Scotch eggs are a deep-fried December delicacy on the Gulf Coast
Although Scotch eggs are caught in an identity crisis, their future has never looked sunnier.
Savory, crunchy and packed with protein, this tasty tidbit is experiencing a renaissance of popularity in England and the United States. Scotch eggs also are traveling to some diverse foreign shores. In Japan, they have become a trendy New Year’s treat known as “Skorchi eggs,” and in Nigeria, Mr. Bigg’s restaurant and food chain reports them to be a best seller.
On the Texas Gulf Coast, there is no better source of Scotch eggs than Galveston’s Dickens on The Strand, where they are a favorite with tourists, locals and the festival’s cast of costumed characters, who, for one weekend each December, turn the
island’s historic downtown into a Victorian-era cityscape.
Among their most royal — and loyal — fans is Anne Boyd, who, for more than two decades, has portrayed Queen Victoria during the now world-famous Dickens event. Boyd’s fondness for the tasty tidbits, as well as her dedication to historic accuracy in her role as one of Britain’s most influential monarchs, inspired her to look into the origin of Scotch eggs and also learn how to prepare and cook them herself.
“So many things we enjoy in America today were inherited from the Victorian era,“ Boyd said. “Many of our most treasured holiday traditions, such as Christmas trees, ornaments and greeting cards, were originated by Queen Victoria personally, and although I can’t say if she, herself, enjoyed Scotch eggs, they were certainly a popular food during her reign.”
The most common theory on the origin of Scotch eggs is that they were created in Scotland as a portable and filling repast for shepherds who spent long days in distant fields. One food historian goes so far as to declare them a poor man’s lunch.
A slightly different story is that they were originated in 1738 by the upscale London food emporium Fortnum & Mason and sold as an alternative to meat pies and other portable foodstuffs that could be eaten “out of hand.” Small parcels of such edibles were commonly carried by long-distance travelers in horse-drawn coaches. Cleverly contrived and delicious, the little snacks next found their way into popularity as a trendy picnic food for the well-to-do.
Scotch eggs entered British culinary literature in 1809 when a book titled “A New System of Domestic Cookery,” authored by a Maria Eliza Rundell, gave directions for their preparation and recommended serving them hot with brown gravy. But other stories tell of a much older Scotch egg origin by those who note that an almost identical dish called nargisi kofta, or Narcissus meatballs, was being enjoyed in India during the 1500s.
Other theories on the naming and origin of Scotch eggs include a no longer active British convention of labeling as “Scotch” anything containing anchovies. The dish known as Scotch woodcock, for example, is neither of Scots origin, nor does it contain the liquor Scotch or woodcock, but is rather a dish of scrambled eggs on toast, garnished with anchovies.
Another explanation is that covering the eggs with sausage was a cosmetic matter, stemming from the export of eggs from Scotland to England. To help preserve the large number of fresh eggs that were making this trip during the 18th and 19th centuries, a process known as “scotching” was used, in which the eggs were first dipped briefly into boiling water and then covered with powdered lime. This purportedly did a good job of keeping the eggs in an edible state, but resulted in a mottling that could best be disguised by blanketing the eggs in sausage and frying them.
7 eggs, divided usage
2 cups breadcrumbs, divided usage
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon salt
Sage and other seasonings, if desired
2 tablespoons evaporated milk or light cream
1 (16-ounce) package bulk-style sausage
Peanut oil for frying
Prepared mustard and/or honey
Place six eggs in saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let sit 20 minutes, drain and refill pan with cold water. Let eggs rest until cool to touch, then peel carefully and set aside.
In small bowl, mix ½ cup breadcrumbs, pepper and salt. Other seasonings may be added at this point, if desired.
In another small bowl, whisk together the remaining uncooked egg and evaporated milk until well blended. Add to breadcrumb mixture and blend. Break sausage up into 2-quart bowl, add breadcrumb and egg mixture and mix by hand until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Place remaining dry breadcrumbs in a small bowl
Divide sausage mixture into six portions. Using hands, mold sausage mixture around each egg, so that egg is completely blanketed. Coat sausage-covered eggs evenly with breadcrumbs. Set eggs aside to rest in a cool place while oil is heating in small, heavy-duty saucepan or deep fryer.
Pour oil into a small saucepan or fryer to a depth sufficient to cover one blanketed and breaded egg. Heat oil to 375 F and carefully lower one egg into pan. It should start sizzling immediately, and heat will reduce to about 350 F.
Fry each coated egg individually at 350 F until deep golden brown and sausage is cooked through.
Remove eggs from hot oil with a wire or slotted spoon and drain. Serve eggs warm or cold with mustard and/or honey. Can be accompanied with fruit, cheese, bread and/or biscuits. Makes six snack-size servings.
Dickens on The Strand is Dec. 4-6 in Galveston’s downtown. Learn more about the world-famous Victorian holiday festival at www.galvestonhistory.org.