There are several symbols of life that have pretty much vanished from the American landscape. These include payphones — you still see a few once in a great while, but they are becoming increasingly scarce — Western Union Telegrams, video rental stores, and gone are the days when you would go to the hardware store to use the machine to test your television tubes; in order to determine which ones needed replacing — eliminating those expensive TV repairmen that charge and arm and a leg.
Yup. Those days are pretty much gone.
And another casualty of modern living is now missing from the neighborhood bar. At one time, there, back by the cash register, near the packs of cigarettes and the book where they kept track of your weekly sign-in — you would always see — it. That gallon jar of pickled eggs. Beautiful, inviting and glimmering in its vinegar glow.
The bar pickled egg had been a staple for decades and often provided the only solid food a working man would have before heading home after a hard day. Originally the bar egg was simply a hardboiled egg; offered free to patrons like pretzels are today — in order to make the customer more thirsty and also to keep them from getting sloppily drunk. But health concerns grew and this practice migrated to selling just the pickled version; which could last longer and removed the need to clean up all those egg shells.
The pickled egg first showed up on the American scene in the 1700’s and although many believe this to be a British transplant, it was actually the German colonists that brought it with them. It was popular with Hessian mercenaries and then migrated over to the Pennsylvania Dutch. It was a very simple practice, where the egg — or the cucumber or the beet — were placed in a jar of spiced vinegar and left there.
If pickling hasn’t become a lost art, it has definitely become a niche one and is often lumped in with canning. Which is not accurate.
Canning is the act of preserving food for storage. Pickling is when the vinegar and spices infuse it and alter the structure.
Can a tomato and you still have a tomato. But pickle and egg and you get something completely different.
Pickling is pretty easy and does not require canning pots and jars and can be done with just a few leftover glass jars and a pot — I mean you can use all that fancy stuff if you have it, but it’s not required. Because you can easily pickle eggs — or sausage or anything — with items that are just lying around the house. . It’s easy. It’s fun and it’s one of those cooking areas that everyone believes is a lot more difficult than it really is. And you can be very creative with pickling because the flavor is changed with not only the spices, but also with what else is pickled with it — hot peppers or fruit you whatever else you add in.
Plus there is this unique effect when you bring homemade pickled eggs to a barbecue or an event that moves you up the unique-ladder — it’s possible that depending on how narrow minded and culinary-retentive your friends are, that no one may eat them, but I guarantee there won’t be three other jars of pickled eggs at the tailgate.
Now the one down side to pickled eggs, is that they do not preserve the food long term like canning does — commercial pickled eggs can be kept on a shelf for years, but homemade ones need to be refrigerated, even before opening.
And the very first — and really the only rule — of any pickling endeavor is, don’t use the prepackaged pickling spices. I have used these before and they are basically salt with some salt added in for flavor. You can create a much, much better brine on your own.
Now, the most difficult aspect of pickling eggs has nothing to do with the cooking part, but has everything to do with getting those eggs out of their shells. Unpeeling hardboiled eggs is tedious and yields completely inconsistent results, so here are a few tricks that work pretty well.
HOW TO PEEL HARDBOILED EGGS
- The Baking Soda Method
If you increase the pH of the water you are cooking the egg in, the shell will actually break down. So add in 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for every quart water you use. Boil the eggs. Let cool and peel.
- The Lung Power Method
Here’s how it’s supposed to work: First, crack the shell at the very top and bottom of the egg, then peel off about a dime sized hole on each end. Then, place your mouth over the hole on the top of the egg, and blow. According to some very cool Youtube videos, this should work — but I have only made it work if I use the baking soda method first.
- The crack all over method
If you take the egg and crack both top and bottom, then, on a paper towel, roll the egg around and crack the entire surface — you’ll know you’ve done this when you stop hearing the cracking sound. Then, if done right, the shell should come off in large pieces. I’ve had this work many times — and not work many times, and the key seems to be that older eggs peel better. Newer ones — especially the ones my wife gets directly from her friends who have chickens — are a pain to peel.
- The Swirl Method
So the philosophy here is, you cook the eggs, remove them and place in a pot with a few inches of cold water. Then in the pot, swirl they eggs in a circle, letting the eggs bump and crack and slam all over each other. Then when you take the eggs out they should be partially unpeeled and easy to finish. I have tried this method and it works sometimes, but it does make a mess — but you get a great forearm workout.
- The Glass of Water Method
This is my go-to method for unpeeling hardboiled eggs and I use it all the time. You place the egg in a glass with an inch or so of water in it. Cover the top with your hand and shake it and swirl it. The eggshell will take on small cracks over the surface and the water will get in between the shell and help it slip right off.
HOW TO MAKE PICKLED EGGS
So step one is to find a jar that can be sealed tightly — leftover pickled jars or anything with a wide mouth and a lid that seals. A quart-size canning jar will hold about one dozen medium sized eggs. Clean the jar thoroughly.
Add inside the jar the eggs and the extras — extras can include cut up onion, sweet peppers, hot peppers, garlic cloves, whatever you want.
In a large pan add in ¾ cup of water, 1 ½ cup of apple cider vinegar, 3 tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar, 1 clove garlic, some dill, mustard seed or any other spices you want — remember; there are no rules.
Bring the pot to a boil and then let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Right before you are ready to pour everything in the jar, run hot water over the outside surface of the jars you are using to warm them up.
Pour the mixture into the jar and cover with the lid.