Thursday, January 17, 2008

Another Two-Week Project: Pickling Eggs

Back in October, I was invited to a friend's cabin out in the woods for some autumnal hiking and the last of the leaf-peeping before she closed the place down for the season. Everyone who came brought something to share, either a stand-alone potluck dish, or an ingredient for a cauldron of "stone soup." I think I brought several kinds of beans for the soup and a loaf of Aunt Elva's Banana Bread, if memory serves...and it doesn't always anymore! Regardless, the food was all yummy, especially eaten in front of the wood stove on a chilly but beautiful fall day. One of the foods on the buffet made by the hostess herself was a platter of strikingly-colored pickled eggs. Having only ever seen them in a big jar on bar counters or convenience stores (the hygiene issue and lack of refrigeration were always psychological barriers to my sampling them), I was intrigued. And they were gloriously magenta-hued from being pickled with beet juice. I had to try one! However, to me, the vinegar taste was much too strong (which is saying something, as I love vinegary things and everything pickled). But I liked the idea of the pickled egg, so I tucked that thought in the back of my mind for future research.

Flash forward to winter break. Now I have time to work on pickling some eggs. To begin, I found an interesting website where a scientist named Stan Woods compiled the results of his many egg-pickling experiments. I chose one recipe that he deemed his favorite to date to riff on. One of the main tips that I gleaned from his ground-breaking ovarian work was that the eggs can be pickled just as well in vinegar that has been diluted by half with water as those made in straight vinegar (which results in rubbery eggs with a too-acidic flavor). And the other big change I wanted to make was to not use beet juice. It makes the most beautifully-colored eggs, but I just don't care for the taste of beets beyond the bowl of authentic borscht in Montreal or the wonderful chlodnick that my precious Johnny makes (from the New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne). So I wanted fabulous color, but using something other than beets. Thus, I was drawn to Stan Wood's recipe calling for balsamic vinegar. He reported that his eggs took on great color from the balsamic, and I love its flavor, too. So that was my starting point.

Pickling eggs is a surprisingly easy enterprise; it just takes patience--patience to peel 18 eggs and patience to wait two weeks for them to cure before you eat them up! First, I took a clean, half-gallon-sized wide mouth jar (I had several knocking around up in the attic, but I have seen them for purchase at Michael's, too) and layered in a dozen and a half hard-cooked eggs along with garlic cloves and onion slices. Then I made the brine, brought it to a boil, and poured it all over the contents of the jar. I closed it up and "parked it in the chill chest" (name that cook for a bonus point!) for two weeks. The results? Good news and bad news. On the positive side, they were a gorgeous purple-brown color, and they weren't as overbearingly sharp-tasting as the ones I had sampled previously. However, as much as I love all pickles, and these were very good, I just think I prefer my eggs unpickled--devilled certainly, but not pickled--at least not to eat straight up. What I did find is that the pickled eggs were absolutely DELICIOUS when cut up and added to a dinner salad*. Our favorite way to enjoy them is with a chef's salad type of affair: turkey, ham, shredded cheese, pickled eggs, fried onions (instead of croutons), and Thousand Island dressing. Not low-cal by any means, but SO GOOD! The pickled eggs gives the salad a great zip and cuts through the richness of the other ingredients. In any case, here is my recipe if you'd like to try them for yourself:

Balsamic Pickled Eggs

18 hard-cooked large eggs, peeled
1/2 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and cracked
1 3/4 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons canning salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon jalapeno (nacho) slices, chopped
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
a dozen or so whole peppercorns

Layer the eggs with the onion slices and garlic cloves in a large (half-gallon sized) jar. Combine the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, then pour the brine over the eggs, close the jar, and refrigerate. Give the eggs two weeks to pickle to maximize their flavor before eating. Store in the refrigerator!

*Follow-up: I found another excellent use for the pickled eggs. I cut them up and put them into potato salad, and instead of regular pickle relish, I used my special zucchini relish. Mmm, mmm! The best potato salad I've ever made!


KNH said...

Chill chest chef? Alton Brown! I met him.

JoyBugaloo said...

DING DING DING! KNH (Nicole, is it?) wins the bonus round! Thank you for playing. There's no prize, but meeting AB in person is surely a big enough win in and of itself! LUCKY...I'm so jealous!


Randi said...

I think I'll pass on this recipe, although they're pretty. Like you, I have too many memories of big jars of pickled eggs at 7-11 ( big thing in Florida where I grew up) I seem to recall pigs feet too, or maybe I was dreaming that. Have you tried Zuni Cafe's pickled red onion's? They were fab!!

Phillip in Chicago said...

Re: *follow-up

I just had some of your zucchini relish on a sandwich for lunch, and it was delicious. Perfect.

Michael said...

I lived in the Philippines, and was never worried about hygeine. I'd buy the fly covered meat, dried fish, and any other probably disease ridden foods that were available at the open sewered market. Just never thought of it. Also never got sick, so the unrefridgerated eggs, pigs feet, and pickled sausages at gas stations never gave me a second pause. I just make pickled eggs with a dozen or so eggs, and leftover pickle juice. Could never wait a week or two to eat them, let alone just few days. Their lucky if they lasted overnight. Anyway, thanks for this recipe. It's nice to know how fancy people eat their pickled eggs. An oxymoron to be sure. Found this while looking for gallon pickled aggs for sale. $25 for a gallon? Too rich for my blood. Randi looks hot. She makes me Randy! Just kidding, but kinda not.

vargas said...

Oh my word that sounds delicious and those eggs have a beautiful color!

I just finished pickling some eggs for the first time in an apple cider vinegar solution. I've never tried them in salads although lately I've been preparing and eating very large salads. I'll try it! Great idea!