Story and photos by Asa Gilmore
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who have had pickled eggs, and those who have not.
Of those who have had pickled eggs, most have had them in a proper bar—at least that’s where I was introduced to them. The kind where the bartender knows your name. The kind where having an American lager and a pickled egg is a pretty normal occurrence.
But what most people don’t know is that pickled eggs are a gourmet dishes.
There are varying levels of pickled eggs. The ones you buy in the store ... well, they taste like vinegar. They are to pickled eggs what “yellow cheese” is to Gruyère—they have the basics, but they’re not exactly the same thing.
Pickled eggs have an incredible amount of variety. Onions, garlic, all kinds of peppers, beets, and even asparagus and cauliflower can be included. But at a basic level, truly excellent pickled eggs should have a good brine, a hint of spice, and enough beets to give them color and flavor. And that’s what we’re going to discuss today.
Step-by-step guide to making perfect pickled eggs:
The first step, of course, is making hardboiled eggs. This is actually a somewhat complex task, as anyone who has hard boiled 75-plus eggs at once (as I have) will tell you. There are several schools of thought on this. If you’d like to explore them all, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats provides a thorough manual on how to do this. However, in my own personal experience, this method from The Pioneer Woman blog has been most reliable.
Once you have the eggs peeled and ready, you can move on to the true artistry of the pickled egg. All of the following may be modified according to your own taste. As an example, I made the most amazing batch of scorpion pepper pickled quail eggs just recently. And it was based on this same brine and recipe.
First of all, the brine. In a ratio of 1:1:1, mix distilled water, sugar, and white vinegar (apple cider vinegar or balsamic can certainly be used, but I would recommend starting with the basics until you know what flavor you’re going for). Simmer it until the sugar has dissolved.
While that is happening, slice some fresh beets and layer them in the bottom of a sterilized mason jar. Season to taste. I suggest adding some whole peppercorns, red chili flakes, and long slices of white onions (onions absorb flavor, white onions especially). I also add yellow banana peppers and jalapeño, according to your taste. You can add other vegetables if you want—cauliflower also will absorb the beet juice, as will asparagus and others. The peppercorns and beets are the main flavor enhancers.
Once the bottom layer is in place, add some eggs and another layer of beets and spices. Repeat this process until the jar is full, pour in the brine, seal, and put it in the refrigerator.
Do not touch it for at least a week. Two weeks is better. In my opinion, they begin to peak about three to four weeks in.
When they’re done, the eggs will be both colorful and flavorful, soaked through to the yolk with the red from the beets. The longer you leave it in the brine, the more flavors it will absorb. If you like your eggs spicy, expect it to take longer.
Like I said, there are two kinds of people in the world. Pickled eggs are delicious.