Monday, July 28, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Buttered Eggs

What did a dozen eggs cost in the 1880s? In summer, about 10 cents. In winter, 50 cents to $1. What's that in 2014, adjusted for inflation? Approximately $2.30 in summer and $11 to $23 in winter!

The old prices come from George Ballantine, whose family moved from Ontario to Prince Albert in 1880. In the 1950s, he filled out a questionnaire called "What did Western Canadian pioneers eat?" which is now held by Saskatchewan Archives at the University of Saskatchewan. According to George, his family was so poor that, by the age of 11, he was working fulltime in a grocery store, so he knew the cost of basic foods.

Why did the price of eggs differ from summer to winter? Back then, most farmers kept hens and many in town did, too, so there was no shortage of eggs in summertime. However, come winter, hens lay many fewer eggs, so they were scarce.

The pioneers employed various interesting methods to keep eggs for winter. George reports that, in his home, eggs were covered in grease and stored in salt in the cellar. Others report keeping eggs imbedded in frozen wheat, packed in chopped oats, soaking in a brine of salt and quick lime or buried in an equal weight of bran and salt.

No doubt, there were many rotten eggs. But those that survived would make a cake, pancakes or scrambled eggs on a cold winter's night.

Buttered Eggs
2 tbsp butter
4 eggs
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp cream
Sprinkle of chopped parsley

Melt butter in a frying pan on medium low heat. In a bowl, scramble eggs lightly and season with salt and pepper. Pour into the pan. Cook eggs slowly, lifting and stirring until they are just cooked but still moist. Remove from heat. Stir in cream. Tip the eggs into a serving dish. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve with buttered bread or toast.

Do you have an old Saskatchewan recipe with an interesting story? Send me a comment!

(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)


JoyD said...

I remember a recipe similar to this. But the cream was more substantial. My mother simply called them eggs and cream. Funny in France now, eggs with cream is a dessert.

Love reading your posts.

Bises (that's kisses; the French don't hug - in public anyway).

Anonymous said...

My parents kept raw eggs in a 5 gallon crock in a cool part of the basement. The eggs were submersed in a water-based solution. I thought I remembered the name of the solution but it did not “check out” through Google so I may never be able to tell you and, damnit, there goes another good home remedy! Hopefully another of your readers had a similar experience and writes to you.

My mother would go down into the basement with a long-handled wooden spoon and a bowl. She would scoop out as many eggs as her recipe required, rinse them in the sink and then proceed as normally with her baking. This worked well and she was still using eggs from the crock into April with no ill effects or baking disasters.
PS – The solution was called “waterglass”. I kept thinking that but dismissing it as it sounded foolish until I looked it up. Waterglass is a solution of water and sodium silicate. I forget the proportions.