Even though almost everyone I know laughs at my over-stocked kitchen cupboard, I have always known that really its supplies were barely adequate. But I had no idea just how many gaps I had in my larder until I started working with Magnus Nilssen’s Fäviken cookbook. Was it really possible that not only did I have no cured egg yolk, but actually had no idea how to obtain one? It seemed absurd that such a simple item could turn out to be the elusive ingredient in a recipe involving two different kinds of lichen, but there it was. Nilsson even neglects to tell us how to prepare the yolk, a strange omission in a book that does (for example) tell us how to chop, hollow out and burn the interior of a spruce trunk in order to mature some vinegar for a year (p159). Luckily there were lots of other mentors on the internet, two kinds of egg in my fridge, and plenty of salt and sugar in the aforementioned larder. All that was needed was a bit of patience while the process unfolded over the next few weeks.
I decided to record the progress of my yolks day by day, as I find it helpful to know what things I’m working on might look like both during and after the procedure. Also, the yellow globes of yolk really are quite beautiful lying in their nest of salt and sugar. This is a diary of their progress towards becoming an essential new storecupboard-staple condiment. In real life, you would be able to bury the yolks and leave them alone in their curing mix until the cheesecloth stage – unless, like me, you can’t resist seeing what’s happening.
Decide how many egg yolks you want to cure. Make a 50/50 mix of fine salt and sugar, enough to surround the egg yolks in your chosen container. Separate the yolks from the whites, making the yolks as clean as possible without breaking them. You will have to discard any that do break, so be careful. Place the yolks on a layer of salt and sugar mix, cover with some more, and put the container in the fridge. Some people advise covering, others don’t. Since a core part of the process is drying I don’t think it matters – but if you are at all worried about contamination from anything else in your fridge, cover them.
yolks have already started to firm up! They look a richer orange, and are holding a definite shape. It is easy to touch them without fear of breaking them, so I can gently ruffle up the now damp -even wet – salt/sugar and turn them over. I decide to add some more salt/sugar to give the yolks a more complete covering. Then back into the fridge they go.
The drying continues relative to the original size of the yolk, so it is easy to see which is the duck as it is visibly larger. The effect I saw yesterday also seems consistent: the surface facing down into the cure retains the lovely curve of the fresh yolk (picture right), while the top (facing up) flattens over the course of 24 hours (picture left). I turn them again, hoping to influence the final shape through daily flipping, re-bury them, and pop them back in the fridge
Yesterday’s shaping theory has been proved wrong: today the yolks are exactly the same shape as yesterday. At least this means that for now, there is still one curved side. They are stiffer than they were yesterday, so it seems as though there is a good chance that they will retain this shape. I think I’ll leave them alone for a few days at a stretch, now, and see how they look next week.
Left undisturbed for a respectable interval the salt and sugar mix has set much more firmly – as hard as a rock in some places. I dug the yolks out quite cautiously, with the help of a blunt-edged teaspoon. Of course, after more than a of week dry-curing the yolks are now so firm that they are almost hard – certainly tough enough to withstand some pressure, so I needn’t have worried.
The main point of interest (beyond the fact that they are nearly ready for the second stage) is that the flatter side has now become concave, and those edges are noticeably paler than the centre, which is still a strong orangey-yellow.
I’ve turned them once again and re-buried them for their final few days in the cure.
When I take the yolks out and brush them off I can still see a little bit of stickiness in the very middle. So, although I’d originally thought of taking them out of the salt and sugar today, I reckon a little more time won’t do them any harm. In fact, one last weekend in their briny bed might do them some good. I’ll rescue them in a few days’ time.
The yolks have entered their final phase – out of the cure and into the muslin. I don’t have one of those cheffy meat cupboards (shocking omission, to be remedied in my next kitchen) so they are now hanging at the back of the fridge. This is probably a little colder than the ideal, but I’m sure they will dry out nicely. They look so good hanging there it’s going to be very hard to keep my hands off them for the minimum of two weeks they seem to need…
They are ready. They tear apart with some effort, and grate easily into golden curls that are delicious sprinkled on salad or used in larger quantities on pasta (think of it as a drier way of approaching carbonara – or up the cream). I have to say after this long wait that I think the end result of 50/50 salt/sugar makes something too sweet. You might prefer it that way, and some like to use more sugar, but if you are after something super-savoury (like me) I’d go for 100% salt, or 75/25. But do make some. You won’t regret finding this new staple – it might take a bit of time, but almost no effort, and the result is a gastronomic treat.