Pickled eggs are a delicacy in the South. They baffle my Northwestern friends, ranging from completely unknown to stigmatized synonymy of the radioactive lookalikes found in gas station delis. My newfound desire to redefine the pickled egg returns me to my southern roots. Each spring, my grandmother would boil and peel a dozen eggs, then add them to beet pickles she had preserved in the fall. The eggs would cure for about a month, until the whites were dyed a royal purple. I remember being mesmerized by these strange, tangy treats as a kid. When my mischievous hens decided to initiate an early Easter egg hunt, hiding 16 eggs beneath their nesting boxes, I couldn’t resist the urge.
This is a topic deserving of attention. Who knew it could be so hard to agree on instructions for a seemingly simple task?
The Canadian Egg Industry instructs to place eggs in a single layer on the bottom of a saucepan and cover with cold water, about an inch above the eggs. Cover with a lid. On high heat, bring eggs to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and let stand in water for 18-23 minutes (larger eggs longer), keeping the lid on. Drain water and immediately run cold water over eggs until cooled.
Interestingly, the American Egg Board suggests removing from heat to sit for 9-15 minutes. Likewise, the final step is to cool in running water or a bowl of ice water, then refrigerate.
Cooking experts like Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse (among others) differ subtly on the best methods to boil eggs, but across the board there is agreement on the following precepts for peeling: avoid fresh eggs and cool the eggs after heating. By fresh eggs, I mean the freshest of eggs, think chickens in the backyard. The truth of the matter is: store bought eggs have traveled and that takes time. Don’t use nearly expired eggs for pickling, because they will need to cure in the refrigerator. In the book On Food and Cooking, author Harold McGee suggests adding 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the cooking water to augment the PH level of the albumen in the whites of fresh eggs (which happens naturally during aging).
The National Center for Home Food Preservation hosts several recipes for pickled eggs.
Red Beet Eggs contain five ingredients:
1. Bring all ingredients (beet juice, beets, sugar, vinegar, and sugar) to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Pack no more than one dozen peeled, hard-cooked eggs loosely into a warm, pre-sterilized quart jar (or similar sized container).
3. Pour the hot pickling solution over the eggs in the jar. There should be enough pickling solution to completely cover the eggs.
4. Seal the jar with a secure lid, and refrigerate immediately.
The eggs will need to season for 2-4 weeks. The conversion is remarkable. The surrounding egg white takes on a chewy pickled quality and the yolk creates a soft balance of texture and flavor. It’s unlike any food or flavor I have ever eaten. It’s important to keep the pickled eggs refrigerated at all times! Use within 3-4 months for best quality.
I’m seeing a possible dilemma here. Now that you are intrigued, you may be missing the main ingredient. The good news is that pickled beets can be made anytime of the year. I actually still have a bag of beets in the fridge from September.
Pickling beets is quick and simple. Because of the acidity in the vinegar solution, water bath processing is used instead of time-consuming pressure canning. The following recipe is from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving for pickled beets, yielding 6 pints. You may divide the recipe in half if needed.
Pickled beets require the following ingredients:
1. Wash and cook beets. Peel.
2. Combine all ingredients, except for beets in a large saucepot and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes.
4. Pack beets in hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. (Optional: add pickle crisp to each jar)
5. Ladle hot liquid over beets, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust 2-piece caps.
6. Process 30 minutes in a boiling water canner.
*I do not care for the cinnamon flavor in the beets, so I eliminate this ingredient and add a tablespoon of pickling mix instead.
Impress your guests this spring as you add this colorful addition to the Easter table!
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