I have never made a poached egg. I have never eaten a poached egg. I have seen a poached egg on the plate of others but never wanted to eat a poached egg. I did want to learn to prepare one so I decided to try making one using Miss Alma Totzke’s recipe for Poached Egg (p. 113) in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book.
Miss Alma H. Totzke was 13 years old for the 1901 census so she was 18 when the cook book was published. At the time of the census she lived in Berlin with her German born parents and her four sisters and four brothers. Alma is the sixth child of nine living there. They are Lutheran and father is a cabinet maker while her older sisters are a box maker and a waist maker and the two older brothers’ occupations are difficult to read but it looks like they are a band sawyer, an apprentice cabinet maker, and some sort of clerk. In 1911 according to the census she is still living with her parents and four of her siblings. The boys are all cabinet makers like their father at Bates Furniture Factory while one sister is a box maker at a box factory. Alma is a book keeper in a shirt factory and later on marries. The recipe for poached egg is just one of several recipes she has in this cook book.
I followed the instructions Alma provides for making a poached egg but setting the frying pan to the back of the stove was a challenge without a woodstove. I ended up simply turning down the temperature of my electric burner. I cracked the egg and put it on a saucer. I knew at that point that I wouldn’t have a perfect looking poached egg as some of the white ran. I’ve always heard that the eggs for poaching should be as fresh as possible so that the white is still thick. My egg was from a grocery store carton that had been in my fridge for a week. I decided to go ahead since at this time of the year it is possible the Totzkes’ eggs weren’t all that fresh either … if they chose to make poached eggs in the winter. Breaking eggs into a separate container was still very common during the early 20th century as the condition of the egg could vary tremendously. It ensured that the cook didn’t add a bad egg to something and have to start over.
I slid the egg from the saucer into the simmering water and watched to see what happened. I think my water was a little too shallow as the yolk was above the water. I’m not sure how long the egg poached as I was fascinated to see the white set and wasn’t sure exactly how long to leave it. I had some hot buttered toast (made from last weekend’s home-baked bread) ready and carefully took the poached egg from the water and placed it on the toast.
As someone with a life long dislike for eggs it was very difficult to take that first bite of poached egg. I probably looked like I was taking medicine as that first bit of poached egg white touched my tongue but I survived. In fact it was okay. I took a second bite and it was nice. The third bite had some runny egg yolk and that pretty much ended my attempt at eating a poached egg. I discovered I can manage poached egg white while it is hot. I consider this progress.
This recipe was good for a first time poacher. It wasn’t overly complicated and I think I was successful. I now feel more confident in offering to make someone a poached egg and
I’ll try poaching an egg, and eating it, when I have a nice fresh egg available.
Put water in frying pan 1 1/2 inches deep, bring it to a boiling point, set on the back of the stove. Break each egg carefully in a saucer and slip gently into the water; when the white is set lift the egg on a cake turner and slide it on a hot plate or a piece of buttered toast kept warm while the egg was poached.