Fireworks for the Fourth of July – Pickled Eggs 3 Ways

Pickled Eggs 3 Ways is the final and most colorful installment in our recent trilogy of egg recipes.  We made two batches of each of these eggs, a week apart, both to test the recipes and so I could photograph the process from pickling juice to finished eggs.  As I write this the first batch of three dozen eggs is nearly gone–in case you’re wondering if kids will eat pickled eggs,  the answer is Yes, they will.  These eggs are tart, but not completely sour (note the sugar in the recipes), which makes them a flexible dining companion.  Of course pickled eggs are the ultimate picnic food–festive, not prone to spoilage, and given to pairing nicely with other preserved items like cheese, smoked fish–and great beer.  They stand out with mixed greens–and when combined with with wasabi mayonnaise make a killer egg salad

The formula for pickling is fairly simple – you create an environment that is hostile to the potentially lethal bacteria that cause food to spoil.  One method immerses the food in a ready-made solution, such as vinegar and water, whose PH is too acidic for harmful bateria to thrive.  Another brines the food in a saline solution that initiates fermentation as it draws moisture out of the food (e.g. kimchee, sauerkraut).  During fermentation good bacteria chow down on local sugars, depriving dangerous bateria of their food source.  If that weren’t enough, the good bacteria also produce lactic acid, which again shifts the PH into the danger zone for harmful microbes.

In the case of pickled eggs, we’re cooking the eggs, then using the acidic vinegar solution to flavor and preserve them.  The eggs take on a sweet-tart flavor, but they don’t ferment.  Like a religious aunt, they  do grow more tart over time, but based on personal experience they seem to reach a certain point of tartness, then stop.  Start tasting them after two days.  As for shelf life, I don’t see why they wouldn’t last for at least several months, but we’ve never come close to having any around for that long.

The most foolproof way I know of hard-boiling and then peeling eggs is to put them into a pot in a single layer, cover them with cold water by several inches and set them over high heat.  As soon as the water starts to boil, turn the heat off, cover the pot and let them sit for 15 minutes.  Transfer the pot to the sink, pour off the hot water and run cold water into the pot.  Add ice if it’s convenient.  Take each egg in turn and keeping it immersed gently bang the big end against the side of the pot so the shell cracks, then pinch off a bit of the bottom shell.  Allow the eggs to remain immersed for another ten minutes, then peel.  If you’re lucky, water will have worked its way between the membrane and the surface of the egg and the shells will come off easier than they might otherwise.  The yolks should be a rich creamy yellow, but cooked, without any of the nasty greening of the yolk.

If you make pickled eggs this weekend you can serve them at a Fourth of July picnic.  You can also remind everyone that America is named after Amerigo Vespucci.  When the adolescent eye-rolling ceases, you can go on to observe that while we know him today as an intrepid explorer, in his first, less-exalted career, he helped Christopher Columbus make sure that his men never suffered from scurvy.  Was he a doctor? you ask.

Nope.  He was Columbus’s pickle merchant.

Happy Fourth of July!  Ken

Pickled Eggs 3 Ways

Purple Beet Eggs

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound beets, peeled and cut into ¼-inch sticks
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 star anise
  • seeds of 6 cardamom pods
  • 8 cloves
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup thinly sliced white onion
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup raw sugar
  • 12 peeled hard-boiled eggs

Directions:

  1. Bring 1½ cups water to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, add the beets, ½ teaspoon salt, bay leaves , star anise, cadamom and cloves and simmer for 10 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients (including the salt), except the eggs, and simmer 10 minutes.
  2. While the pickling mixture is cooking, put the eggs in a clean jar with at least 2 inches room above the eggs.
  3. Pour the hot pickling mixture over the eggs.  Allow to cool.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 days, to allow the flavors to penetrate the eggs, and up to 3 months.

Yellow Madras Curry Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup raw sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup ginger, cut into thin sticks
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 celery heart top with the leaves, thinly sliced with the leaves
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 habanero pepper, thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs cilantro
  • 12 peeled hard-boiled eggs
  1. Bring everything to a boil, except the cilantro and eggs, reduce the heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.
  2. While the pickling mixture is cooking, put the eggs in a clean jar with at least 2 inches room above the eggs.  Push the cilantro sprigs around the eggs.
  3. Pour the hot pickling mixture over the eggs.  Allow to cool.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 days, to allow the flavors to penetrate the eggs, and up to 3 months.

Red Smoked-Chili Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 2 red peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 dried pasilla peppers, rinsed, stemmed and seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup raw sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 habaneros thinly sliced
  • 4 sprigs dill
  • 12 peeled hard-boiled eggs
  1. Bring 1½ cups water to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, add the red and pasilla peppers, ½ teaspoon salt, cumin and coriander seeds and simmer for 10 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients (including the salt), except the dill and eggs, and simmer 10 minutes.
  2. While the picking mixture is cooking, put the eggs in a clean jar with at least 2 inches room above the eggs.  Push the dill sprigs around the eggs.
  3. Pour the hot pickling  mixture over the eggs.  Allow to cool.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 days, to allow the flavors to penetrate the eggs, and up to 3 months.

Jody Notes:

Pickled eggs in the summer is a no-brainer in theory, but I always hesitate.  All that peeling can seem monumental if you bump up against recalcitrant eggs.  The shells stick because the eggs are so fresh, they haven’t pulled away from the shell.  The technique described by Ken makes it easier, but sometimes they’re just stubborn.  It’s best to just to let go  and enjoy the mottled surfaces you may end up with.  I try to remember how lucky we are to have fresh farm eggs from free range chickens.  

With both kids home from school there are a lot of opinions in the air about topics for the blog.  One really hot morning a couple of weeks ago we were all crammed into our small kitchen.  I was poaching chicken, Ken was behind the camera, and Oliver and Roxanne were making fun of each other, and us.  “We want pickled eggs!” they cried.  It made sense.  Cold food would be instantly available in the fridge for days on end.  The following week I made pickled eggs twice–a test run, then a second batch on blog day.  The end result was 6 dozen pickled eggs.  As of this morning, barely a week later, I think we’re down to 3 dozen.  

Recipes for pickled eggs vary wildly.  Instead of riffing on a common formula, each recipe is a world unto itself.  Some call for vinegar; some for vinegar and water, and of course the latter disagree on the ratio of vinegar to water.  Salt and sugar are equally no-standard.  One recipe called for  3 times the amount of sugar I use here.  In order to keep the vinegar, water, sugar, salt ratios in the three recipes consistent I used 1½ cups of water in the beet and pepper recipes and only 1 cup in the curry.  The latter cooks for a shorter period, and less water evaporates.

I also don’t understand why some cooks strained off all the solids used in making the pickle juice.  What a waste!  I like the visual element the beets, dill, pepper and ginger slices bring to the pickling jars, and the flavors they add to a salad.  

Think of pickled eggs as pre-seasoned hard-boiled eggs rather than pickles.  They’re beautiful on an antipasto spread, on a salad or in a sandwich.  My favorite is the one I’d never done before, the smoked chili eggs.  They aren’t the most colorful, but their flavor is fabulous.  The smoked paprika penetrates the eggs and I love how spicy they are. Once you’ve made a dozen–or two or three or six–they’re waiting for you every time you open the fridge.  And you get to use that groovy egg slicer someone gave you.  

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18 thoughts

  1. There’s much to take away from this piece (in addition to being a versatile and convenient summer food, who knew pickled eggs had peace-making properties?), but the line about the religious aunt is the best.

  2. Another great post and another food I’ve never tried…pickled eggs. I’ll definitely be trying out your peeling technique the next time I’m working with hard-boiled eggs.

    The purple beet eggs are especially beautiful!

    • …and make a wonderfully sci-fi looking egg salad with wasabi mayo. Great on pumpernickel bread. The purple ones are going on my next batch of cards. When people ask what I do for a living I can say, “I pickle eggs.” Ken

  3. I love all these pictures, especially the set of three showing off the ingredients! I made refrigerator pickled beets last week, and my recipe suggested adding hardboiled eggs to the brine when you’d eaten some of the beets. And here’s that idea popping up, on your blog! I’ve never tried pickled eggs, but given I have the brine already it’s a pretty low-effort way to start out. The other two variations look wonderful as well.

    • Hi, Sara–Thanks for the compliment. Pickling seems to be enjoying a certain renaissance. This morning after first reading an intro by Michael Pollan, and then Sandor Katz’s own introduction to his magnificent new compendium, THE ART OF FERMENTATION, it was all I could do not to run down to store and rustle up some cabbage to start a batch of kimchi. In all likelihood you’re going to see some Katz-inspired stuff showing up here. Ken

      • I just started a batch of sauerkraut a few weeks back after reading none other than Katz’s intro! I got a little skeeved out by the constant skimming of mold and gave up, even though I think it’s supposed to be normal. Too bad I didn’t grow up seeing this stuff to know how it is supposed to work. It’s still a little hard to believe you just mix it with salt and that’s it!

      • I have a feeling I’m going to start either sauerkraut or kimchi over the next few days. Kind of scary leap into the microbioverse, isn’t it? I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. Ken

  4. Just discovered this great colourful blog post on eggs. I have only just read it – a few weeks behind…oh dear. I was eating a beetroot curry this evening in fact and was thinking about the possibilities of ‘dying’ other foods such as eggs with them. So funny to then read your blog post…love all three varieties. Fab post.

    • Serendipity. The reverse happened to me. We made two batches of three different kinds of pickled eggs, then I ran across your post about tea eggs. It’s the season, what’s available, what’s in the air. Last summer I did a post about roasted peppers, feta cheese and herbs in a jar–Today’s Boston Globe has an article mentioning the new fashion of serving things in jars. Go figure. Food is a virus–and we just keep giving it to each other. Ken

    • I would only reuse the brine as a measure of desperation, mainly because unlike a straight-ahead brine of just, say, vinegar and salt and a few spices, some fresh fresh ingredients are included here (e.g. parsley, onions and garlic) and their texture and potency will deteriorate with time and reheating. The recycled brine will also have a murkier color. That said, I don’t think there’s anything inherently harmful about reusing the brine as long as you reheat it. Ken

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