Monthly Archives: June 2015

Parchment Plus!

If you’re annoyed by the tendency of parchment paper to curl up at the ends when you cut it off the roll, try this tip from the people at PaperChef, a Canadian manufacturer of parchment paper (

Dampen the paper under a running tap, which allows you to mold it to the shape of your cooking vessel.

Cracking the Egg Code

“What’s the difference between these eggs marked AA and these marked A?” the woman standing next to me in the market yesterday wondered out loud. The two packages she was considering seemed the same in most respects. They claimed to be from cage-free chickens and contained no antibiotics, GMOs or pesticides. However, one was certified organic and the other wasn’t, although they were locally raised, which is as good and sometimes better, in my opinion.

The answer it turns out has nothing to do with organic certification, but is a rating by the USDA of the quality of the eggs based on certain characteristics visible through the shell when the egg is so-called “candled,” a process during which a bright light is directed at the shell so that the interior may be examined.

According to a site called Explain Like I’m 5, the process reveals cracks in the shell, which may be factored into the grading, and spots of blood or meat, but mostly an egg’s quality is graded depending on its age. The site goes on to explain that, “AA grade eggs are nearly perfect, with a clear, firm white, a slightly defined yolk, and no spots. The air pocket (usually at the large end of the egg) needs to be less than a certain size. All these qualities point to an egg that is very fresh.”

An A grade egg is slightly worse in all those categories, although it seems to be the most prevalent in stores. Eggs also may be rated B, but you won’t see those in the store, since they’re generally sold to manufacturers who process them to make powdered eggs and egg substitutes, so the quality issues are less important. Those graded Inedible cannot be sold.

It’s interesting to note that for hard boiling or devilled eggs, older eggs are better. It’s very difficult to remove the shells from eggs that are too fresh.

Save the Sauce

A single friend was wrestling with the dilemma of how to preserve a jar of tomato sauce, when she only uses a quarter cup at a time. We came up with the idea of pouring the leftovers into a plastic ice cube tray, putting it into the freezer until the cubes are solid and then emptying the frozen cubes into a plastic storage bag, where they last in the freezer until she wants to drop a few into a sauce or stew.

The same method I think will work for tomato paste. That way I won’t have to succumb to the allure of those outrageously expensive but convenient tubes or dot messy little piles inside a plastic storage bag, which inevitably can’t be found when I need it.

I have two cautions: 1) For neater pouring, dump the sauce into a measuring cup with a spout. 2) Use an ice cube tray that you don’t need to make ice, since you’ll probably never remove the red stain.