THINKING THURSDAY: SOMETHING TO PONDER IN THE WORLD OF FOOD AND FARMING.
It’s time. Time for the springtime rituals of Easter baskets & hard-boiled eggs. Like chocolate bunnies, those eggs are everywhere and you can only eat so many egg-y things before either they or you go bad.
So, rather than avoiding waste by being stingy with the single healthy, natural thing in the standard-issue Easter basket, after the day is over, pickle the excess. Pickled eggs will keep for months, make sure none go to waste and add a powerful new culinary staple to your pantry.
I’ve gone through plenty of recipes seeking the perfect blend of simplicity and yumminess and what follows is my favorite. For now. It’s a forgiving recipe though, so feel free to nip and tuck to suit yourself.
Like all simple recipes, the deliciousness is proportionate to the quality of the ingredients. The number one most important step is this: start with great eggs.
I am a believer in the power of the farm fresh, pastured egg. Of course, I’m lucky because my neighbor keeps a big flock of free ranging hens and is a generous sharer. Kind of like healthy mother culture, he gives me three dozen eggs, I return a pint of pickled eggs and my emptied egg cartons and the circle of life continues. Don’t have a chicken-farming friend? You can find one here.
Since your whole reason for this glut of hard-boiled eggs is probably for the fun of dying the eggs with your kids, you should know it is not necessary to buy white eggs to make pretty dyed eggs. The brown shells will dye to softer shades, although yellows may be a little disappointing. Since most farm-fresh eggs are brown, this is a public service announcement designed to save you from the white battery hen eggs in the supermarket.
Once you have your awesome eggs, please pay extra special attention to the process of hard boiling the eggs. With a little extra care, your pickled eggs will be radiantly beautiful. Like pure sunshine, really.
Neglecting your eggs will create that icky green ring around the outside of the yolk which is a real downer for me. Of course it makes no difference in the taste, and I’ll still gobble them up, but a beautiful ring-free yolk makes me really happy.
The Secret to Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs:
You may or may not know that freshly laid hard-boiled eggs are difficult to peel. They are – I kid you not. Try to store the eggs in the refrigerator for at least a week before boiling. If you find that eggs you have already boiled just won’t peel nicely, store the cooked eggs in the refrigerator for a few days and they should become easier to peel.
Or, you may try steaming instead of boiling – this quickie from the always entertaining and informative Alton Brown brings up a few good pointers. Note: Alton Brown is referring to store-bought eggs, so his advice about the freshness of the eggs is a little off for laid-today eggs from the farm. His tip about centering the yolks is right-on and one I learned the hard way.
I don’t steam my eggs because I really don’t have a good steamer, and I’m about to do three dozen, not four. So, this is how I do it:
- Take the eggs out of the refrigerator for about an hour before starting. To center the yolks, secure carton lids (a rubber band works well) and place the cartons on their sides. Otherwise, yolks may be too near the egg wall, causing you to break them when you peel the egg – not so good for pickled eggs, but no problem for egg salad.
- Use as many large pots as necessary to place eggs in a single layer and cover by at least an inch or two of cold water. Starting with cold water and bringing the eggs to a boil gently will help avoid shocking the eggs into cracking.
- I add a teaspoon of white vinegar and ½ teaspoon of salt to each pot.
- On high heat, bring to a boil and as soon as your water boils, cover pot and turn off the heat. (I have an electric stove. If you have gas, once the water reaches a boil, remove pot from flame. Turn down to low, return pot to burner and simmer for one minute.
- After the minute, remove from burner, cover and let sit for 12 minutes.
- While the eggs are resting, prepare an ice water bath large enough to accommodate all your eggs at once. You can use a large bowl, pot or even the sink if necessary.
- Remove the eggs using a slotted spoon and submerge in the ice bath to cool.
Peeling your eggs:
- Allow your eggs plenty of time to cool.
- Set up a bowl of clean, cold water and a container or bowl to store your peeled eggs
- I start by gently cracking the egg all over and starting at the wide end. If you’re lucky, the shell will gently peel away from the egg, leaving a smooth shiny surface. Rinse in the water & place in the storage container. Repeat.
- If you’re not lucky, the shell will cling to the egg and tear the flesh of the egg leaving a knobby messy looking egg. Still tastes good, but not quite so beautiful. If this is the case, after creating the opening, dip into the water as needed to keep everything moist & slippery. Try sliding a spoon gently under the shell and carefully lifting the shell away from the egg. Be patient and gentle and you should be successful.
- Occasionally, your best efforts will fail. Try tucking the cooked eggs back into the fridge for a few more days and you should have better luck. Or, if you just want to eat the eggs and can live with their funky look, do your best and soldier on.
Pickling your eggs:
I’ve tried lots of different recipes and this is my favorite for both flavor and ease. I am a huge fan of the pickled vegetables you get in restaurants in Mexico so like to add some carrots, chiles and garlic to my eggs. The pickled carrots are a tender-crisp treat and a colorful addition to whatever I end up making with the pickled eggs.
Storing your eggs safely:
I am the first to admit I may be a little too fearless when it comes to food safety. I have been making pickled eggs for some time and had been storing them on a shelf in my basement. But apparently the National Center for Home Preservation doesn’t share my confidence in non-refrigerated storage. If you’re new to preserving, check out their website and this page on pickled eggs – it’s an invaluable free resource.
Eating your pickled eggs & carrots:
xPickled Egg Sandwichxxxpaired with Green Beansxxand vinaigrette slaw
My favorite ways to eat pickled eggs:
- Pickled Egg Sandwich: slather a slice of good, toasted white bread with mayonnaise (gold stars for homemade bread AND mayo), slice a pickled egg on top, toss a few of the carrots & chile on top and season with a good grind of freshly ground black pepper.
- Sliced or crumbled over salads & grains: any green salad can benefit from some nice slices of pickled egg. Or, crumble some pickled egg on top of rice, pasta or cooked vegetable dishes.
- Egg salad: try making your favorite egg salad dish with pickled eggs instead of plain hard-cooked for a zingy change
- Topper: Chopped pickled egg on top of potato, tuna or chicken salads, veggie dishes and dips
- Sandwich topper: Slice a pickled egg onto a meat sandwich. Really kick it up a notch and top it all with crunchy vinaigrette slaw.
All Right-ey. Now that you know you can cook your eggs all at once and store them ready to eat for months, there’s no reason to hold back! Dye all the eggs you want and enjoy this handy way to amp up the flavor and protein content of your meals.
What’s your favorite way to eat pickled eggs?
This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday. What’s that you ask? It’s an ambitious and enlightening collection of posts from bloggers all over about issues near and dear to my heart: real food and natural living. Check it out!