New research emerged on Wednesday that one-half of America's produce is tossed in the garbage. So, obviously, in an effort to use all the food we buy, we need to find how to extend its life.
Today, we're focusing on eggs. Why? Well, because eggs are the best (duh). Eggs can be a comforting, satisfying dish on their own and improve any dish they touch—from salads to burgers. There's really nothing like a runny egg yolk. Plus, even though eggs contain cholesterol, they won't increase your blood cholesterol, and the yolk is a nutrition powerhouse, packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids; vitamins A, B12, and D; calcium; and folate.
But when they go bad, they go really bad. There's nothing worse than a rotten egg. So we tend to throw 'em out faster than we would a lot of other foods—just to be "safe." But eggs are often still good to eat long after the date on the packaging says to throw them out.
If you want to check how fresh they are before finding out the hard (and possibly stinky) way, try the float test: Fill a bowl with cold water and place your eggs in the bowl. If they sink to the bottom and lay flat on their sides, they're very fresh. If they're a few weeks old but still good to eat, they'll stand on one end at the bottom of the bowl. If they float to the surface, they're no longer fresh enough to eat.
But if you want to extend the life of an egg longer than it would last in the fridge, or want to preserve a yolk when a recipe calls for only whites, you can either pour it into an airtight container and freeze it—or, you can use my favorite yolk-preserving technique: salt-curing.
We've known for thousands of years that salt preserves food. But meat and fish aren’t the only things you can keep from going rancid with salt—it also works with egg yolks.
The principle is the same as any other type of curing: Salt banishes moisture and kills off the bacteria that makes food go bad. Sugar's also included because it feeds bacteria in the lactobacillus genus—the gut-friendly probiotic bacteria that shows up in cider, kimchi, and yogurt.
And once the fermentation process is complete, the once-runny yolk is transformed into a crumbly umami bomb to grate over any and every dish. (May we suggest a Plant-Based Puttanesca Sauce + Zoodles or a Sautéed Zucchini + Arugula Salad?)
Let's get down to business. Here's how to salt-cure egg yolks:
This recipe assumes you have 4 yolks, so adjust measurements accordingly.
1. Combine 1 cup salt and 1 cup sugar in a bowl. Mix well to combine. Place half the mixture in a small baking dish.
2. Separate 4 eggs (save the whites for another use or freeze them). Carefully place each egg yolk on top of the salt-sugar mixture, and gently sprinkle the yolks with the rest of the salt-sugar mixture. You want them to be completely covered in the salt-sugar mixture. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 4 days.
3. Remove the egg yolks from the fridge after 4 days. Use a pastry brush to gently brush the salt-sugar mixture off of the egg yolks. Run the yolks under cold water to wash any of the remaining salt-sugar mixture off.
4. Preheat the oven to 150°F. Gently place the yolks on a paper towel to dry. Pat off any excess water. Transfer the yolks to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake them for 2 hours.
5. After you take them out of the oven, the yolks should be semi-firm and vibrantly orange—kind of like dried apricots. Use them right away, or store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.