Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Newspaper column - MUSHROOM GOUGERE

This column appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on 21 June 2010.

I’m a big fan of eggs. What other food is just as welcome at breakfast, lunch or dinner, as an appetizer, main course or dessert? In my quest to eat all things local, I buy eggs at the farmers’ market. But it’s nice to know that between markets, locally-laid eggs are as close as the grocery store. Many of the major brands in eggs—from the Co-op to Costso—are provided by Star Egg of Saskatoon, a family business that has grown into an egg empire.

Star Egg processes a million eggs a day, give or take, collected from more than 50 farms around the province, supplying 85 percent of Saskatchewan’s egg market according to Dana Haynes, whose grandfather started the company almost 80 years ago.

Yet only 35 percent of those million eggs stay in the province; the rest supply grocery stores from Manitoba to British Columbia to the North West Territories. “Of course, the Saskatchewan market isn’t as big as some other markets, but we’re proud of where we come from,” says Haynes.

Her grandfather Walter Harman started the Harman egg company in the 1930s on his farm near Prince Albert after he was laid off from his job in a local factory. In the 1960s, his son Bert Harman joined the company and expanded by purchasing Star Egg in Saskatoon and, two years ago, moving into a new facility on Quebec Ave.

Haynes has fond memories of gathering eggs with her grandfather on the farm: “Grandpa was very jovial, but he worked hard, too. If we dropped an egg, he’d say, ‘That’s 10 cents off your wage.’ We learned that an egg is a valuable asset and you don’t want to be breaking them.”

Star Egg is almost fully automated, but even the machines are gentle. The eggs flow in a steady stream through the cleaning and inspection booth, roll over the weigh scales, glide down the conveyor belts to a row of soft round brushes that place the eggs within reach of the automated “clam shells” which gently pick them up and set them into their awaiting cartons.

Egg consumption in Canada has dropped from about 23 dozen per person per year in the 1960s to about 14.5 dozen today (including processed eggs), and is rising slowly thanks in part to a range of new custom egg products. These include liquid, powdered and separated eggs—you can even buy pre-packaged hard boiled eggs—and eggs with special qualities such as free-run, organic, vegetarian and omega-3. Star Egg markets its specialty eggs under the label GoldEgg.

“I think it’s important to listen to the public and try to provide different options, because everyone’s purchasing choices are based on how they feel or what they believe. We always want to be cognizant of that,” says Haynes. “At the end of the day, an egg is an egg. It’s an affordable, quality source of protein.” And each egg is one in a million!

Mushroom and Chive Puffs (otherwise known in French as gougere)

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp coarse salt
1 cup flour
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup aged cheddar cheese
1/4 cup powdered dried mushrooms
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

Note: I used dried chanterelle mushrooms picked last fall in Saskatchewan and powdered in a spice grinder.

Heat oven to 400F. Heat the milk, water and butter in a saucepan on medium low until it starts to boil. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the flour forms a ball that is no longer sticky and a dry film forms on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat.

Using a handheld mixer (or place the dough in a mixing bowl) beat lightly for two minutes to release some heat. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing each one fully into the dough before adding the next. The dough will be smooth and waxy, thick enough to scoop with a spoon.

Incorporate the cheese, mushroom powder and chives. Using a teaspoon, scoop the dough into balls and place them on a baking sheet lined with a silicone pad or parchment paper. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, open the door and leave puffs in the oven for 10 minutes. Makes about 24 puffs.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What about the chickens - do they get out or held in cages. What about their feed and what about drugs.