Eggs are the best and most versatile ingredient in the world, bar none. And that is definitely not hyperbole and definitely is a well thought-out factual statement based on hundreds of sources which I can’t be bothered to list. Regardless of the validity of that statement, I think everyone can agree that eggs are completely delicious. How better than having the tastiest bit in a form which you can grate over everything?! That’s why you need to make some cured egg yolks.
Although it might sound a bit odd, you’ve probably actually had cured egg yolks before when eating out as they’re becoming more and more popular. Not only are they mega tasty, but they make a great dairy-free alternative to cheeses such as parmesan.
There are loads of recipes out there for cured egg yolks with curing times varying from 24 hours to 30 days, and with a variety of salt and sugar ratios and a plethora of additional herbs and spices to help boost the flavour. After a bit of messing around in the kitchen, I’ve found that a 3:1 ratio of salt to sugar gives the best base cure. I’ve tried 2:1 but the sweetness was a little too pronounced for my liking in something meant to be savoury.
As for extra flavourings, I’ve gone for the flavoursome trifecta of black pepper, bonito flakes, and bay leaves (this had nothing to do with the alliterated, much). The bay leaves provide a subtle herby-ness to finished product, and the black pepper provides… …pepperiness. The real star here though is the bonito flakes, also known (accurately) as katsuobushi. Katsuobushi is a quintessentially Japanese product found commonly as voluminous bags full of super-fine, almost see-through flakes of dried fish. You’ve probably had some before, as it is one of the two main ingredients in dashi, the broth forming the basis of many Japanese soups, alongside kombu (dried kelp).
To make the bonito flakes, a whole skipjack tuna is filleted, with the guts and fatty belly (which doesn’t preserve well) removed. The fillets are simmered and the bones removed before being smoke for five to six hours a day, for up to a month! At this point tar from the smoke is removed, and the fillets will be shaved and packaged for sale in a supermarket, which is probably what you and I will find and use. In fact, to be real katsuobushi, there is an extra fermenting step involving plenty of mould and sun drying, although, for the purposes of making cured egg yolks, I think we can skip the super high-quality stuff.
What the bonito flakes provide to the cured egg yolks is some significantly smoky notes, alongside an (in my opinion) relatively subtle fishiness. With the herbiness and pepperiness, the smokiness makes a great boost the yolky flavour, and you get something approaching the complex character of some high-quality hard cheeses.
As for how long to leave the egg yolks curing for, it is possible to leave them for a full month, and extract all the possible moisture using the salt, but that’s not necessary. By only salting for four or five days before drying the yolks out in the oven gives a great result, and is a hell of a lot faster.
Whip up some cured egg yolks for a dairy-free alternative to hard cheeses such as parmesan. Straightforward to make, just salt and wait! Added black pepper, bonito flakes and bay leaves boost the flavour to the next level.
- 1125 g fine salt un-iodized
- 375 g caster sugar
- 10 bay leaves
- 20 g bonito flakes
- 25 g black peppercorns
- 6 egg yolks
Place the bay leaves, bonito flakes and black peppercorns into a food processor with around 4 tbsp of the salt and grind into a fine powder, making sure all of the flavourings are broken up. You may need to include the bonito flakes in multiple parts, as they take up a lot of volume when in their wafer form.
Mix the spiced powder with the remaining salt and sugar and stir well to combine.
Place half of the mixture into a container about 15cm x 20cm. You need there to be enough room to arrange all of the egg yolks with around 2cm in between them and the sides, so there is enough space for the curing mixture.
Make six divots for each of the yolks to sit in (using an egg works well), and gently place a yolk into each.
Cover the egg yolks, very gently, with the remaining curing mix. Spoon it over at first, ensuring each of the yolks is well covered. Mark the location of the yolks with peppercorns, or something similar.
Cover the container with cling film, leaving some small gaps for air and moisture to escape. Refrigerate for 5 days.
Gently remove the yolks from the curing mixture and gently brush off any excess salt, sugar, or spices on the surface. Clean the yolks by washing in a bowl of cold water.
Place the yolks on a wire rack in the oven at 60oC for 2 to 3 hours, turning after an hour. The final product should be a dark yellow/orange like dried apricots and hard like a parmesan cheese.
Refrigerate the yolks until use.
Save the egg whites to make meringues or anything else. They'll keep covered in the refrigerator for a few days.