This idea was brought to my attention by my Brother-in-Law, who had heard Alton Brown bragging about it on a pod cast. Incredibly easy to make, cured egg yolks can be very useful for a large number of cuisines and dishes. All the rage right now, they are a great way to bring some sophistication to your cooking, but the best part is that it’s nearly impossible to mess them up.
Although the Chinese have been using salted duck eggs in their cuisine, probably since the beginning of time, the peoples of the Mediterranean have been salting fish eggs (namely grey mullet and bluefin tuna at this point) for nearly as long, calling it bottarga. This name has it’s origins in Old Greek and Arabic, meaning “egg pickled.” Each is a little unique from the other, but the basic idea here is to cure an egg yolk in medium grain salt over-night, then let it cure for 1-3 weeks until firm, at which time you can grate it as a seasoning on your dish of choice.
The roe bottarga is commonly grated over pasta, but can also be served sliced as with a charcuterie board. The yolk bottarga can, too, be served over pasta, bringing an incredibe umami flavor, but is also great grated over avocado toast, any grain bowl, salads, and even meat. I have even specifically cured egg yolks for use in making furikake.
Although handy, these cured eggs don’t always need to be grated. Just like the roe bottarga, you can slice an aged yolk for use with crackers, toast, or any other desired way. In fact, many people prefer simply to eat the over-night brined egg yolks with a spoon, or mash it into a favorite grain like a thick sauce.
While roe bottarga is very specifically made using only sea salt, and sometimes a beeswax outer coat, cured egg yolks can be done with either strait salt or a dry brine mixture containing both sugar and salt. If you are intending to eat an over-night ‘jammy-egg’ then you will want to use the salt and sugar mixture, but if you intend to leave your yolks to age for a couple weeks the difference in salt really won’t stand out by the time you grate it.
The Chinese way of salting a duck egg yolk involves keeping the egg shell and simply adding the salt and the yolk with more salt on top, right inside as an aging vesicle. I tried this with chicken eggs. It works well enough if you crack the egg in such a manner to have enough saved for the intent. You also need to make sure enough salt is added under the yolk to get a good round initial brining. Having given you all those words, it’s really not rocket science. Whichever brine you choose just make sure your yolk gets covered well all the way around and you’ll be fine.
Cured Egg Yolk Bottarga
By: Semiserious Chefs
- Egg Yolks
- Sea Salt
- Or a mixture of 2 parts sugar to 1 part salt
- Cheese Cloth
- Separate the yolk of each egg. (Save the whites for another use.)
- In a small bowl or cup add a solid half inch layer of salt or salt-sugar brine, with a divot for the yolk to sit in. You can also salt more than one yolk on a sheet pan, just leave enough space to separate each one.
- Add the yolk(s) and cover completely with another half inch layer of salt or salt-sugar.
- After 6+ hours you will have a jammy egg, great for eating on it’s own (if you used the salt and sugar combination), but for fully dried bottarga, leave your egg yolks in the salt over-night or longer.
- After the first day of bringing in the salt, remove the yolk(s), and wipe off the excess salt with a damp paper towel. Dry and wrap in cheese cloth and place in a dark cupboard. I’ve even used a bandana for this, simply separating each yolk with a twist-tie.
- After two weeks you will have nice firm yolks that are easy to slice or grate. I’ve also left mine for 4 weeks without any issues. It would probably be best practice to keep any partially grated yolks in the fridge.