I was on a pickling and fermenting kick earlier this year, inspired by food media and a field trip to Fox Haven Farm that ended with bringing a jar of class-made sauerkraut back to campus to ferment. Each week, I tried a new pickle with various spices and herbs; I experimented with cucumbers, carrots, okra, onions, and mushrooms.
On a related fermentation experimentation, after first trying water kefir at Fox Haven Farm, I got my own grains at Common Market and I made a range of variations: plain, lemon (my favorite), herb, and vanilla-orange. I thought it might be a tasty way to help my vegan husband to get more probiotics in his diet without resorting to vegan yogurt with all its bizarre additives. (Full disclosure: My family claimed they liked water kefir, but the bottles in the fridge stayed put, suspiciously unconsumed except by me.)
For awhile I had a dry erase board on the fridge to keep track of all the items and their ready dates. Then the semester intervened with stacks of essays that needed grading, as it does, and my pickling became more sporadic rather than a weekly endeavor.
Currently, there happens to be a jar of pickled mushrooms at the bottom of my fridge and my water kefir grains are resting at the back. The dry erase board has since been given to one of my kids for doodling. But one pickled item is guaranteed to be in there every week: pickled eggs, or as some call them, beet eggs.
Thanks to my mom and Jacques Pepin, I know how to properly hard boil an egg without creating a rubbery ovoid with a green-ringed yoke.
For many years, I’ve started each day with a hard boiled egg, usually dipped in Sriracha or zaatar. Eggs give me the energy I need for teaching and mediating my daughters’ bickering until I can make it to lunch.
One day on a cookbook run to the library, I came across a promising recipe for pickled eggs that caught my attention. Hmmm…pickled eggs? I Remembered a friend sharing fond memories of meals with her grandmother, saying they always had beet eggs with every meal. I thought making a batch of these eggs might be a nice surprise for her.
My associations with them were more along the lines of murky convenience store jars and Southern-style buffets. But the ingredients were all ones I enjoyed: vinegar, beets, and garlic. It looked like a simple recipe, so if I didn’t turn out, it was no big loss of time or groceries and my friend would appreciate the gesture.
So I copied the recipe and forgot to write down which cookbook it was from (forgive me, copyright gods!). I prepared the eggs as directed and fished one out of the gorgeous fuschia liquid the following day. It was a lovely color and had, I concluded after the first bite, a lovely flavor as well. This began my pickled egg as breakfast staple habit. Deleivered to my friend via her husband, they were a hit on her end as well.
Since then I’ve played around with the recipe a bit, experimenting with adding spices like peppercorns and coriander. My favorite modification is to add fresh herbs from my garden along with a dried bay leaf or two. If using fresh herbs, I choose kinds with a woody stem like oregano, thyme and rosemary. Lemon thyme also works nicely and gives the eggs a bit of citrus taste.
They are certainly delicious on their own with breakfast or for a tasty snack but also make a fabulous visual and flavor addition when sliced into salads.
Splash white vinegar (for boiling)
1 small beet
Extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, peeled and smashed
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
To cook eggs:
1. Put eggs in small saucepan and cover with cold water. Add the splash of white vinegar and bring the eggs to a soft boil just under high heat.
2. Let boil for 9-10 minutes. Do not overcook.
3. Drain off water and shake pan to crack eggshells. Fill the pan with cold water and drain again to cool pan. Then fill the pan with ice and top off with cold water.
4. Let eggs cool for 15 minutes. Peel eggs under running water, beginning at the bottom and trying to use the membrane as a guide.
To pickle eggs: (modified from original)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Scrub outside of beet to remove dirt; pull off any roots and trim and greens. Place beet in a sheet of heavy duty foil, pour in olive oil and water, and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Wrap the beet tightly and place in oven. Roast for 40-70 minutes, or until a fork sinseertes into the beet slides easily in to the center.
2. Remove from oven, peel open foil, and let cool. Once cool, don rubber gloves and rub the skin off the beet over a compost bucket or sink. Take care–beet juices will stain clothing and some countertops.
3. Slice beet into large chunks and add to jar with garlic and herbs. Put eggs in jar and pour apple cider vinegar and water over. Close the jar and place in fridge. By the following day, the eggs will be a glorious magenta color and are ready to enjoy.
The fresher the egg, the harder to peel but I am fortunately surrounded by farms and a generous friend who raises chickens so I wouldn’t know a non-fresh egg unless someone threw it at me. Try to find eggs from a local farmer–the quality, flavor, and nutritional profile are all superior.
Do you have pickled egg memories? Would you try making them yourself? Let me know in the comments.