June 2, 2010
Inspired by a thread on pancakes in forum on historical reenactment I wanted to do a few experiments with eggs today. While the eggs may have been cooked just like we do today I wanted to explore some other ways of using them.
Other cooking methods I
Could I boil the egg in some other way than by just putting it in pot of water? The first attempt of the day was to cook an egg by simply bury it in hot ashes. Though I was a bit afraid that the egg would simply crack and pour out, I figured that I could always throw away the remains. However, after letting it cook for a short while I could uncover the egg just to find some minor cracks and a minute leakage of the egg white. The egg was sort of semi-cooked, being hardboiled in the bottom and still runny on the part that had been turned towards the fire. Though perhaps a bit difficult to peel it tasted quite good.
Other cooking methods II
In the medieval cookbook “Le ménagier de Paris” from the late 14th century a recipe on how to make “lost” eggs were included: “LOST EGGS. Break the shell and throw yolks and whites on the coals or on very hot embers, and then clean them and eat.” The description of the recipe which seemed fairly simply would in theory be rather simple to recreate in a Viking age environment. In my first attempt I just tried to pour the content of an egg directly on the glowing embers. The egg cooked quickly but many small pieces of coals got stuck to the egg and it was rather difficult to both retrieve the egg and to clean it enough to be edible. In my second try, I cleared a small space in the middle of the hearth where the egg could be fried directly on the ashes. This egg took quite long to cook and while it was rather easy to retrieve, it was almost impossible to clean it from all the grit and ashes. One problem may have been that the base of the hearth was made of sand rather than stone or clay as would be the case of a medieval hearth. The second attempt would be far to slow for it to be a viable option. A possible third attempt would include removing a gloving ember that is large enough from the fire and quickly throw the egg upon it. Still I would figure that this would be a far to labour intense method for eggs to be cooked en masse using this method. Frying an egg with this method could perhaps been done by a singular individual needing a quick snack.
Using eggs as a thickener
In quite a few medieval recipes egg yolks are used as thickeners (Serra & Tunberg, 2009)and in the Italian cuisine a whole egg is used to make the classical dish Carbonara more full. In order to to try this out more in this context I chose to make a rather simple barley soup, using pre-soaked barley, water and a little stock. This I let cook for quite some time after which I added two whole eggs, that I stirred in a pot prior to adding them to the soup. By the time I was about to add the grains the soup was looking a bit milky and being almost slightly sweet, which perhaps should prompt some attempts to make a different kind of dish – a bit like the local byggecreme and medieval barley concoctions for sick people. However, continuing my experiment I could notice that the eggs did indeed give the soup a slightly thicker consistency, but using the whole eggs did give the soup a rather unpleasant appearance, which may have made the use of only the yolk being a bit more advantageous.
The present appearance of the barley soup is a bit bland and simple, some salt would have made a great difference , but I have still to come up with a good conclusion about the amount and sort of salt used up here.
All photographs uploaded today were shot by Frances Nelms who helped me out when I could not get the museum camera to work.
Serra, Daniel & Tunberg Hanna 2009, En sås av ringa värde,