p. 274), diluted with cream to make of such consistency to pour easily."
---Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, Fannie Merritt Farmer, facsimile 1906 edition [Cornell Digital Collections:Ithaca NY] 2011 (p. 97)
[NOTE: This recipe does not appear in the 1896 edition of this book.]
"'Ten ways of Serving Eggs,' Omelete plain, Spanish Omelet, Eggs a la Martin, Shirred Eggs, Mexicana Eggs, Jefferson, Eggs Benedict, Eggs Poached, Steamed and Scrambled."
---"Cooking School," [Mrs. Sara Tyson Rorer], Dakota Huronite [SD], June 17, 1909 (p. 8)
"(2925)...Eggs a la Benedick
Cut some muffins in halves crosswise, toast them without allowing to brown, then place a round of cooked ham an eighth of an inch thick and of the same diameter as the muffins on each half. Heat in a moderate oven and put a poached egg on each toast. Cover the whole wiht Hollandaise sauce."
---The Epicurean, Charles Ranhofer, [Hotel Monthly Press:Evanston IL] 1920 (p. 858)
[NOTE: (1) The 1893 edition of this book does not contain this recipe. Both editions contain a recipe titled "Ham a la Benedict" which appears to be unrelated.]
For each egg allow one slice of cooked ham and one toasted English muffin or round slice of toast. Poach eggs. Put ham on toast, then poached egg; pour over all with well-seasoned white sauce."
---"Household Department," Boston Globe, June 2, 1920 (p. 12)
Buy six English muffins from the baker, split and toast a nice brown, spread with butter, cover with a thin slice of broiled ham, place a poached egg on each half of muffin and pour over all a tomato Hollandaise sauce."
---"Chef Wyman's Suggestions for Tomorrow's Menu," Los Angeles Times, April 19, 1924 (p. A6)
4 slices toast
4 slices ham
4 poached eggs
4 strips broiled bacon
1 cup thin cream sauce; made as follows
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup top milk
salt and pepper
On each slice of toast place a slice of broiled ham and then a poached egg. Pour over cream sauce, and lay a strip of bacon over the top. Garnish with paprika."
---"Muffins and Egg Benedict Ready to Start Today," Marian Manners, Los Angeles Times, November 18, 1935 (p. A7)
"Forty-eight years ago a young blade named Lemuel Benedict came into the dining room of the old Waldorf for a late breakfast. He had a hangover (the statute of limitations permits the publication of the libel), but his brain was clicking away in high gear. He ordered some buttered toast, crisp bacon, two poached eggs, and a hooker of hollandaise sauce, and then and there proceeded to put together the dish that has, ever since, borne his name. Oscar of the Waldorf got wind of this unorthodox delicacy, tested it, and put it on his breakfast and luncheon menus, with certain modifications. Oscar's version of Eggs Benedict substituted ham for bacon and a toasted English muffin for toasted bread. Be advised that this perversion is not approved by the originator, who now lives in sedate retirement near Stamford, Connecticut, writing political articles, Republican in tone, for the local newspaper and puttering around with amateur cookery. 'English muffins are unpalatable, no matter how they are toasted or how they are served,' he says. To the best of our knowledge, Mr. Benedict is the sole surviving epicure of those who have given their names to great recipes. Dame Nellie Melba is gone; so is Newburg (nobody knows much about him) and Tom Collins (nobody knows anything about him). Naturally, this statement ignores Reuben's sandwiches, which impart but a fleeting flame. Benedict's has been a full and happy life, crowned just lately by the election of Mrs. Luce. He was a stockbroker for thirty-eight years, selling his seat and retiring at a good time--1927. His happiest memories, however, are gastronomical rather than financial. For example, he remembers W. K. Vanderbilt's chef, the great Joseph, who was paid fifteen thousand a year and who claimed he put terrapin in a more cheerful frame of mind and improved their flavor by reading a newspaper to them before dropping them in the soup. Mr. Benedict told us vivid tales of the Broadway lobster palaces, of get-togethers at Delmonico's with Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell, and of informal Sunday afternoons at his own home, with Schumann-Heink or Caruso eating his food and spontaneously bursting into song. Mr. Benedict occasionally visits New York, but it's not the same. About the only landmark left for him is the Racquet Club. After having achieved some really good cooking, we Americans have retrogressed to the point of eating hamburgers, drinking between meals, and taking our mistresses and wives to dine at the same places--all, in Mr. Benedict's eyes, equal crimes."
---"Benedict," The New Yorker, December 19, 1942 (p. 14-15)
[NOTE: No recipe provided in this article.]
"The legendary Delmonico's Restuarant in New York City has been the birthplace of several tasty and now-famous dishes, among them Eggs Benedict. According to a well-founded report, two of the regular customers were Mr. and Mrs. LeGrand Benedict. One Saturday at lunch, Mrs. Benedict complained that there was nothing new on the menu, so the maitre d'hotel asked what she might suggest. Out of their colloquy came the now internationally famous recipe: toasted English muffins topped with a thin slice of ham and poached eggs, with hollandaise sauce over all."
---Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, Volume III, William and Mary Morris [Harper & Row:New York] 1964 (p. 93-94)
"Eggs Benedict is conceivably the most sophisticated dish ever created in America. Oddly enough, its origins are little-known. They certainly had been obscure to this department until the arrival not long ago of a letter from an American residing in France. The writer, Edward P. Montgomery, expressed the hope that once and for all a recipe for the genuine article might be offered the public. He cringes at the thought of what passes for the dish in most American restaurants, a 'concoction of an overpoached egg on a few shreds of ham on a --ugh!--soggy tough half of an English muffin with an utterly tasteless hollandaise...' Mr. Montgomery related that the dish was created by Commodore E.C. Benedict. It was from his kitchen that the dish gained its fame. The commodore, a noted banker and yachtsman, died in 1920 at the age of 86. The recipe here was given to Mr. Montgomery by his mother, who in turn had been given it by her brother, a friend of the Commodore. 'To get the hollandaise, eggs, toast and ham assembled when they are at point is,' Mr. Montgomery says, 'a real trick.'
1 hard-cooked egg
4 slices cooked ham, cut one-quarter inch thick (enough to cut flour three-inch circles)
1/2 cup plus one tablespoon butter
3 egg yolks
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 three-inch rounds of toast
4 poached eggs
1. Separate the hard-cooked whit from the yolk. Chop the white finely and force the yolks through a sieve.
2. Cut four three-inch rounds of ham.
3. Place white and yolk and one-quarter cup finely chopped ham trimmings in a bowl and place over hot water to warm.
4. Melt one tablespoon butter in a skillet and warm ham rounds over gentle heat.
5. Heat the remaining one-half cut butter to bubbling. Place egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne in an electric blender. Turn motor to low. Add butter slowly while blending. Blend 15 seconds until smooth.
6. Stir the hot, hard-cooked egg and ham mixture into the sauce.
7. Place two rounds of toast on each of two plates. Top each toast round with a round of ham and then a poached egg. Spoon sauce over. garnish with a few slivers of ham and parsley sprigs. Yield: Two servings."
---"An American Classic: Eggs Benedict," Craig Claiborne, New York Times, September 24, 1967 ( p. 290)
"To the Editor: I am writing to correct the statement by Edward P. Montgomery concerning the origin of Eggs Benedict, as reported recently by Craig Claiborne. The true story, well known to the relations of Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, of whom I am one, is as follows. Mr. and Mrs. Benedict, when they lived in New York around the turn of the century, lunched every Saturday at Delmonico's. One day Mrs. Benedict said to the maitre d'hotel, 'Haven't you anything new or different to suggest?' On his reply that he would like to hear something new from her, she suggested poached eggs on toasted English muffins with a thin slice of ham, hollandaise sauce and a truffle on top. This recipe has bone around the world. Commodore E. C. Benedict, who was given the credit, was a cousin and undoubtedly enjoyed these eggs, but it would have been unlike him to have called them his inventions. The name is occasionally given, erroneously, as 'Eggs Benedictine.'--Mabel C. Butler, Vineyard Haven, Mass."
---Letters to the Editor, New York Times, November 26, 1967 (p. SM 40)
 "Reports of [Egg Benedict] vary. Eggs Benedict has been attributed to a Commodore E.C. Benedict, a noted yachtsman, bon vivant and crony of President Grover Cleveland; to a Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, an inveterate luncher at Delmonico's, and to a certain Samuel [sic] Benedict, a night owl, said to have ordered the dish from the famed Oscar of the Waldorf-Astoria, to soothe a horrendous hangover. M. E. Marshall, who wrote a whole book on egg recipes, The Delectable Egg, called it one of the 'timeless classic egg dishes,' and vague credence to the legend that the dish was created in the Vatican kitchen for Pope Benedict XIII in the eighteenth century. One anecdote has it that Commodore Benedict created Eggs Benedict in his own kitchen. The Commodore died in 1920 at the age of 86, which speaks well for the healthful properties of the dish. From an authoritative source, Mrs. Mabel C. Butler, of Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, a relation of Commodore Benedict, we get a different account. She vouches that Mr. and Mrs. LeGrand Benedict, who were related to both the Commodore and herself, were fond of eating at Delmonico's. During one luncheon, Mrs. Benedict asked the maitre d'hotel if he could suggest something new and different. The matrie d', it seems, wasn't too imaginative and tossed the poser back to Mrs. Benedict--who then proceeded to improvise the dish. On French menus, especially in the United States, Eggs Benedict is sometimes mistakenly listed as Eggs a la Benectine--quite a different dish, although poached eggs are part of its ingredients...Chefs in various parts of the country have their own ideas about preparing Eggs Benedict. At the famous Windows on the World, on the 107th floor of Manhattan's World Trade Center, the eggs are poached in advance, kept warm, then set on beds of spinach and artichoke hearts. no ham is used, but the whole affair is topped with the traditional hollandaise sauce."
---Perfect Eggs Benedict," Doris Tobias Bon Appetit, March 1978 (p. 53-54, 98)
[NOTE: This article offers recipe and several variations; none of them purported as "the original."]
Hollandaise sauce (see below)
2 English muffins
4 slices of baked ham, cut in rounds to fit over English muffin halves
1 quart water
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
Prepare Hollandaise sauce (see below). Keep warm over hot water. Split and lgihtly toast English muffins, spread lightly with butter.
"Waldorf Hollandaise Sauce
1/4 cup fine white wine vinegar
1/2 pound butter
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons water
Place vinegar in the top half of a double boiler directly over very low heat until reduced to about 1/2 teaspoon. Remove saucepan from heat until reduced to about 1/2 teaspoon. Remove saucepan from heat and set aside until vinegar is quite cool. Place butter in top half of a second double boiler and place over hot, not boiling water. Whe melted, gently pour it into a measuring cup, discarding the milky sediment in the bottom of the pan. Beat the egg yolks and water in the double boiler with the vinegar. Place over barely simmering water and beat with a wire whisk until very light and frothy."
---The Waldorf-Astoria Cookbook, Ted James and Rosalind Cole [Bramhall House::New York] 1981 (p. 217)
Related recipe? Eggs-in-a-basket (aka Ox Eyes)
Food historians generally agree Floating Island desserts originated in 18th century France. They do not credit a specific chef for the invention. Chef-linguists confirm the relationship between French Snow Eggs (Oeufs a la neige) and Floating Island (Ile Flottante). In both cases, the critical ingredient is whisked egg whites, also known as meringue. Escoffier  helps us understand the difference by including both recipes in his Guide Culinaire.
Elizabethan-era English Snow (cream, eggs) is a different dessert. Here egg whites are whipped into the cream to achieve a fluffy white appearance, not necessarily floating in a sea of custard. By the 18th century, Snow recipes disappear from English cookbooks. They are replaced with French Floating Islands. This suggests an evolving English palate. Mrs. Beeton's Snow Eggs  are most definately French. Our survey of historic recipes illustrates the complicated relationship between of these three recipes as told through ingredients, method and presentation.
What is Floating Island?
"Floating island (in French ile flottante) is a cold dessert consisting of a round flat baked meringue 'island' floating on a sea of custard...It is very close in conception to, and sometimes confused with, the French dish oeufs a la neige, 'snow eggs', in which the beaten egg whites are formed into small individual masses, not one large one, poached rather than baked, and then placed on a top of a light egg custard."
---An A-Z of Food & Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press: Oxford] 2002 (p. 127)
We are naturally drawn to recipes with interesting names. Hangtown Fry is one of them. The legend(s) are fun. The evolution of the dish is common sense.
The legend behind the name
"In early 1849 a French miner claimed two Mexicans robbed him of his gold, and others accused the same men of being horse thieves. A mob hung the accused from an oak tree in the center of the settlement, which then acquired the name Hangtown. Community leaders soon renamed the town Placerville but the colorful name stuck. In 1850 the El Dorado Hotel and Saloon opened on that same square, next to the infamous oak tree. The hotel restaurant gained fame for its excellent food...Legends ay one day some happy miner at the El Dorado demanded the most expensive dish possible. The cook satisfied him with a scramble of eggs ad oysters."
---San Francisco: A Food Biography, Erica J. Peters [Rowman & Littlefield:Lanham MD] 2013(p. 183-184)
[NOTE: Ms. Peters traces the earliest recipe for Hangtown Fry to Victor Hirtzer, 1919.]
Our survey of historic newspapers, including The Mountain Democrcat [Placerville CA, 1854+] the confirms oysters & eggs were indeed popular, expensive, and readily available to people with money in California (coastal San Francisco & landlocked: Hangtown, Placerville, Sacramento) in the 1850s. Local hotel restaurant menus and grocery store ads feature eggs and oysters. Sometimes in combination. Dishes composed of oysters and eggs were not uncommon. Think: oyster omelets and oyster scrambled eggs. Pre-WWII references & recipes to Hangtown Fry are not uncommon in California sources. A popular 1949 state-by-state cookbook, published 100 years after the initial find at Sutter's Mill, might be the key to unlocking modern genesis of this legend. Soon thereafter the details were embellished. In 1952 Helen Evans Brown pronounced Hangtown Fry as "most famous of our oyster dishes" in her West Coast Cook Book. Ms. Brown offers two legends, without comment or credit.
"Oyster Omelet.--Having strained the liquor from twenty-five oysters of the largest size, mince them small; omitting the hard part or gristle. If you cannot get large oysters, yoou should have forty or fifty small ones. Break into a shall pan six, seven, or eight eggs, according to the quantity of minced oysters. Omit half the whites, and (having beaten the ggs till very light, thick, and smoothh,) mix the oysters gradually into them, adding a little cayenne pepper, and some powdered nutmeg. Put three ounces or more of the best fresh butter into a small frying-pan, if you have no pan especially for omelets. Place it over a clear fire, and when the butter, (which should be previously cut up,) has come to a boil, put in the omelet-mixture; stir it till it begin to set; and fry it light brown, lifting the edge several times by slipping a knife under it, and taking care not to cook it too much or it will shrivel and become tough. When done, clap a large hot plate or dish on the top of the omelet, and turn it quickly and carefully out of the pan. Serve it up immediately. It is a fine breakfast dish. This quantity will make one large or two small omelets..."
---Miss Leslie's New Cookery Book, Eliza Leslie [T.B. Peterson:Philadelpha] 1857 (p. 118-119)
Drain twelve oysters and remove the hard part. Beat four eggs without separating until the white and yolks are thoroughly mixed, add four tablespoons of warm water. See that your omelet pan is in good order and perfectly smooth, put into it a piece of butter the size of a walnut and another piece the same size into the eggs. As soon as butter is melted and the pan is yot, add the oysters to the eggs, turn the whole into the hot pan, shake over a good fire until the eggs are set in the bottom, then lift the side of the omelet allowing the soft part of the egg to run underneath, shake again, dust the omelet with salt and pepper fold it over, and turn it out on a heated dish. Serve at once."
---"Housekeeping Inquiries, Mrs. S.T. Rorer editor, Table Talk, August 1890 (p. 300)
"Scrambled Eggs aux Huitres --with Oysters.
The bearded oysters are cooked with a little of their own gravy; when cooked, cream sauce is added in proportion and dished up in the centre of the eggs. Or, the soft part of the oysters are cut into squares and cooked, the liquid strained and the oysters mixed with thee eggs."
---Eggs, and How To Use Them, Adolphe Meyer [Adolphe Meyer:New YOrk] 1898 (p. 67)
“Hangtown fry. Mix plain scrambled eggs with one dozen small fried California oysters."
---Hotel St. Francis Cook Book, Victor Hirtzler [Hotel Monthly Press:Chicago] 1919 (p. 6)
“The ‘Hangtown Fry’s' as equally popular with the gold miners, the principal ingredient being oysters."
---Oakland Tribune [CA], April 30, 1922 (p. 10A)
"Hangtown Fry" sold for 75 cents at the Mandarin restaurant, San Francisco.
"Hangtown Fry., M.W., Hollywood Cal.
Drain the liquor from one cupful of Califonia oysters, dry them in flour, and cook a light brown in hot butter on both sides Beat six eggs with three tablespoons of milk and seasoning of salt and pepper. Melt two tablespoonfuls of butter in a saute pan; add the eggs and stir over the fire until a soft scramble. Add the cooked California oysters, mix and serve on squares of toast."
---"Practical Recipes," Los Angeles Times, May 22, 1928 (p. A8)
Drai and pat dry one cup of oysters season with salt and pepper, roll in flour and cook a delicate brown in hot butter. Have ready four to six eggs beaten with three tablespoons of butter in a saute pan add the eggs and stir until a soft scramble add the cooked oysters blend the two and serve. In other words, a 'Hangtown Fry' really is scrambled eggs and oysters."
---"Requested Recipes," Los Angeles Times, December 4, 1935 (p. A7)
"The story of gold mining in the Placerville district is told in a book to be off the press shortly, 'Pay Dirt,' by Glenn Chesney Quiett. This volume, which is to be published by D. Appleton-Century Company, gives a panoramic picture of all the gold rushes that have taken place in the United States and Canada. Beginning with the current revival of gold mining and the panning and sluicing of gravel in gold-bearing streams which has recently attracted so many amateurs, the book takes up the whole romantic story of the search for gold in America. Although it is an historically accurate record of American gold mining, the book is written in narrative stype. Mr. Quiett tells how Placrville, as Hangtown, gave its name to that still popular dish, 'Hangtown Fry."
---"New Book To Tell of '49 Gold Camps," Mountain Democrat [Placerville CA] October 29, 1936 (p. 2)
1 pint small oysters
Cream Salt and pepper
Drain oysters well and slowly simmer in butter until edges begin to curl. Break eggs in bowl and stir in some cream; pour over oysters and scramble everything lightly together, just as in making scrambled egggs. California uses Olymipa oysters, for which the State of Washington is famous, and these are no bitter than your thumbnail-- 100 of them wouldn't make a dozen ordinary oysters along the Atlantic. This dish was popularized in Hangtown, a mining camp, where in boom days eggs were almost worth their weight in gold dust."
---America Cooks: Favorite Recipes from 48 States, The Browns, Cora, Rose ad Bob [Garden City Books:GardenCity NY] 1949 (p. 46)
This most famous of our own oyster dishes, dates back to the days of the Argoauts. That we know, but we don't know just exactly how it got its nae--it's too good a one not to be started many yarns a-spinning. A sure guess is that it had something to do wit the town of that name (Hangtown was renamed Placerville to appease some of its more fastidious citizens). One story is that a man about to be hanged asked that his last meal be 'fried oyster with scrambled eggs on top and bacon on the side.' A story that seems more likely that the dish was named after Nick 'Hangtown,' whose name was acquired when he cooked for Mr. Studebaker, the wheelbarrow king, in Hangtown. (Mr. Studebaker was quite busy laying the foundation of his family's fortune.) Later Nick went to Collins & Wheeland in San Francisco where he became the cook, and introduced his famous oyster dish. The shucked oysters are dried dusted with flour, dipped in beaten egg which has beem seasoned with salt and pepper then rolled in cracker crumbs and browned on both sides in butter, not more than a minute on each side. Beaten seasoned eggs are poured over the oysters and allowed to set, then turned, oysters ad all, and browned on the other side. (About 4 medium oysters and 2 eggs to each serving.) This is served with bacon, and often fried onions and/or fried green peppers are an extra embellishment. An even simpler way to make this famous dish is to mix scrambled eggs with fried oysters and serve!
4 medium oysters
Salt and pepper
Butter 2 eggs."
---West Coast Cook Book, Helen Evans Brown, facsimile 1952 reprint [Cookbook Collectors Library] undated (p. 144-145)
"The legend of the origin of Hangtown Fry, a combination of oysters and eggs, may or many not be true, but it is an interesting shred of Caliornia Gold Rush history. A man condemed to the gallows in Hangtown, now less picturesquely nnamed Placerville, was asked what he wished for his last meal. He promptly answered eggs and oysters, perhaps with a description of how they were to be prepared. Historians suspect the victim's request was aimed as much at saving his neck as at gastronomic delight. Getting fresh eggs and oysters could delay the hanging some days, maybe long enough for Gold Rush Law to temper the sentence."
1/2 pt small oysters
2 tbls. water
2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Fine cracker crumbs or bread crumbs.
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
Drain oysters on paper towels. Stir eggs with water, salt and pepper just to mix. Dip oysters in eggs, then in cracker crumbs. Melt butter in a hot skillet. Add oysters and cook about 1 min. on each side. Pour in eggs and cook over low heat, lifting cooked portions of eggs to let uncooked egg run underneath. When firm on the bottom, turn and brown lightly on the other side. Serve with crisp bacon. Fried green pepper or tomato often is served with Hangtown Fry. Makes 4 servings."
---"Hangtown Fry Drawn into Legend," Los Angeles Times, June 11, 1964 (p. D12)
Related foods: Western (aka Denver) sandwiches & Scrambled eggs & oysters.
Our survey of historic dictionaries, word history sources, cook books, culinary encyclopedias and newspapers confirms the general launch date of the term “shirred eggs” but not the origin of the term. In sum:
- The word originated in the USA; origin "obscure" or "unknown."
- The earliest applications applied to rubberized textiles & sewing 
- The word can be a noun, adjective or verb.
The Oxford English Dictionary, the adjective "shirred," as it applies to cookery, first surfaces in the late 19th century:
"3. Cookery. (See quot. 1892.) 1883 G. A. Sala America Revisited I. xxii. 302 ‘That woman's shirred eggs and sugar-cured ham should immortalise her’, the sleeping-car ‘Cap'n’ gravely remarked.
1892 T. F. Garrett & W. A. Rawson Encycl. Pract. Cookery I. 566/2 Shirred Eggs.—Butter the inside of a deep plate, break into it as many Eggs as will cover the bottom, shake a little pepper and salt over them, place bits of butter all over, put them into a moderately hot oven."
The verb "shirring" also appears about this time:
"2. Cookery. ‘To poach (eggs) in cream instead of water’ (Cent. Dict. 1891)."
"An American way of cooking eggs: the eggs are broken into a cup or small bowl, covered with milk or cream and often breadcrumbs, and baked. It is not clear where the term (first recorded in 1883) came from, nor how it is related to the verb shirr ‘to gather fabric by means of parallel threads’."
---Diner's Dictionary, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2012, 2nd edition (accessed online, no page reference provided)
The Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles/Mitford Matthews suggest the verb/adjective precedes the acutal ceramic dish:
"3. Shirred eggs, eggs poached or baked in cream, crumbs etc. 1883 Sala, George A.H. America Revisited I. 302 [London] That woman's shirred eggs and sugared ham should immortalize her."... Also shirrer, a receptacle in which eggs are shirred. 1902 F.M. Farmer Boston Cook Book 97 The shirrers should be placed on a tin plate, that they may be easily removed from the oven." (p. 1522)
"Eggs on the Dish. Spread 1 oz. of butter on a round tinned-iron dish; sprinkle with half a pinch of salt, and a small pinch of pepper; Break 6 new-laid eggs in the dish; sprinkle over another half pinch of salt, and 2 small pinches of pepper; put on the stove with live coals on the glazing cover; cook for four minutes;--when the whites are set, the eggs are done; Serve in the dish in which they have been cooked."
---The Royal Cookery Book, Jules Gouffe, translated by Alphonse Gouffe [Sampson Low, Son and Marston:London] 1869 (p. 177)
"Shirred eggs.--Butter a neat baking dish, and break six eggs into it; place in a hot oven and when the eggs are well set, season with salt, pepper and a little butter, and serve immediately. It is better to have the smallest size of baking dishes, and placing two eggs in each, serve them individually. The eggs should be quite soft in the centre when taken from the oven and stirred together before eating."
---"Farm and House, Recipes," Standard [Albert Lea MN], October 23, 1879 (p. 2)
"Eggs sur le Plat Butter the bottom of little egg basins or one large tin dish. Break one egg into each of the basis, being careful not to break the yolk, or six eggs may be broken in a large dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake in a quick oven until the yolks are set. Serve in the dish in which they are cooked."
---Mrs. Rorer's Philadelphia Cook Book, Mrs. S[arah] T[yson] Rorer [Arnold and Company:Philadelphia] 1886 (p. 257)
Shirred Eggs, White House Cook Book, Mrs. F.L. Gillette.
"Shirred Eggs (Oeufs sur le Plat)--Eggs au Miroir
Many persons have asked the writer what the difference is between shirred eggs and eggs au miroir. Accordig to the modern school of thought, the difference is as follows: Shirred eggs ae cooked in a small china dish, especially made for the purpose, and are served therein; while eggs au miroir are also cooked in the same kind of dish, but when done they are cut with a round paste cutter, and served either on toast, rusts, or the garnishing directly. These are the teachings of the over-refined modern school. In the good old days no difference was made between a shirred egg and an egg au miroir. In cooking shirred eggs, butter the dish lightly, break into it either three or four eggs, pour hot melted butter over the yolks, and cook in a slow oven for a few minutes, until the yolks look as though they are covered with a veil. The seasoning of eggs, if no sauce accompanies them, should be left to the eater, as salt and pepper destroy the beauty of a well cooked egg."
---Eggs, And How to Use Them, Adolphe Meyer [Adolphe Meyer:New York] 1898 (p. 73)
[NOTES: (1) 38 recipes for Shirred Eggs appear in this book. (2) 90 recipes for Shirred eggs are offered in 1917 edition. Will scan/send upon request.]
What was English Snow?
"...the greatest innovation [of Elizabethan-era cooking] was the discovery of eggs as a raising agent in cookery. Whites of eggs produced the Elizabethan 'dishful of snow', a spectacular centrepiece for the banquet course following a festal meal. They were beaten with thick cream, rosewater and sugar until the froth rose, and the latter was gathered in a colander, and then built up over an apple and 'a thick bush of rosemary' on a platter. In some versions the snow was gilded as a final touch. The beating of egg whites was not altogether easy before the fork came into common use in the late seventeenth century...A 1655 recipe for 'cream with snow' suggested a cleft stick, or 'a bunch of reeds tied together, and roll between your hands standing upright in your cream'. For the dishful of snow was still being made under the name of 'cream with snow' (it had lost the rosemary and the gilt), and as 'snow cream' or 'blanched cream' it continued into the eighteenth century. A variant form with the addition of apple pulp came to be known as 'apple snow'. The same recipe was made up with other fruits in season. Syllabubs were also produced on occasion from cream reinforced by white of egg to enhance their light, frothy texture."
---Food and Drink in Britain From the Stone Age to the 19th Century, C. Anne Wilson [Academy Chicago:Chicago IL] 1991 (p. 147)
A survey of French, English & French-American recipes through time
[16th century England]
"To make Snowe.
Tak a quart of thick creame, and five or six whites of Egs, a sawcerfull of sugar, and a sawcerfull of Rosewater, beate all together, and ever as it riseth take it out with a spooone; then take a loaf of bread, cut away the crust, and set it upright in platter. Then set a faire great Rosemarie brush in the middle of your bread: then lay your snow with a spoon upon your Rosemary, & upon your bread, & gilt it."
Modern redaction helps us understand this item:
6 egg whites
1/2 pint heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon rosewater
1 10 X 14-inch gingergbread
1 branch of mint or rosemary
Whip the egg whites until stigf. Slowly add the cream and continue whipping. Whip in the sugar and rosewater until the mixture is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Place the gingerbread on a serving platter and stick the herb branch in the center. With a spatula, spread the snow evenly over the gingerbread and dot the branch. Sprinkle dill or mint leaves around the base to resemble grass. Serves 6-8."
---Sallets Humbles & Shrewsbery Cakes: A Collection of Elizabethan Recipes Adapted for the Modern Kitchen, Ruth Anne Beebe [David R. Godine:Boston] 1976 (p. 71)
Boile some milk with a little flower water well allyed, then put it in more than half of one dosen of whites of eggs, and stir well all together, and sugar it. When you are ready to serve, set them on the fire again and glase them, that is, take the rest of your whites of eggs, beat them with a feather, and mix all well together; or else fry well the rest of your whites, and powre them over your other eggs. Pass over it lightly an oven lid, or the fire-shovell red hot, and serve them sured with sweet waters. You may instead of whites, put in it the yolks of your eggs proportionable, and the whites fried upon. The cream after the Mazarine way is make in the same manner, except you must put no whites of eggs on it."
---The French Cook, Francois Pierre, La Varenne, translated into English in 1653 by I.D.G., with an introdution by Philip and Mary Hyman [Southover Press:East Sussex] 2001 (p. 98-99)
"To make Snow Cream. Take a quart of cream, six whites of eggs, a quartern of rose-water, a quarter of a pound of double refined sugar, beat them together in a deep bason or a boul dish, then have a fine silverdish with a penny manchet, the bottom and upper crust being take away, & made the bottom and upper crust being taken away, & made fast with paste to the bottom of the dish, and a streight sprig of rosemary set in the middle of it; then beat the cream and eggs together, and as it froatheth take it off with a spoon and lay it on the bread and rosemary till you have fill'd the dish. You may beat amongst it some musk and ambergriese dissolv'd, and gild it if you please."
---The Accomplisht Cook, Robert May, facsimilie 1685 edition [Prospect Books:Devon] 2000 (p. 279)
"The Floating Island, a pretty Dish for the Middle of a Table at a second Course, or for supper. Take a Soop Dish according to the Size and Quantity you would make; but a pretty deep Glass Dish is best, and set it on a China Dish, first take a Quart of the thickest Cream you can get, make it pretty sweet with fine Sugar, pour in a Gill of Sack, grate the yellow Rind of Lemon in, and mill the Cream till it is all of a thick Froth, then as carefully as you can, pour the thin from the Froth into a Dish; take a French Role, or as many as you want, cut it as thin as you can, lay a Layer of that as light as possible on the Cream, then a Layer of Currant-jelly, then a very thin Layer of Role, and then Hartshorn-jelly, then French Role, and over that whip your Froth which you saved off the Cream very well milled up, and lay at Top as high as you can heap it; and as for the Rim of the Dish set it round with Fruit or Sweetmeats according to your Fancy, this looks very pretty in the middle of a Table with Candles round it, and you may make it of as many different Colours as you fancy, and according to what Jellies and Giams, or Sweet-meats you have; or at the Bottom of your Dish you may put the thickest Cream you can get; but that is as you fancy."
---The Art of Cookery Made Plain & Easy, Hannah Glasse, facsimile 1747 edition [Prospect Books:Devon] (p. 147)
"To make a Floating Island
Grate the yellow rind of a large lemon into a quart of cream, put in a large glass of Madeira wine. Make it prettsweet with loaf sugar, mill it with a chocolate mill to a strong froth, take it off as it rises and lay it upon a sieve to drain all night. Then take a deep glass dish and lay in your froth with a Naples biscuit in the middle of it. Then beat the white of an egg to a strong froth and roll a sprig of myrtle in it to imitate snow, stick it in the Naples biscuit. Then lay all over your froth currant jelly cut in very thin slices, pour over it very fine strong calve's foot jelly. When it grows thick lay it all over till it looks like a glass and ytour dish is full to the brim, let it stand till it is quite cold and stiff. Then lay on rock candid sweetmeats upon the top of your jelly, and sheep and swans to pick at the myrtle. Stick green prigs in two or three places upon the top of your jelly amongst your shapes. It looks very pretty in the middle of a table for supper. You must not put the shapes on the jelly till you are going to send it to the table."
"To make a Floating Island a second way
---The Experienced English Housekeeper, Elizabeth Raffald, 1769 facsimile editon with an introduction by Roy Shipperbottom [Southover Press:Devon] 1997 (p. 98) [NOTE: Mrs. Raffald also offers recipes for Desert Island and Rocky Island.]
"Snow Eggs, or Oeufs a la Neige (A very pretty Supper Dish)
Ingredients.--4 eggs, 3/4 pint of milk, pounded sugar to taste, flavouring of vanilla, lemon-rind, or orange-flower water.
Mode.--Put the milk into a saucepan with sufficient sugar to sweeten it nicely, and the rind of 1/2 lemon. Let this steep by the side of the fire for 1/2 hour, when take out the peel; separate the whites from the yholks of the eggs, and whisk the former to a perfectly stiff froth, or until there is no liquid remaining; bring the milk to the boiling point, and drop in the snow a tablespoonful at a time, and keep turning the eggs until sufficiently cooked. The place them on a glass dish, heat up the yolks of the eggs, stir to them the milk, add a little more sugar, and strain this mixture into a jug; place the jug in a saucepan of boiling water, and stir it one way until the mixture thickens, but do not allow it to boil, or it will curdle. Pour this custard over the eggs, when they should rise to the surface. The make an exceedingly pretty addition to a supper, and should be put in a cold place after being mae. When they are flavoured with vanilla or orange-flower water, it is not necessary to steep the milk. A few drops of the essence of either may be poured in the milk just before the whites are poached. In making the custard, a little more flavouring and sugar should always be added."
---Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management>, edited with an introduction and notes by Nicola Humble [Oxford Univeristy Press:Oxford] 2000 (p. 297)
"Floating Island.--Into three-quarters of a pint of cream put sugar to make it very sweet, and the juice and rind of a lemon grated. Beat if for ten minutes. Cut french rolls into thin slices, and lay them on a round dish on the top of the cream. On this put a layer of apricot or currant jam, and some more slices of roll. Pile up on this, very high, a whip made of damson jam, and the whites of four eggs. It should be brought to imitate a rock. Garnish with fruit or sweetmeats. Time, one hour and a half to prepare."
---Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery with Numerous Illustrations [Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.:London] 1875 (p. 216)
"4702. Ile Flottante. Cut stale Biscuit de Savoie cooked in a deep round mould, into thin slices; saturate each slice with Kirsch and Maraschino, spread with apricot jam and sprinkle with currants and nibbed almonds. Place the slices on top of one another in their original order and coat the whole neatly with Creme Chantilly. Sprinkle the cream with finely shredded pistachios, then with soaked, drained and dried currants. Place in a deep glass dish and surround with either cold vanilla-flavored Sauce Anglaise or with raspberry syrup."
4713. Oeufs a la Neige. Mould some Ordinary Meringue into egg shapes, using two spoons and dropping them as ready into a shallow pan of sweetened, vanilla-flavoured boiling milk. Turn them over when half cooked so that they are poached evenly; when firm, remove them and drain on a sieve. Strain the milk thorugh a piece of muslin and make it into a Creme Anglaise using 10 egg yolks per 1 litre ( 1 2/4 pt or 4 1/2 U.S. cups) milk. Arrange the cooked meringues in a glass bowl and coat with the cold custard. Serve very cold."
---The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery, Escoffier, translated by H.L. Cracknell & R.J. Kaufmann [John Wiley & Sons:New York] 1979 (p. 559-560)
"A Floating Island (Scots Fashion). Eggs, quince, raspberry or red currant jelly, cream, wine, sugar, lemon peel. Three spoonfuls of guava quince, or raspberry or red currant jelly and the whites of as many eggs; beat them together once way till the spoon will stand erect; pile it upon cream beaten up with wine and sugar and a little grated lemon peel."
---The Scots Kitchen, F. Marian McNeill, facsimile 1929 edition [Mercat Press:Edinburgh] 1993 (p. 163)
"Floating Island (Oeufs a la Neige)
3-4 eggs, separated
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon flour
1 piece vanilla bean
Beat egg whites until stiff, adding 1/4 cup sugar, little by little, as they start to stiffen. Scald milk with vanilla bean, remove from fire and drop spoonfuls of egg white ixture formed like small eggs on top of milk. Cook over low heat 2 minutes, then turn them and cook 2 minutes on the other side. Remove with skimmer to towel to drain. Mix together egg yolks and sugar, beating until smooth and creamy. Add flour. Pour the hot milk gradually over them, stirring constantly. Return to pan and cook, stirring constantly, until boiling point is reached and mixture has thickened. Do not boil. Strain through a fine sieve and chill. Serve with prepared egg whites floating on top. If desired, sprinkle floaing egg whites with grated chocolate or caramalized sugar. Serves 3 to 4."
---Louis Diat's Home Cookbook: French Cooking for Americans, Louis Diat [J.B. Lippincott:Philadelphia PA] 1946 (p. 256)
"Floating Island. Ile Flottante--in former times, this sweet was much in favour. It is rather less commonly seen today. This is a pity because it is excellent. Method. Cut into thin even layers a stale Savoie (sponge) cake which has been baked in a round cake tin. Steep the slices in kirsch and maraschino. Spread each one with a layer of apricot jam and sprinkle with chopped blanched almonds and cleaned dried currants. (These must be washed and thorougly drained.) Build up the cake into its original shape by laying the slices one on top of the other. Ice the cake with Chantilly cream...flavoured with vanilla. Put the cake in a glass bowl. Decorate it with almonds, chopped pistachio nuts and currants. At the last moment pour chilled manilla-flavoured custard into the bowl. The pulp of strawberries, raspberries or red currants, sieved and sweetened, may be used instead of custard."
---Larousse Gastronomique[Crown:New York] 1961 (p. 417)
"Oeufs a la Neige (Floating Islands)
1. To make tender floating islands, the egg whites should be poached in water that doesn't exceed a temperature of 170 degrees. Beat 6 egg whites with a dash of salt in the electric mixer or by hand. When the egg whites are firm, add 3/4 cup sugar and continue beating for 30 seconds. Stop the beating and fold in another 1/4 cup sugar.
2. Using an ice-cream scoop, dish the whites out. Round the top of the scoop with your finger to get an 'egg' as round as possible.
3. Drop the eggs into the hot (170 degrees) water.
4. Poach for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on one side, then turn the eggs on the other side.
5. Poach for another 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; then lift the eggs onto a paper-lined tray.
6. Prepare a creme anglaise...let it cool and place in the bottom of an oval or round dish. Arrange the cold eggs on top of the cream. 7. Mix 1/4 cup sugar with 1/4 cup corn syrup. Cook until it turns into caramel. Let cool for a few minutes so the mixture thickens. Using a fork, drip the hot caramel over the eggs. The threads should be scattered all over the eggs. Do not refrigerate but keep in a cool place until serving time. Serve cool. This recipe serves 8 to 10." ---La Technique, Jacques Pepin [Times Books:New York] 1976 (p. 337-338)
About Creme Anglaise.
What is an omelette?
According Alan Davidson's Oxford Companion to Food [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 550, 553), the word omelette" is of French origin and came into use during the mid-16th century. Somewhat similar egg dishes were known to and ancient medieval cooks. Mr. Davidson traces the origins of the omelette to ancient Persia. We know the Ancient Romans often combined eggs and dairy products into patinae, custards and a variety of other sweet and savory dishes. C. Anne Wilson comments: "The precursor to the omlette in Britain was known as a herbolace and in the late fourteenth century was a mixture of eggs and shredded herbs, baked in a buttered dish. A contemporary French recipe under the same name is much more detailed, and gives instructions for heating oil, butter or fat thoroughly in a frying pan before pouring in eight well-beaten eggs (of medieval size) mixed with brayed herbs and ginger. The French version was finished off with grated cheese on top, and appears to have been quite close to the modern concept of an omelette."
---Food and Drink in Britain From the Stone Age to the 19th Century [Academy Chicago Press:Chicago] 1991 ( p. 142).
Why are they called omelettes?
"The notion of cooking beaten eggs in butter in a pan is an ancient one...but omelette does not enter the English language until the early seventeenth century. It is first described by Randle Cotgrave in his Dictionary of the French and English Tongues (1611): Haumelette, an Omelet, or Pancake of egges.' Omelettes had then been made in France for two or three hundred years, and it is from French that we get their name. It has a complex history: it probably started out as lamella, a diminutive of lamina 'thin plate'; this was borrowed into French, but by a misanalysis of la lemele...it became alemelle or alumelle. It seems this must at some point have had the common suffix -ette substituted for -elle, and the resulting alemette then had its first two consonants transposed...to give amelette. The word has had a variety of spellings in English, including amulet in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and emlett in the seventeenth century, and there iss till some variation: omelette is now the generally preferred form in British English, but the Oxford English Dictionary gave omelet precedence in 1902, and this is still the main American spelling." ---An A-Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 232)
The Oxford English Dictionary (Online version) adds:
"Forms:16 ormlet, 16-17 omlet, 16- omelet, 17 omalade, 17-18 omlette, 18 omellette (irreg.), 18- omelette. . 16 ammulet, 16 emlett, 16-17 amelet, 16-17 amulet, 17 amlet. [< Middle French, French omelette (1561; also as aumelette (1611 in Cotgrave)), alteration (see note) of Middle French, French amelette (1480; now regional), app. a variant (with metathesis) of an unattested Middle French form alemette (cf. alumette (c1400), alumecte (first half of the 15th cent.)), itself in turn a variant (with suffix substitution) of alemelle, alumelle thin plate, blade of a sword or knife (second half of the 12th cent. in Old French as alemele, alumele; late 14th cent. as alumelle in sense ‘sweet fritter, perh. omelette’), ult. a variant (with metanalysis of the definite article) of lemelle blade (second half of the 12th cent. in Old French as lemele; French lamelle (early 15th cent. in Middle French)) < classical Latin lamella (see LAMELLA n.). The change in the initial vowel from a to o prob. occurred in southern French under the influence of forms of ufmollette (1576), French ufmelete (1607), ufmeslete (1615).] "
"The word comes from the French "lamelle" (thin strip) because of its flat shape; previously it was known as alumelle and then alumette, and finally amelette. (Some authorities claim that the word has a Latin origin, ova mellita, a classic Roman dish consisting of beaten eggs cooked on a flat clay dish with honey.)..."
---Larousse Gastronomique, Completely revised and updated edition [Clarkson Potter:New York] 2001 (p. 808)
"The etymology of the world omelette (homelaicte in Rabelais) is also very obscure, although the dish itself goes back as far as the Romans. It is thought to derive ultimately from lamella, a thin plate, referring to the long, flat shape of the omelette, and to represent a gradual corruption of [the word] allumelle first to allumelette, then to alomelette. Le cuisinier francois [a cookbook] of 1651 has aumelette. Jean-Jacques Rousseau...had the dexterity and precision required to turn his beaten eggs by tossing them in the air, like a pancake... The Cuisine bougeoise [another cookbook] of 1784 uses the modern form of the word, omelette, carefully distinguishing between it and scrambled eggs, a new recipe of the time..."
---The History of Food, Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat [Barnes & Noble:New York] 1992 (p. 359)
Smple omelettes through time
 Omelette Souflee (Ova Sphongia Ex Lacte)
Four eggs in half a pint of milk and an ounce of oil well beaten, to make a fluffy mixture; in a pan put a little oil, and carefully add the egg preparation, wtihout letting it boil, however. [Place it in the oven to let it rise] and when one side is done turn it out into a service platter [fold it] pour over honey, sprinkle with pepper and serve."
---Apicius: Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome, edited and translatedy by Joseph Dommers Vehling [Dover Publications: Mineola NY] 1977 (p. 174)
"7. An Herb Omelette
The French name for this omelette, arboilaste, is merely a combination of the words 'herb' and 'aloumaste.' This latter part of the name, which ends up as the modern 'omelette' (with the l and m exchanged), derived from the word lamina or lamella, meaning a thin plate; the word is decriptive, evoking the appearance of a think plate-like omelette. Though the Menagier lists many ingredients for this dish, it is really just a simple herb and cheese omelette. Some of the herbs specified by the old recipe are no longer in common usage. Because of their bitterness and strength, the Menagier warns the cook to use very little amounts of dittany (a plant in the mint family) and of rue (so strong and bitter, the author says, that it may even be omitted). Smallage (wild celery), tansy, mint and sage are also to be included only in small amongt. The salad greens--chard, spinach, clary (a variety of sage) and violet leaves--the author directs to be used in about equal portions...Typical of the practical concerns of the Menagier is his advise that the cheese be sprinkled on top of the egg/herb mixture after it has been poured into the pan, in order to avoid having the cheeese stick to the bottom of the pan."
---Early French Cookery: Sources, History, Original Recipes and Modern Adaptations, D. Eleanor Scully & Terence Scully [University of Michigan Press:Ann Arbor MI] 1995 (p. 245)
[NOTES: Copy of the original recipe (printed in old French) and modernized recipe for today's kitchen are included in this book.]
"10. Omelet of cream
Break some eggs, take out half the whites, season them salt and cream, and beat all well together. Warm some butter, a little more than ordinary, and when it is enough, serve it in square or triangle, or as it is, and sugar it well if you will."
---The French Cook, Francois Pierrer, La Varenne, Englished by I.D.G. 1653, introduced by Philip and Mary Hyman [Southover Press:East Sussex] 2001 (p. 166)
[NOTE: Additional omelet recipes in this book are farced, lover of roebuck, beatilles, gammon & parsley.]
"To make omlets divers ways. The first way. Break six, eight, or ten eggs more of less, beat them together in a dish, and put salt to them; then put some butter a melting in a frying pan, fry it more or less, according to your discretion, only on one side of bottom. You may sometimes make it green with juyce of spinage and sorrel beat with the eggs, or serve it with green sauce, a little vinegar and sugar boil'd together, and served up on a dish with the Omlet." "The sixth way. Beat the eggs, and put to them a little cream, a little grated bread, a little preserved lemon-peel minced or grated very small..."
---The Accomplisht Cook, Robert May, London, Prospect Books, 2000, (p. 430-1)
"To make an Omelette. Put a quarter of a pound of butter into a frying pan. Break six eggs and beat them a little, strain them through a hair sieve. Put them in when your butter is hot and strew in a little shred parsley and boiled ham scraped fine with nutmeg, pepper and salt..."
--- The Experienced English Housekeeper, Elizabeth Raffald , London, Southover Press, 1997, (p. 148)
L'Omlette du Cure
---Physiologie du Gout, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin [Paris]
"A Common Omlet. Six eggs are sufficient for an omlet of moderate size. Let them be very fresh; break them singly and carefully...when they are sufficiently whisked pour them through a sieve, and resume the beating until they are very light. Add to them from half to a whole teaspoonful of salt, and a seasoning of pepper..."
--- Modern Cookery for Private Families, Eliza Acton, London, Southover Press 2002 (p. 321)
"Omlete, Plain. The following recipe is by the often-quoted M. Soyer: "break four eggs into a basin, add half a tea-spoonful of salt, and a quarter of a tea-spoonful of pepper, and beat them well up with a fork...Two table-spoonfuls of milk...may be added."
--- Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery, [Cassell, Petter & Galpin:London] (p. 466)
"Omelet. Beat the yolks of two eggs till light-colored and thick; add two tablespoonfuls of milk, one saltspoonful of salt, and one fourth of a saltspoonful of pepper."
--- Boston Cooking School Cook Book, Mrs. D. A. Lincoln, Boston (p. 200)
"Omelet, with fine-herbs. Break six eggs in a basin, to these add half a gill of cream, a small pat of butter broken in small pieces, a spoonful of chopped parsley, some pepper and salt..."
--- Francatelli's Modern Cook, Charles Elme Francatelli, London (p. 395)
"Plain omelets. Beat six eggs well in a basin and season with pepper and salt and a little water. Melt a large piece of butter in a frying pan, pour the beaten eggs in and stand it at the side but not on the fire, turning it often. When the edges are done gather them together and roll over and over, and serve them very hot."
---"Parsley omelet. Break two eggs in a basin, put one tablespoonful of milk with them and beat up, mixing thoroughly but not making too light; add a little salt and a tablespoonful of finely-chopped parsley while beating..."
--- The Cook Book by "Oscar" of the Waldforf, Oscar Tschirky, New York (p. 585)
"Omelettes. The theory of the preparation of an omelette is both simple and at the same time very complicated for the simple reason that people's tastes for this type of dish are very different--one likes his omelette very well cooked, another likes it to be just done, and there are others who only like their omelette when it is extremely soft and underdone. The important thing is to know and understand the preference of the guest...In a few words, what is an omelette? It is really a special type of scrambled egg enclosed in a coating or envelope of coagulated egg and nothing else. The following recipes are for an omelette of 3 eggs each, of which the seasoning comprises a small pinch of fine salt and a touch of pepper, and which requires 15g (1/2 oz) of butter for its preparation."
--- The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery, A. Escoffier, English translation by H. L.Cracknell & R. J. Kaufmann [John Wiley & Sons:New York] 1997 (p. 174)
"Omlete with fine herbs. Mix equal parts of chopped parsley, chervil, and chives with the beaten eggs, season well with salt and white pepper, and make the omelet in the usual manner."
---The Hotel St. Francis Cook Book, Victor Hirtzler, San Francisco (p. 102)
"The variety of omelets is infinite, considering that every kind of different ingredient can be added. These ingredients, previously cooked, are either pug directly into the beaten eggs, which makes a simple omelet, or, added to the omelet before folding it over in the pan. This is called 'filling' the omelete. You could, for a filled omelet, reserve a tablespoon of its filling, and add it, as a kind of decoration, on top of the omelet before serving. Ork arrange it in a pyramid in the middle of the folded omelet, or place it in small pocket made into the middle of the omelete....Plain Omelet (Omelet au Naturel) This consists of eggs seasoned only with salt and pepper, and,if possible, with a little cream added. So: 6 eggs, 2 tablespoons of cream, and 50 grams (1 3/4 ounces, 3 1/2 tablespoons) of butter total. Proceed as directed to make the omelete."
---La Bonne Cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange, translated and with an introduction by Paul Aratow [Ten Speed Press:Berkeley CA] 2005 (p. 154-155)
[NOTES: (1) The author devotes several pages describing the equipment,ingredients and procedure for accomplishing omeletes. (2) In addition to the Plain Omelete, 18 additional recipes are offered, including potato, cheese, bacon, mushroom, ham, tuna, tomato and chicken liver. (3) FT Library owns a copy of the original French edition. Happy to scan/share pages upon request.]
"Omelette. Ordinary omelettes are made of three or four eggs as it is better to make them medium sized rather than too big to insure their being well cooked. For 3 eggs, use 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon butter. Mix the eggs lightly with a fork and add the salt. Do not beat the eggs stiffly thinking to make the omelette lighter. On the contrary, the omelette will become heavier and more watery."
---Cooking a la Ritz, Louis Diat [J.B. Lippincott:New York] (p. 289)
"Fresh herb omelet. 3 eggs, 1 tablespoon cold water, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon butter, 2 teaspoons chopped chives, 1 teaspoon chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon, 1 fresh parsley sprig."
--- The New York Times Menu Cook Book, Craig Claiborne [Harper & Row:New York] (p. 324)
"Omelette gratinee aux champignons...beat the eggs, a big pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper in the mixing bowl with a fork until the yolks and whites are blended-20 to 30 seconds." [NOTE: this recipe does call for cream sauce, but it is meant for the cheese & mushroom filling, not mixed directly in the eggs.]
--- The French Chef Cookbook, Julia Child [Alfred A. Knopf:New York] (p. 105)
Creative combinations of cooked eggs served in the middle of cut-out buttered toast are endless. "Eggs-in-a-basket" recipes are relatively modern addition. It's also a shining example of one dish with many names: eggs in boxes, one-eyed jacks, ox eyes, Adam & Eve on a Raft. Close examination of ingredients & method uncovers similary culinary threads. NOTE: "Eggs in Nests" recipes are not the same recipe. The "nests" are generally composed of meringued egg-whites, not toast.
Consider these recipes:
"Eggs in Boxes.
Cut slices of bread 1 1/2 inches thick; trim them off neatly and scoop out the centre to make a box. Dip them in beaten egg and fry tehm in hot fat until a light brown. Drain on brown paper. Into each of these boxes drop an egg, dust lightly with salt and cook them in the oven for 2 or 3 minutes.
---365 Breakfast Dishes, selected from Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Lemke, Table Talk, Boston Cooking School Magazine and Others, [George W. Jacobs & Co.:Philadelphia PA] 1901 (p. 17)
"To Make Ox Eyes
Cut rounds of bread, toast them to a pale brown, dip in hot milk, butter generously and place on a buttered baking tin. Separate the yolks and whites of as many eggs as there are rounds of toast. Add a pinch of salt to the whites, whip to a dry froth, and pile high on each toast round. Make a depression in the center, drop in a yolk, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a table sauce, top with a 'pea' of butter, and place in brisk oven to cook. Remove to small plates and garnish with parsley."
---"Practical Housekeeper's Own Page," Chicago Daily Tribune, June 21, 1908 (p. C3)
"Adam and Eve on a Raft
Rounds of bread
Butter or lard
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut a large round of bread, and fry it in hot butter or lard until a golden brown. Then place it on a hot platter, and keep warm. Poach the eggs carefully, season and place on bread."
---Blondie's Soups Salads Sandwiches Cook Book, selected and illustratd by Chic Young [Bell Publishing Company:Drexel Hill PA] 1947 (p. 134)
"Eggs in Fried Bread (aka Eggs Looking at You)
2 slices whole-wheat toast
Cut a hole about 2 inches in diameter in the center of each slice of bread. Butter the bread on both sides and pan-fry gently until brown on both sides. Crack an egg into each hole and cover the pan until the eggs are set."
---Frugal Gourmet Cooks American, Jeff Smith [William Morrow:New York] 1987 (p. 282)
Use an upside-down cup to cut a hole out of the center of a slice of bread. lay the bread in a hot, greased pan and crack an egg into the hole. Fry it a few minutes until the egg sets, then flip the bread and egg with a spatula and cook the other side. You'll have an egg and toast all in one."
---Boy Scout Handbook, Boy Scouts of America 1990 (p. 109)
"Eggs in a Basket
Kids get a kick out of this dish, especially when they get to make the basket.
Using a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter or small glass, cut a hole out of the center of 2 slices sandwich bread. Melt in a large skillet over medium heat 2 tablespoons butter, plus more as needed. Add the bread and cook for about 30 seconds. Crack into the holes 2 eggs. Do not worry if some of the white remains on top of the bread or runs out from underneath. When the eggs begin to set, 2 or 3 minutes, flip the bread and eggs, using a spatula. Add more butter as needed. Fry the other side until the eggs are done to your liking. Grill the rounds of bread in butter and serve them as well."
---Joy of Cooking, 75th anniversary edition, Irma S. Rombauer et all [Scribner:New York] 1997, 2006 (p. 196) [NOTE: This recipe does not show up in the 1975 edition.]
Related recipe: Eggs Benedict.
The art of pickling, as a preservation techique, is thousands of years old. Recipes evolved according to place and taste. While eggs have been preserved for future use using various pickling-type methods, the earlist print reference we're finding for "picked eggs" in English/USA cookbooks is from the early 19th century.
"Vinegar pickling of all kinds of food suddenly became very popular in the sixteenth century in England, when salted foods were losing favor and were gradually being relegated to the food of the poor. When the English farmer's wife had a glut of eggs, she would boil then hard, shell them, and pile them into earthenware or glass jars and over them scalding vinegar well seasoned with pepper, ginger, garlic, and allspice. "The eggs are fit to use after a month" and were quite a treat in the farmhouse kitchen."
---Pickled, Potted, and Canned: How the Art and Science of Food Preserving Changed the World, Sue Shephard [Simon & Schuster:New York] 2000 (p. 96)
Boil them till they are hard; throw them into cold water immediately while hot, which will make the shells slip off smoothly without breaking the eggs. Boil some red beets till very soft; peel and mash them fine, and put enough of the juice into some plain cold vinegar to color it fine pink; add a very little salt, pepper, nutmeg and cloves; put the eggs into a jar, and transfuse the vinegar, &c. over them. They make a delightful garnish to remain whole, for poultry, game and fish, and still more beautiful when cut in ringlets."
---The Kentucky Housewife, Lettice Bryan [Shepard & Stearns:Cincinnati] 1839, reprinted by Image Graphics, Paducah KY( p. 187)
Pigeons have been consumed by humans from prehistoric times forward. By association, pigeon eggs have also been used as food. Recipes vary according to culture and cuisine. Chinese cuisine in some regions feature pigeon eggs. Below please find selected modernized recipes for American kitchens.
"Pigeon eggs are considered a delicacy in China, and are sometimes served poached in a soup of bamboo shoots, celery and chicken."
---Game Cooking: A Collection of Recipes with a Dictionary of Rare Game, Theodora Fitzgibbon [Andre Deutsch:London] 1963 (p. 117)
"Braised Pigeon Eggs
Hung Shao Ko Tan
4 pigeon eggs
1 bamboo shoot, sliced
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup flour
1 cup oil
SAUCE 2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon sherry
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Boil the eggs for 5 minutes, remove from the pan and run them under cold water. When cold, shell them. Boil the bamboo shoot and mushrooms in water for 5 minutes; remove and set aside. Soak cooked eggs in the sauce mixture for a few minutes and then roll in the flour. Heat a pan with the oil and when it is very hot fry the eggs until they are brown, then remove and drain. Pour away the oil except for 3 tablesopoons of it and reheat the pan. Add bamboo shoots, mushrooms and sauce mixture and heat. Add the eggs and simmer for 10 seconds. Serve very hot in a shallow dish."
"Pigeon Eggs in Tomatoes
Hsi Hung Shih Ko Tan
4 pigeon eggs
1/4 cup tomato juice
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup sherry
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
1/2 cup crumbled corn flakes Boil the eggs for 15 minutes, shell them and set them aside. They will look gelatinous. Mix together in a saucepan the tomato juice, flour, ginger, salt, pepper, soy sauce, sherry and onion. Bring the ingredients to a boil stirring constantly. Arrange the eggs in a small baking pan and pour sauce over them. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and cornflakes and bake in a hot oven at 450 degrees for about 5 minutes. Serve very hot."
---The Art of Chinese Cooking, Mimie Ouei [Random House:New York] 1960 (p. 161-162)
"Braised Pigeon Eggs
8 pigeon eggs
2 mushrooms, sliced
1 cup oil
1 bamboo shoot, sliced
1/2 cup flour
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon sherry
1 teaspoon cornflour
Boil the eggs for 5 minutes and remove the shells. The boil the bamboo shoot and mushrooms for 5 minutes. Soak the cooked eggs in the uncooked sauce mixture for a few minutes then remove and roll in the flour. Heat in a frying pan and add half the oil. When hot fry the eggs until they are brown, then remove and drain. Reheat the pan and add 3 tablespoons of oil. Put in the bamboo shoots, mushrooms and the sauce mixture. Lastly add the eggs and simmer for ten seconds. Serve hot.
"Poached Pigeon Eggs
1 bamboo shoot
1/4 chicken stock
1/4 lb chard, celery or cabbage
1/2 teaspoon sugar
10 pigeon eggs
1/4 cup cubed ham
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon soy sauce
4 tablespoons oil
The mushrooms can be either fresh or dried. If dried soak for 30 minutes. Slice the mushrooms and the bamboo shoot and cut the chard or cabbage coarsely. Heat a frying pan, add 2 tablesopoons of oil and when hot saute the chard for 5 minutes. Then add the sugar and salt and cook for another 30 seconds. Then add the mushrooms, bamboo shoot and the ham, the chicken stock, the soy sauce and the cornflour mixed in a little water. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Put the vegetables and ham on a serving dish and keep warm. To the sauce in the pan add 2 tablespoons of oil when it is thoroughly mixed into the sauce. Cook them until the whites are set and then arrange them on the vegetables and ham. It is better to cook the eggs two at a time. Serve immediately.
"Boiled Pigeon Eggs
Pigeon eggs are regarded as a great delicacy in China and are often added to the clear soups. Boil them for 5 minutes, remove the shells and add one to each basin of soup, whether chicken or meat soup."
---Game Cooking: A Collection of Recipes with a Dictionary of Rare Game, Theodora Fitzgibbon [Andre Deutsch:London] 1963 (p. 123-125)
Scotch eggs (aka Scots eggs) first surfaced in early 19th century British Isles.
"Scotch egg: a hard boiled egg enveloped in sausage meat and then fried. It is a popular cold snack, often eaten in pubs, or on picnics. Its origin is unclear although it could possible be a descendant of a form of Indian Kofta...the first printed recipe was in Mrs. Rundell (...1806), and suggests that the Scottish origin of the item was pointed up by its appearance in Meg Dods (1826), where it is described as being eaten hot with gravy, a practice also recorded by Mrs. Beeton (1861)."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 705)
"Scotch eggs," Mrs. Rundell
"Scots Eggs. (Meg Dod's Recipe)
Eggs, forcemeat, ham, anchovy. Bread, spices, &c. Five eggs make a dish. Boil them hard as for salad. Peel and tip them in beat egg and cover them with a forcemeat made of grated ham, chopped anchovy, crumbs, mixed spices, &c. Fry them nicely in good clarified dripping and serve them with a gravy-sauce separately."
---The Scots Kitchen, F. Marian McNeill, first published in 1929 [Mercat Press:Edinburgh] 1993 (p. 168)
Prepare a forcemeat of bread-crumbs, grated ham, and anchovy pounded and mixed spices. Roll five hard-boiled eggs, freed from their shells, first into beaten egg, and then into the forcemeat. Put some good dripping or lard into a frying-pan and brown the eggs slightly in it, turning them round that all sides may be done alike. Serve with good rich gravy in a tureen. Time, ten minutes to boil the eggs."
---Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery with Numerous Illustrations [Cassell, Petter, Galpin:London] 1875? (p. 202)
Scotch eggs, Boston Cooking School Cook Book, Mrs. D. A. Lincoln
Also called Scotch Eggs, are served for breakfast, or as a savoury, by also make a very useful
picnic dish served with a salad.
10 eggs (8 hard boiled)
1 1/2 lb pork sausage-meat
a pinch of mace
salt and pepper
4 oz (1 cup) approx. Bread crumbs (crisp)
deep oil for frying."
---A Taste of Scotland, Theodora Fitzgibbon [Avenel:New York] 1979 (p. 24)
What can we tell you about "scrambled" eggs? We know that Ancient Romans scrambled eggs (ie, broke the yolks and mixed them with the albumen), mixed them up with vegetables and spices, and baked them. These were the first omelettes.
Recipes and methods vary according to time, place and cook's taste. There is no one "official" recipe; but a plethora of culinary choices. Eggs can be mixed together before cooking, extra ingredients (cream, water, butter, cheese, diced vegetables) may be introduced at any time. Some cooks scramble at the end when the eggs are almost cooked; others prefer constant agitation. Should the final product be yellow or white and yellow? One thing is for certain: on Western European and Americn tables, scrambled eggs were meant to be accompanied by hot buttered toast!
Scrambled eggs are perfect for breakfast, lunch (Western Sandwich), main course (Egg Foo Young) and midnight snack (24 hour diner fare).
This 14th century Italian text references "scrambled eggs"
"There is so much known about fried, roasted, and scrambled eggs that it is not necessary to speak about them" (from the fourteenth-century Libro della cucina)."
---Italian Cuisine: A Cultural History, Alberto Capatti & Massimo Montanari [Columbia University Press:New York] 2003 (p. 77)
[NOTE: This 14th century book is Zambrini, Il libro della cucina del sec. XIV, p. 73. We do not have a copy of this book.]
15th century Italian cookbooks offer a variety of egg dishes. One can discover the similarity to contemporary "scrambled" eggs by reading the method. These were not called "scrambled eggs," nor can we tell exactly what the finished product would have looked like. This recipe does not mention the egg yolk at all...was it beaten in? Or omitted altogether...leaving the finished product white?
"Eggs Like Fritters.
---Platina: On Right Pleasure and Good Health, a critical edition an translation of De Honesta Voluptate et Valetudine, Mary Ella Milham [Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies:Tempe AZ] 1998, Book IX recipe 25 (p. 403)
Martino [Napoli,15th century] offers a recipe for scrambled eggs and cheese, which Terence Scully, noted culinary historian and translator states "is unknown elsewhere. The qualification "in the German fashion: is interesting--but not helpful." [recipe 143]
SOURCE: The Neapolitan Recipe Collection, Cuoco Napoletano, Terence Scully [University of Michigan Press:An Arbor] 2000 (p. 154)
[NOTEs: this book also contains the original wording of the recipe (p. 74); Mr. Scully does not include the history of scrambled eggs in this book.]
[16th Century England]
In England, "buttered eggs," scrambled eggs cooked with butter and cream, were known by the 16th century. The term "scrambled" appeared a century later. "Eggs served with butter were familiar fasting-day food in Tudor times. Buttered eggs, later to be known as scrambled eggs, came into the cookery books in the seventeenth century. They were laid upon buttered rounds of toasted manchet [bread], and the dish was garnished with pepper and salt."
---Food and Drink in Britain: From the Stone Age to the 19th Century, C. Anne Wilson [Academy Chicago:Chicago] 1991 (p. 144)
"To Make Buttered Eggs. Take eight yolks of eggs and put them into a pint of cream. Beat them together and strain them all into a posnet setting upon the fire and stirring it. Let it seethe until it quaile (curdle), then take it and put it into a clean cloth, and let it hang so that the whey may void from it. When it is gone, beat it into a dish of rosewater and sugar with a spoon. So shall you have fine butter. This done, you may take the white of the same eggs, putting it into another pint of cream, using it as the yolks were used. And thus you may have as fine white butter as you have yellow butter."
---The Good Housewife's Jewel, Thomas Dawson, with an introduction by Maggie Black [Southover Press:East Sussex] 1996 (p. 85)
"To butter Eggs upon toasts.
Take twenty eggs, beat them in a dish with some salt, and put butter to them; then have two large rouls or fine manchets, cut them into toasts, & taost them against the fire with a pound of sweet butter; being finely buttered, lay the toasts in a fair clean scowred dish, put the eggs on the toasts, and garnish the dish with pepper and salt."
---The Accomplisht Cook, Robert May, facsimile 1685 edition [Prospect Books:Devon] 2000 (p. 443-444)
"Eggs buttered, with a Toast
Cut a thin toast round a loaf butter it on both sides, and cut it in square pieces; break six eggs into a stew-pan, beat them up well, put in a little pepper and salt, a quarter of a pound of butter, and a little cream, put them over a slow fire, and keep them stirring till the butter is melted, but take care they are not done too much, and them put them on the toast. You may brown themat the top with a hot iron or salamander if you please, or send them to table without."
---The New Art of Cookery According to the Present Practice, Richard Briggs [W. Spotswood, R. Campbell and B. Johnson:Philadelphia] 1792 (p. 296)
"Scrambled Eggs.--Make a mixture as for an omelet, but instead of frying put it into a saucepan, and when it has boiled five minutes take it off, and chop and mix all the ingredients into confusion. Serve it up in a deep dish. It is eaten at breakfast, and is by many preferred to a fried omelet. You may season it with grated ham, tongue, or sweet herbs."
---Miss Leslie's New Cookery Book, Eliza Leslie [T.B. Peterson:Philadelphia] 1857 (p. 614)
Break four eggs into a stewpan with two ounces of butter and a seasoning of salt and pepper; let them set over a clear fire, and stir till the mixture becomes rather solid; then remove, and serve with or without a ragout of vegetables, celery, lettuce, spinach, sorrel, or asparagus tops. If neither be liked, send to table upon slices of hot buttered toast. Time, five minutes. Probable cost, without vegetables. 6d. Sufficient for three or four persons."
---Cassell's Dictionary of Cooking with Numerous Illustrations [Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co.:London] 1874 (ibid (p. 200)
"Eggs, Scrambled [American].
This dish differs very little in its mode of preparation from our 'mumbled' or 'jumbled' eggs. When the pan has been well oiled with good butter, put into it as many eggs as it will hold separately, that each yolk may be entire. When the whites have become slightly hard, stir from the bottom of the pan till done, adding a piece of butter, pepper, and salt. When done, the yolks should be separate from the whites although stirred together. Serve on hot buttered toast with anchovy sauce, potted meat, cheese, or fish spread over it first. The eggs should be of the consistency of butter. Time, five minutes."
---ibid (p. 202)
"Scrambled Eggs," Mrs. Lincoln, Boston Cook Book
"1296. Oeufs Rouilles--Scrambled Eggs
This method of preparing eggs is undoubtedly the best, always bearing in mind that they should not be overcooked but be kept soft and creamy. They are usually served in a small deep silver dish but according to the recipe are also presented in small Croustades, cases made of hollowed-out Brioche or tartlet cases. Formerly it was the custom to surround the dish of scrambled eggs with small Croutons of various shapes or pieces of cooked pale baked puff pastry in the form of crescents, diamonds, rounds or palm leaves, etc.; this way has much to recommend it and can always be followed. In the old classical kitchen scrambled eggs were always cooked au Bain-marie as this guaranteed that they were cooked perfectly; but this was a time-consuming operation. They may be cooked more quickly by sing direct by gentle heat as a gradual cooking process is essential for obtaining the desired soft, smooth texture.
Method of Preparation: Gently heat 50 g (2 oz) butter in a heavy small pan, add 6 beaten eggs seasoned with salt and pepper, place over a moderate heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon taking care that the heat remains even; too quick cooking will cause lumps to form which is contrary to the description of the term scrambled. When the eggs have attained the correct smooth, creamy consistency, remove form the fire, mix in 50 g (2 oz) butter in small pieces and, if ruqeired, 1/2 dl ( 2 fl oz or 1/4 U.S. cup) cream. A whisk should not be used unless absolutely necessary."
---The Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery, Escoffier, 1907, translated by H.L. Cracknell and R.J. Kaufmann [John Wiley:New York] 1979 (p. 157)
"Scrambled Eggs [Japanese style]," & "Chinese Scrambled Eggs,", Sara Bosse, Chinese-Japanese Cook Book
Eleanor Roosevelt's scrambled eggs
Related dish? Hangtown Fry.
According to the food historians, modern souffles (both sweet and savoury) were a product of 18th century French cuisine. The method is related to that of meringue.
A French word which literally means "puffed up," is a culinary term in both French and English (and used in many other languages) for a light, frothy dish, just stiff enough to hold its shape, and which may be savory or sweet, hot or cold. The basic hot souffle has as its starting point a roux--a cooked mixture of flour and butter...This type of souffle was a French invention of the late 18th century. Beauvilliers was making souffles possibly as early as 1782 (though he did not publish his L'Art du cusinier until 1814). Recipes for various kinds appear in Louis Ude's The French Cook of 1813, a work which promises a "new method of giving good and extremely cheap fashionable suppers at routs and soirees. Later, in 1841, Careme's Patissier Royal Parisien goes into great detail on the technique of making souffles, from which it is clear that cooks had been having much trouble with souffles that collapsed. The dish acquired a reputation for difficulty and proneness to accidents which it does not really deserve...There are some Ukranian and Russian dishes of the hot souffle type, independently evolved and slightly different in composition."
---Oxford Compantion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 735)
"Patrons of La Grande Taverne de Londres, which opened in Paris in the 1780s, were perhaps the first to enjoy this dessert souffle. It comes from the repertoire of Beauvilliers, who, wrote, Brillat-Savarin, "was for more than fifteen years the most famous restauranteur in Paris"..."
---Horizon Cookbook and Illustrated History of Eating and Drinking Through the Ages, William Harlan Hale [American Heritage] 1968 (p. 713)
Why does a souffle fall if there is a loud noise?
It doesn't. That nugget of culinary fakelore is not supported by science. The rise and (and the inevitable fall) of every souffle is a direct result of temperature. Heat expands the air in the egg whites; coolness deflates it.
"Though many a cook has blamed the collapse of a souffle on the spouse who slammed the kitchen door, the force of the shock waves from that deed is too weak to pop more than a few air bubbles, if any at all. The culpable party, if truth be told, is the cook who made one or more culinary errors in the science of souffle making."
---Kitchen Science, Howard Hillman [Houghton Mifflin:Boston] 1989, revised edition (p. 285)
"Souffles--savory and sweet mixes lightened with an egg-white foam, then dramatically inflated above their dish by oven heat--have the reputation for being difficult preparations...In fact, souffles are reliable and resilient...If you manage to get any air into the mix, an inexorable law of nature will raise it in the oven, and opening the door for a few seconds won't do it any harm. The inevitable post-oven deflation can be minimized by your choice of ingredients and cooking method...The physical law that animates the souffle was discovered a few decades after its invention by--appropriately--a French scientist and balloonist, J.A.C. Charles. Charles's law is this: all else equal, the volume occupied by a given weight of gas is proportional to its temperature. Heat an inflated balloon and the sir will take up more space, so the balloon expands. Similarly, put a souffle in the oven and its air bubbles heat up and swell, so the mix expands in the only direction it can: out the top of the dish. Charles's law is part of the story, but not the whole story--it accounts for about a quarter of the typical souffle rise. The rest comes from the continuous evaporation of water from the bubble walls into the bubbles. As portions of the souffle approach the boiling point, more liquid water becomes water vapor and adds to the quantity of gas molecules in the bubbles, which increases the pressure on the bubble walls, which causes the walls to stretch and the bubbles to expand...Charles's law also means that what must go up in the oven must come down at the table...As the souffle bubbles cool, the air they contain contracts in volume, and the vapor that come from liquid water in the mix condenses back into liquid...A thick souffle mix can't rise as easily, but it also won't fall as easily...Don't worry about opening the oven door. The mix can't fall unless it actually begins to cool down, and even if that did happen, it will rise again when it heats up again."
---On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of The Kitchen, Harold McGee [Scribner:New York] 2004, completely revised and updated edition, (p. 109-113)
Souffle recipes through time
 "Souffles for Entremets.
It will be sufficient to observe on the subject of souffles that they are all made in the same manner, and that they vary only in the taste you give them. If sent up in proper time they are very good eating, if not, they are no better than other puddings."
"No. 1. --Souffle of Potatoes with Lemon.
Bake a dozen potatoes in the oven; when they are well done, open them, scoop out the most floury part, and mix it with half a pint of cream that has boiled, and in which you have infused the peel of a lemon; to this add a little sugar, a large bit of butter, and a little salt; the taste of the sugar, however, must predominate; yet observe, that the less sugar you use the lighter the souffles are. Now break six eggs, throw th yolks of four only into the potatoes, breat the six whites, which pour gently with the above preparation in to a souffle dish, and put it into the oven, which must not be too hot. When the souffle is done enought, powder a little sugar over it, and use the salamander; souffles must be served up the moment they are ready, for they are liable to sink."
"No. 2.--Souffle of Orange Flower.
Dilute a little flour with half cream and milk; set this pap on the fire to boil; when the flour is hoen, put a littel salt, a little sugar, and a small quantitiy of pounded orange flower, mix well, and then add a good bit of butter, the yolks of six eggs, and mix the whole well. Next beat the six whites, and mix them with the rest: then bake the souffle as above, and when it is baked enough, glaze it and send up."
"No. 4.--Souffle of Bread.
Boil some milk with a little cream, to which give any taste you think proper. Threw into it the soft part of two or three fresh rolls to soak, put the bread through a sieve, and proceed with the eggs, butter, sugar, &c. as Nos. 1, 2, and 3."
"No. 6.--Souffle of Chocolate.
Take a quarter of a pound of chocoalte, which cut as small as you can, and melt it on the fire in a little water. When it is entirely melted, throw it into the souffle prepration, NO. 4, the same as all others...and generally all otehr souffles, are prepared in the same manner. The question is, to make the preparation well, and above all things to beat the whites of the eggs very well, for on that alone depends the rising or falling of the souffle."
Break six eggs, put the whites into one pan, and the yolks into another; rasp a little lemon peel or orange flowers, beat the yolks well, add a little sugar and salt, and next beat the whites well en neige, and mix them with the yolks lightly. Then put a lump of butter into an omelette pan on the fire; when the butter is melted, our the omelette into the pan; when it is firm enough on one side to hold the liquid part, turn it over on the dish you send up; then bake it in an oven, or use the Dutch oven. When it is well raised, glaze it, and sent it up immediately, for it would soon lower. Mind, it must be convered hermetically with a large fire over it, otherwise it will not rise. To this you many give whatever flavour you think proper; but the plainer the better, when served very hot, and very high."
---The French Cook,Louis Eustache Ude, photoreprint of 1828 edition, [Arco Publishing:New York] 1978 (p. 367-370)
 "Cheese souffle
Put 1 1/4 oz. of flour in a stewpan, wtih 1 1/2 pint of milk; season with salt, and pepper; stir over the fire, till boiling,--and should there be any lumps, strain the souffle paste through a tammy cloth; Add 7 oz of grated Parmesan cheese, and 7 yolks of egg; whip the whites till they are firm, and add them to the mixture; fill some paper cases with it, and bake in the oven for fifteen minutes. Observation.--All these souffles should be served immediately they are cooked." (p. 324)
Omelet souffle with lemon
Break 6 eggs; separate the whites form the yolks; put 3 yolks in a basin, with 3 oz. Of sugar,a nd half a grated lemon peel; stir, with a wooden spoon, for five minutes; Put the 6 whites in a whipping bowl, and whip them until they are very firm; then mix them lightly with the yolks;--this should constitute a very solid paste; Butter a round dish slightly; throw in the whole of the paste at once, as lightly as possible; smooth it over with a knife, and make an incision about 1 inch deep, with the handle of a silver spoon, all round the side of the omelet; put it in the oven for ten minutes, and serve immediately; Should omelet soufflee be kept for a few minutes after it is taken out of the oven, it will be spoilt."(p. 189)
---The Royal Cookery Book, Jules Gouffe, translated by Alphonse Gouffe [Sampson Low, Son and Marston:London] 1869
4471. Cream-type Souffle Mixture (for four persons)
Ingredients: 1 dl (3 1/2 fl oz or 1/2 U.S. cup) milk, 25 g (1 1/2oz) sugar, 1 tbs flour, 10 g (1/3 oz) butter, 2 egg yolks and 3 stiffly beaten egg whites. Method: Bring the milk and sugar to the boil, mix in the flour which has been diluted with a litte cold milk and cook on the stove for 2 minutes. Remove form the stove, mix in the butter and egg yolks and then fold in the siffly beaten 2gg whites." 4474. The Moulding and Cooking of Souffles
The souffle mixture is placed in a souffle mould or deep silver timbale or in a special false-bottomed dish--in all cases these should be buttered and sugared inside. They are cooked in a moderately hot oven so that the heat may reach the centre of the mixutre by degrees. Two mintues before removingthe souffle from the oven, dredge the surface wtih icing sugar which will caramelize and form the required glaze when replaced in the oven. The decoration of souffles is optional but in any case it should be ketp to a minimum."
---The Compete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery, August Escoffier, first translation into English by H.L. Cracknell and R.J. Kaufmann of Le Guide Culinaire:1903 [John Wiley:New York] 1979
[NOTE: Escoffier provides recipes for these sweet dessert souffles: fruit puree, almond, hazelnut, camargo, cherry, chocolate, curacao, Elizabeth (vanilla & Kirsch), strawberry, fruits en croustade, Hilda (lemon, strawberries & raspberries), praline, vanilla, violet etc. Savory souffles are distributed throughout the book, use the index it locate them.]
"Cheese souffle (serves four)
1/2 cup butter, 1 cup flour, 5 egg yolks beaten, 2 cups milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pinch pepper, a little nutmeg, 1 cup grated Parmesan or Swiss cheese, 6 egg whites.
Mix the melted butter and flour and let become golden brown. Add the boiling milk, mix with a whip and let boil for 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, stirring constantly, then combine with the egg yolks. When the boiling point is reached, remove from the fire and add the grated cheese. Beat egg whites still and fold into the mixture. Place in a souffle dish and bake in hot oven for 20 minutes." (p. 399)
"Vanilla omelette souffle
6 egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, 1 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 6 egg whites, 2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar until the mixture has whitened and is a slight as a sponge cake mix. Add the vanilla. Beat the egg whites stiff and gently fold into the first mixture. Spread on a long buttered and sugared plate in the shape of an oval mound, saving a small quantity to decorate the omelette. Smooth it all around with a spatula and decorate with the mixture set aside. (A pastry piping bag or paper coronet may be used.) Bake in a moderate oven for 10 minutes. About 2 minutes before removing from the oven, sprinkle with confectioner's sugar to form a brilliant coat when melted. Serve with Vanilla or Rum Sauce." (p. 395)
---Cooking a la Ritz, Louis Diat [J.B. Lippincott:New York] 1941
20th century American fads/popularity can be traced with cooking texts and magazine/newspaper articles. The 1960s enjoyed a renaissance of everything French. Souffles included.
Thousand Year Eggs
These preserved egg delicacies are known in China by many names, most notably: "Thousand year eggs" and "Hundred year eggs." Do they really take this long to prepare? No. Food historians and contemporary cooks tell us Thousand Year Eggs are ready anywhere from 45-100 days. The titling numbers hold special good luck significance in Chinese culture. European and colonial American housewives also knew how to preserve eggs in "slaked lime." This was the norm before advanced transportation systems and refrigeration technology. Compare with: Colonial American egg preservation techniques.
"Eggs, preserved (ancient eggs, century eggs, hundred year-eggs, Ming Dynasty eggs, or thousand-year eggs): Eggs coated with a claylike mixture of lime, ashes and salt, then buried in shallow earth for about 100 days. The lime "petrifies" the the eggs: makes the whites firm, gelatinous and amber-coloured; the yolks, spinach-green and cheeselike. (The Chinese call these "eggs with skin" because of their black outer coating. The English names, although romantic and exaggerated, describe their antique appearance--they do look as though they've been buried for centuries.) Preserved eggs usually are eaten uncooked for breakfast or as hors d'oeuvres, and served frequently at banquets."
---The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook, Gloria Bley Miller [Grosset & Dunlap:New York] 1970 (p. 852)
"Most interesting of Chinese preserved eggs...are the so-called thousand-year-old eggs (also called hundred-year-old eggs, ancient eggs, or Ming Dynasty eggs), a delicacy unusual in appearance, odor, texture, and flavor, and usually bought in the market rather than made at home. Despite their name, thousand-year-old eggs are usually cured for just a few months, and are said to be most tasty at about a hundred days. The eggs of chickens and other birds may be processed into thousand-year-eggs, but duck eggs are the commmon ones used. This, and the importance of duck eggs in preservation by salting, probably derives from the fact that they are produced only in localized habitats suited to ducks and need to be shipped to market, yet spoil more quickly than chicken eggs...Various methods of curing, from simple to elaborate, may be followed in making thousand-year-old-eggs. As detailed by Kenneth Lo...salt is first dissolved in a small amount of water in a large bowl; then pine ash and lime are slowly added, and the micture stirred until it reaches a muddy consistency. A thick layer of the mixture is applied to clean duck eggs, which are then rolled in a tray of husks, of rice or some other kind, to give them a non-adhesive coat to prevent them from sticking to anything. Then they are placed in a big earthenware jar which is covered loosely and left to stand. The eggs are removed everyt three days and rearranged in \ the jar, and after fifteen days the jar is sealed and left for another month. At that time, after 45 days in total, the eggs should...be ready. A more length procedure...one involving an initial three months of soaking the eggs in a brine made of water, salt, lime, lye, and tea leaves. Then the eggs are dried, covered with a paste of clay, lime, ashes, and salt, and buried in the earth for further aging. By whatever process, the end product has a yolk that is green and resembles cheese, and a white that is yellow or amber and of a gelatinous consistency. In eating a thousand-year-old egg, one must first remove the mud and carefully clean its shell. Then one normally eats the egg, which has the smell of ammonia, uncooked. It may be eaten with hot rice for breakfast or a late night supper, or cut into pieces and served as a snack with soy sauce, sometimes garnished with gingerroot strips or slices, or with a sauce made of vinegar and shredded ginger...Such eggs may also be prepared in other ways, as in 'Fried 100-Year-Old-Eggs'...or 'Old and Fresh Eggs,' a steamed dish that includes both thousand year-old egg yolks and fresh eggs...The ultimate in combining types of eggs...is 'Steamed Three Variety Eggs,' which includes in a single dish thousand-year-old eggs, salted eggs, and fresh ones."
--- Food in China: A Cultural and Historical Inquiry, Frederick J. Simoons [CRC Press:Boca Raton FL] 1991 (p. 364) [NOTE: Kenneth Lo's Encyclopedia of Chinese Cooking contains instructions (p. 322-323). Happy to fax or mail.]
Clarifying agents: egg whites & eggshells
We find references to clarifying soup (broth, consomme) and coffee with egg whites and egg shells in 19th century American cookbooks authored by home/domestic economists. These texts explain the scientific/chemical reasons for using egg whites. They do not, however, address the issue of the egg shell.
What is clarification?
"Clarification is the process of clearing a liquid of suspended particles...In the kitchen, things which may need clarification are stock, clear soup, aspic, jelly, etc. The agents of clarification are various. Filtration is simplest but will not catch the smallest particles. A change in temperature may suffice, if followed by drawing off the liquid from above or from below. Or hunter-catchers' may be let loose in pursuit of the particles, as when egg white and eggshell are employed or a few slices of potato are heated in used cooking oil. Even more drastic are the hunter-killers', in the shape of proteolytic or pectolytic enzymes which do not merely trap the offending material but destroy it."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 189)
"Clarification. The process of rendering a turbid or cloudy substance clear...Clarification of beef stock involves using...egg white...When the broth boils, the egg whites coagulate, trapping the particles that were making the liquid cloudy. The consequent loss in flavour is restored by the lean beef and vegetables."
---Larousse Gastronomique, completely revised and updated [Clarkson Potter:New York] 2001 (p. 308)
The Exploratorium offers this explanation.
To Clarify Stock.
109. INGREDIENTS.— The whites of 2 eggs, 1/2 pint of water, 2 quarts of stock. Mode .— Supposing that by some accident the soup is not quite clear, and that its quantity is 2 quarts, take the whites of 2 eggs, carefully separated from their yolks, whisk them well together with the water, and add gradually the 2 quarts of boiling stock, still whisking. Place the soup on the fire, and when boiling and well skimmed, whisk the eggs with it till nearly boiling again; then draw it from the fire, and let it settle, until the whites of the eggs become separated. Pass through a fine cloth, and the soup should be clear. Note .— The rule is, that all clear soups should be of a light straw colour, and should not savour too strongly of the meat; and that all white or brown thick soups should have no more consistency than will enable them to adhere slightly to the spoon when hot. All purйes should be somewhat thicker."
---Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management/Isabella Beeton
"Bouillon for Parties and Germans
...Beat the white of one egg with half a cup of cold water until thoroughly mixed. Wash the egg shell, mash it and add it to the white. In breaking the egg, take care to separate it so nicely that none of the yellow gets into the white--as the smallest portion of yellow will prevent the bouillon from being perfectly clear. Now add the white, shell and water to the boiling bouillon; let it boil hard for ten minutes; then throw in one gill of cold water and boil five minutes longer; then take the kettle off the fire and strain through a flannel bag..."
---Mrs. Rorer's Philadelphia Cook Book, Mrs. S[arah] T[yson] Rorer [Arnold and Company:Philadelphia] 1886 (p. 11)
"How to Clear Soup Stock.
Whites of eggs slightly beaten, or raw, lean beef finely chopped, are employed for clearing soup stock. The albumen found in each effects the clearing by drawing to itself some of the juices which have been extracted from the meat, and by the action of the heat have been coagulated. Some rise to the top and form a scum, others are precipitated. Remove fat from stock, and put quantity to be cleared in stew-pan, allowing white and shell of one egg to each quart of stock. Beat egg slightly, break shell in small pieces and add to stock. Place on front of range, and stir constantly until boiling point is reached; boil two minutes. Set back where it may simmer twenty minutes; remove scum, and strain through double thickness of cheese cloth placed over a fine strainer."
----Boston Cooking School Cook Book, Fannie Merritt Farmer, facsimile 1896 edition [Weathervane Books:New York] 1973 (p. 105)
"To clear soup-stock...Put into a saucepan the stock to be cleared, and into it stir the whites and crushed shells of as many eggs as there are quarts of stock. Heat and stir until it has boiled for two minutes; then keep it hot, without letting it simmer, for twenty minutes, in order that the albumin, as it coagulates, may entangle every solid particle in the stock. Pour through a fine strainer..."
---Elements of the Theory and Practice of Cookery, Mary E. Williams [MacMillan:New York] 1901 (p. 161)
Eggshells in coffee?
Yes! Primary sources confirm this was a common practice from early 19th century to pre-WWII USA. Why? The eggshells were employed as clarifying agents, a practice also used for consomme. NOTE: the shells were strained from the brew before serving. About coffee in 19th century America.
Samuel P. Arnold, respected American west food historian and founder of The Fort in Colorado, noted that crushed egg shells were sometimes for making campfire coffee.
"Here's an old-timers' recipe for campfire coffee (yes, you actually crush up a whole egg--shell and all--into the grounds): Camp Fire Coffee Heat a pot of cold water to boiling. [Allow to boil only 2 to 3 minutes.] Place a cup of ground coffee and an egg in the middle of a piece of cheesecloth and tie the cheesecloth into a sack. Then break the egg in the sack and mix with the coffee by massaging the g=bag. Drop the sack into the boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Add one-half cup cold water to settle any grounds. The coffee is absolutely superb. (Recipe collection of Sam Arnold.)"---Eating up the Santa Fe Trail, Sam'l P. Arnold [University of Colorado Press:Denver] 1990 (p. 22)
Additional recipes here:
 Frugal Housewife/Lydia Maria Child
 Domestic Cookery/Elizabeth Lea
 Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book/Mary Lincoln
 Boston Cooking School Cook Book/Fannie Merritt Farmer
 "Whenever eggs and coffee appear on the same menu, crush the eggshells and put them in with the coffee. They will clear it wonderfully and improve the flavor."---"Household Suggestions," Los Angeles Times, December 30, 1927 (p. A6)
 "A crushed up eggshell will...improve and clarify the coffee."---"Helpful Hints," C.V. Crumley, Los Angeles Times, September 15, 1939 (p. A6)
Early American egg preservation techniques
Like Thousand Year Eggs, their venerable Chinese counterparts, colonial Americans preserved fresh eggs in lime. Why bother preserving eggs in a time when many people owned chickens? Before industrial farming, chickens didn't lay as many eggs during the cold, dark winter months. Pioneer families traveling west welcomed precious eggs in their meals. Live chickens were sometimes transported but did not last long on the trail.
A survey of historic American preservation instructions:
"Eggs will keep almost any length of time in lime-water properly prepared. One pint of coarse salt, and one pint of unslacked lime, to a pailful of water. If there be too much lime, it will eat the shells from the eggs; and if there be a single egg cracked, it will spoil the whole. They should be covered with lime-water, and kept in a cold place. The yolk becomes slightly red; but I have seen eggs, thus kept, perfectly sweet and fresh at the end of three years. The cheapest time to lay down eggs, is early in spring, and the middle and last of September. It is bad economy to buy eggs by the dozen, as you want them."
---American Frugal Housewife, Mrs. Child, Boston  (p.11)
"To choose eggs
There are many rules for trying the soundness and freshness of eggs, one of which is to put them in a pan of fresh water; all that will sink readily to the bottom of the pan are good, and all that rise or float on the top, are certainly rotten. It is said that in proportion to the freshness of the egg its progress to the bottom of the pan will be. There is another very good rule, though a singular one, that is, having washed and wiped the eggs clean, touch the large end with your tongue, and if, by holding it there a second or two, it feels warm to your tongue, it is good, but if it feels cold, it is a certain sign it is not good.
To keep eggs
Eggs will keep for some time, buried in charcoal or wheat bran, after greasing them a little with mutton tallow; but I believe the general opinion of those who have tried it is, that to keep them in lime-water is the best way they can be preserved. To half a bushel of water add little over a pint of unslaked lime, and a as much coarse salt, and when the whole is dissolved, put in the eggs; be very particular that you do not put in one that is cracked, as it will spoil the whole; there would be plenty of water to cover them well; if the brine is too strong with lime, it will eat the shells; this of course can be easily detected; if the eggs are fresh and whole, and water of the proper strength, it is said they will keep good for years."
---Kentucky Housewife, Lettice Bryan, Cincinnati  (p. 224-5)
"To keep eggs til 17th of June, or for Christmas
Buy eggs for family use when cheapest; put them into two gallons of water, mixed with half a pint of salt and half a pint of unslacked lime. Make the pickle with boiling water. Put it cold to the eggs. Let the eggs be new laid, and perfect; quite covered with the lime water, and kept in a stone pot in a cool place. Thus preserved, eggs will keep good six months. If occasionally turned over, the better."
---Improved Housewife, A Married Lady [Mrs. A. L. Webster], Hartford  (p. 204)
"To preserve eggs
Take a keg or pail, cover the bottom with half an inch of salt, and set your eggs close together, on the small end; sprinkle them over with salt so as to cover them entirely, and then put down another layer of eggs, and cover with salt, till your keg is full; cover it tight, and put it where they will not freeze, and they will keep fresh and good a year, or longer. The eggs must be new and fresh when put down. If you take eggs as soon as the hen has laid them, and smear the shells with lard or butter, they will keep as good as new-laid eggs for some time; but if you rub the shells with butter at any time, it will keep them good for months, and will prevent their being hatched."
---New England Economical Housekeeper, Mrs. E. A. Howland, Montpelier  (p. 68)
"To choose eggs
Fresh eggs when held to the light, the white will look clear, and the yolk distinct; if not good they will have a clouded appearance. When eggs are stale, the white will be thin and watery, and the yolk will not be a uniform color, when broken; if there is no mustiness, or disagreeable smell, eggs in this state, are not unfit for making cakes, puddings, etc. Eggs for boiling should be as fresh as possible; a new laid egg will generally recommend itself, by the delicate transparency of its shell. Eggs may be kept fresh for several weeks, by packing them, the small end downwards, in bran or chaff; keep them in a cool place. A refrigerator, or ice-box, will keep eggs as when first laid for a long time.
To keep eggs
Take fresh laid eggs, dip each one in melted lard, or beef fat, or rub a bit of butter thoroughly over the shell, between the hands; then pack them, the small end downwards, in bran or chaff; in this way they will keep good for months. Eggs may be kept good for a year, in the following manner:-To a pail of water, put of unslacked lime and coarse salt each a pint; keep it in a cellar, or cool place, and put the eggs in, as fresh laid as possible. It is well to keep a stone pot of the lime water ready to receive the eggs as soon as laid make a fresh supply every few months. This lime water is of exactly the proper strength; strong lime water will cook the eggs. Very strong lime water will eat the shell."
---Mrs. Crowen's American Lady's Cookery Book, Mrs. T. J. Crowen, New York  (p. 164-5)
"To keep eggs
...There are various ways of preserving eggs. To keep them merely for plain boiling, you may parboil them for one minute, and then bury them in powdered charcoal with their small ends downward. They will keep a few days in a jar of salt; but do not afterwards use the salt in which they have been immersed. They are frequently preserved for two or three months by greasing them all over, when quite fresh, with melted mutton suet, and then wedging them close together (the small end downwards) in a box of bran, layer above layer; the box must be closely covered. Another way (and a very good one) is to put some lime in a large vessel, and slack it with boiling water, till it is of the consistence of thin cream; you may allow a gallon of water to a pound of lime. When it is cold, pour it off into a large stone jar, put in the eggs, and cover the jar closely. See that the eggs are always well covered with the lime-water, and lest they should break, avoid moving the jar. If you have hens of your own keep a jar of lime-water always ready, and put in the eggs as they are brought in from the nests. Jars that hold about six quarts are the most convenient. It will be well to renew the lime-water occasionally."
---Directions for Cookery in Its Various Branches, Miss [Eliza] Leslie, Philadelphia  (p. 206-7)
"Keep eggs in a cool, not cold place. Pack in bran or salt, with the small end downward, if you wish to use within two or three weeks; and furthermore, take the precaution to grease them well with linseed oil, or wash them over with a weak solution of gum tragacanth or varnish. This excludes the air. Another way is to make some pretty strong lime-water, allowing a pound of lime to a gallon of boiling water. When perfectly cold, fill a large jar with it in which you have packed the eggs, small end downward; lay a light saucer upon the top to keep them under water, and keep in a cool place. Renew the lime-water every three weeks. You may add an ounce of saltpetre to it. Eggs for boiling may be "canned' as follows; So soon as they are brought in from the nests, put two or three dozen at a time in a deep pan; pour scalding water over them; let it stand thirty seconds, and turn it all off. Cover immediately with more scalding water, and repeat the process yet the third time. Wipe dry, and pack in bran or salt when they cool. This hardens the albumen into an air-tight case for the yolk. Of course, you cannot use these eggs for cake or syllabubs, or anything that is prepared with whipped eggs. Pack with the small end down."
---Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery, Marion Harland, New York  (p. 240-1)
"Putting eggs down
In order to insure eggs at a reasonable price the season through it is advisable to 'put them down' while they are plentiful. "Grandmother" used to bury eggs in salt or sand, but this is a bulky and unsatisfactory method. The modern way, heartily endorsed by the government and all food experts, is to put them down in water glass--a method which is simple, absolutely harmless, inexpensive, and eminently satisfactory. It may be argued that the saving in price is not worth while, but if it means only twenty cents a dozen, it will soon amount to dollars. Water glass may be purchased at any drugstore at a very reasonable cost. But do not allow its chemical name to be disturbing--it is merely potassium and sodium silicate. It should be bought commercially, not in the form of the chemical pure article, as the latter is expensive, and the commercial variety is just as effective. The equipment for putting down the eggs is very simple , all that is necessary being good-sized, well-washed utensils of earthenware, glass, or enamelware, a utensil for measuring, water, water glass, and eggs. The eggs must be clean but should not be washed as this removes some of the natural coating. Pour one measure of water glass into the utensil, add ten times as much water, mix well, and they put in the eggs, two or three at a time, taking care not to break them. More may be added to the solution from day to day as they accumulate. If possible, the eggs should be fresh laid. To prevent evaporation and chemical action because of the air, the utensil should be kept covered. In the case of glass jars, the tops are adequate, without any special sealing with paraffine or other substances. In case of stone crocks, a piece of cheesecloth, folded two or three times and put over the top of the jar, extending out under the lid, will be sufficient. The eggs should be kept in a cool place but should not be allowed to freeze. Eggs put up in this manner may be used in all the familiar ways. If to be boiled, however, the ends should be pricked with a needle or pin; otherwise the egg is liable to burst, as the pores of the shell have been so well sealed by the water glass."
---Ida Baily Allen's Modern Cook Book, Ida Baily Allen, New York  (p. 284-5)
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6 January 2015