Whatever else you may economize in, do not limit your family in respect to eggs. They are nutritious, and even at four cents each are cheaper than meat. They should be used freely by all except those who know they cannot digest them. Using freely does not mean their unnecessary or extravagant use in rich cakes, custards, etc., nor in the indigestible form of fried or what is ordinarily called hard-boiled eggs; but it means the frequent use of them in any of the simple forms of boiling, baking, omelets, plain cake, and other wholesome combinations. It is very poor econ-omy, especially for those who keep hens, to exchange eggs for corned beef or salt fish; or to use soda and cream of tartar as a substitute for eggs in sponge cake, or half-cooked flour in an omelet. They may be served in an unlimited variety of styles, are especially suitable for breakfast or lunch, attractive as a garnish, and when combined with sugar and milk make the most healthful puddings, desserts, or tea dishes.
But though a type of perfect food, eggs are not intended to be eaten exclusively, any more than other foods. They are one of the most hisrhly concentrated forms of food, and, being wholly destitute of starch, should be eaten with bread or rice.
The white of the egg has but a trace of fat in it, and requires the addition of butter, milk, or fat meat, like bacon or ham. The white of egg contains water, mineral ingredients, and soluble albumen; the yolk has, in addition to these oil and sulphur. The albumen is enclosed in layers of thin-walled cells. When beaten, these walls break, and the albumen, owing to its glutinous nature, catches and holds the air, and increases to many times its original bulk.
Do not use an egg till it has been laid ten hours, as the white does not become set or thick till then, and cannot be beaten stiff. Eggs for poaching or boiling are best when thirty-six hours old. Albumen, when heated, becomes a dense solid; if mixed and heated with a liquid, it hardens and entangles in its meshes any solids or impurities in the liquid, and rises to the surface with them as scum, or pre-cipitates them. It is thus the white of egg clears soups, jellies, and coffee. Strong acids, corrosive sublimate, and creosote will also coagulate albumen; and therefore, if any of these poisons be taken into the system, the white of egg, swallowed quickly, will combine with the poison and protect the stomach.
The shells of newly laid eggs are almost full; but as the shells are porous, on exposure to the air, the water inside evaporates, and the eggs grow lighter, while air rushes in to fill the place of the water, and causes the nitrogenous elements to decompose, and the eggs soon spoil. This explains why a good egg is heavy, and will sink in water; and why a stale egg is lighter, has a rattling or gurgling sound, and floats in the water. Anything which will fill up the pores and thus exclude the air, when applied to perfectly fresh eggs, will preserve them indefinitely; a coating of liquid fat or gum, or a packing in bran or salt, with the small end downward, is effectual. Eggs should be kept in a cool, dark place, and handled carefully, as any rough motion may cause the white and yolk to become mixed, by rupturing the membrane which separates them, and then the egg spoils quickly.
Never buy eggs about the freshness of which you have any doubt, not even in winter. One can easily judge which is the better economy, - to pay twenty-five or thirty cents a dozen, and find none of them full and fresh, and perhaps half of them really rotten; or to pay fifty cents, and obtain them freshly laid, - not merely fresh from the country, - and all sound and good. Eggs with a dark shell are richer and have larger yolks. Eggs are of better flavor and more palatable in the spring, but are good and suitable, if perfectly fresh, at any season.