Ostrich Egg Bottarga (Salt Cured Egg Yolk)

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I have been wanting to cure an ostrich egg yolk for quite some time now.  The problem with living on a little island is that it can be hard to find particular things; I couldn’t find ostrich eggs anywhere. Fortunately, on a recent visit to Melbourne I was able to find one at the Prahran Market. It was a nervous few days trying it get it home in one piece!

Ingredients:

2 cups Himalayan salt
1 cup organic raw sugar
chili flakes
Italian mixed herbs

Note – If you can’t get an ostrich egg you can substitute with either chicken, duck or even goose eggs.

Also you can just use salt and sugar for the cure or mix it up with what ever you have available in the pantry. I decided to add chili flakes for a bit of a kick and Italian mixed herbs for additional flavour. Some recipes use a 50/50 blend of salt and sugar, but I find that makes the yolks too sweet for me. I used a 2:1 ratio of salt to sugar; you can adjust the actual weights to suit the amount you need and as long as you have the right ratios you can’t go wrong. The salt and sugar mixture removes all the moisture from the yolk. It will become firm, bright and grateable to provide an umami flavour element to enhance almost any dish. This recipe takes around two weeks so make sure you plan ahead!

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The ostrich egg is massive, the photo below doesn’t quite do it justice…

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…so for scale, I put it next to a chicken and quail egg.

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Out of curiosity I decided to weigh the egg. You don’t have to weigh it for the recipe, but did I mention that it was a really big egg?!  How could I not weigh it! It weighed in at a whopping 1459g!

Just for fun, here are a few ostrich egg facts that I found quite interesting:
– An average ostrich egg has the same mass of approx. 25 chicken eggs.
– It takes between 1.5 – 2 hours to hard boil an ostrich egg.
– It can provide a meal for 18 people when scrambled.
– Even though it is the largest bird’s egg, in proportion to the bird’s size and weight it’s the smallest.

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As I have never cracked an ostrich egg and wasn’t sure how thick the shell actually was, I was quite nervous. I wanted to make sure that however I opened it, the yolk remained intact. I had a quick look online and checked out some YouTube videos. All I could find was using a hard object (including a hammer!) to crack open the egg or using a drill to drain the egg (to use the shell for engraving); there was nothing about how to open the egg without damaging the yolk. So like a lot of things I do it came down to trial and error. By this point I had already decided that if it didn’t work, or if I damaged the yolk, then I’d be making a very big omelet for dinner.

Using the back of a butter knife I started tapping to chip away at the hard shell.

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After a little while, I started to make some progress so I kept chipping away until I got most of the way around the middle of the egg. It takes a bit of force to get through the shell but you also have to be careful so the yolk doesn’t get broken. The shell is a lot thicker than chicken, duck and even goose eggs. The membrane beneath the shell was so much thicker than that of a normal egg, making a clean break (and an unbroken yolk) even harder.

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I finally cracked the shell and managed to carefully separate the yolk from the whites by passing the yolk from shell to shell. Try to get as much of the albumen (whites) out of the shell without damaging the yolk membrane; I was pretty happy with myself at this stage. I’m regretting now that I didn’t take a photo of the whites at the time, because it filled an entire jug! You don’t need the whites for this recipe, however you can freeze them in small airtight containers and keep them for recipes that require whites, such as meringue.

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Prepare the cure by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl and then making a ‘bed’ for your yolks with half the curing mixture in a large flat non-reactive dish. I would normally make this part in advance if using any other egg; the reason I hadn’t prepared it earlier is because I wasn’t sure I would be able to crack the egg and separate the yolk.

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Since I was only using one yolk I made a well in the center of the curing mixture to place the yolk in. Gently place the yolk in the well. Keep in mind that egg yolks are fragile and can easily split open, so take your time transferring the yolks to the curing mixture.

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Carefully sprinkle the remaining curing mixture over the top of the yolk, making sure it’s completely covered.

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I did this slowly over a couple of minutes to let the yolk absorb the curing mixture. Cover the dish with plastic cling wrap and place in the refrigerator for a week.

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Each day carefully tip out any brine, replace the covering and place back into the fridge.

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On the fifth day, I flipped the yolk over and tipped out the excess brine, covered the dish again and placed it back into the fridge.

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When the fridge time is up, usually around a week (it may vary slightly depending on the type of egg) remove the yolks from the curing mix. The yolks should be quite firm to touch; don’t be alarmed if they seem a little tacky, that is normal. Gently brush the salt from the yolk, lightly rinse under cold running water to remove any excess cure and then pat dry with paper towel.

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Individually wrap each yolk in cheesecloth and hang them back in the fridge for another 7-10 days (this usually applies to chicken and duck egg yolks, this being an ostrich egg yolk I let hang a little bit longer).

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After 18 days wrapped in cheesecloth hanging in the fridge, this is the final result; pretty cool I think.

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The richness of the yolk is intensified and becomes almost cheese like. It has a firm but pliable texture, is mildly sweet, perfectly salty and is the perfect flavour booster for all occasions. Using a micro-plane it can be grated over pasta dishes, salads, fried rice and even a garnish for soups as a nice alternative to Parmesan cheese. When grated the golden curls will literally melt in your mouth and taste like liquid carbonara.

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Since I was using an ostrich yolk, I was able to take larger slices like you would with a bottarga.

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The yolk keeps very well due to its very low moisture content and the longer the yolk ages the more flavour and character it develops. It has the distinctive robust, concentrated flavours of a hard cheese. I bet, if someone handed you a piece or you did a blind taste, you would think it was actually a hard cheese and not a cured yolk.  Because the flavours are so rich, it pairs well with red wine.

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