Clove and Beet Pickled Eggs

#RecipeUpTop (details to follow):

  • 1 can of sliced beets, with juice (NOT PICKLED);
  • 12 eggs;
  • White vinegar (varies);
  • Salt (varies);
  • Brown Sugar (varies);
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds;
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves;
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes;

Method: Hard boil and peel your eggs. Separate the beet juice from the beets and weigh it. Add an equal amount of white vinegar by weight, with 2% salt of the overall weight and 10% brown sugar. Add the spices, and bring to a simmer. Add the beets and eggs to a large container (or two medium containers) and cover with the pickling mixture. Refrigerate for at least a day (preferably three) before eating.

The Details

Pickled eggs are a divisive thing in this house. I love them; Mrs. 10Chickens can’t stand them (the kids are indifferent, but I am campaigning to bring them to my side).

Now, I’ll admit, there’s something off-putting about a traditional jar of pickled eggs, particularly if the brine is clear, and it’s and sitting on the back of a dive bar with a lid covered in dust.

The beet juice takes care of the first part of that, and the flavor of these take care of the second. They are tangy, and spiced with clove, with a little heat from the red pepper, and a rounding sweetness that balances the whole thing.

Step one: hard boil your eggs. If you have a method for this you like, great. However, I have a super easy system that produces slip-off shells every time.

I’ve seen, over the years, a ton of different ways to boil eggs. I’ve seen scientific testing blogs investigating the best techniques. I’ve heard people expound about adding baking soda or salt to the water, or making sue to only use “old” eggs. Well, when I’m hard boiling a batch, I’m not doing a biography of an entire carton; I’m just using whatever I have on hand.

So, here’s the basic principle: shock, shock, shock. You want crazy thermal change in both directions; from cold to hot, then back down to cold. Because this method is kind of violent (temperature-wise), I take out a little insurance:

Yes, I prick a tiny hole in every egg with a thumbtack. This lets internal pressure expel without causing a catastrophic shell failure.

Next, I keep my eggs in the fridge until I get the pot of water boiling, and I use the biggest pot I have with the most possible water. These cold eggs will drop the temp of the water, so more means better thermal retention, and a return to boiling point faster.

When the water is really boiling, in go the eggs GENTLY. I lower them in with a slotted spoon. You may get a few blowouts here from hairline cracks, but I’m pleased to report on this batch I had a 100% success rate.

Since the water will drop below boiling, cover and bring it back up to temp, then uncover and cook for ten (10) minutes.

From here, shock them into an ice bath. Once they’ve cooled enough to handle, you can peel. The shells will slide right off.

Next: get our pickle ready. In this recipe, the “pickling” power comes primarily from vinegar, as opposed to a brine for meat which will harness salt for similar purposes. Drain out the liquid from your can of beats and weigh it, then add the same amount of white vinegar.

For this pickle, I like a sweeter versus salty balance, so I use 2% salt and 10% brown sugar by weight of the entire liquid. In this case, my beet juice came out to about 175 grams, so I added 175 grams of white vinegar, for a total weight of 350 grams. 2% salt means 7 grams, and 10% sugar is 35 grams.

The amounts of spices (cloves, mustard, red pepper) really aren’t going to change a ton, and aren’t as finicky as the salt and sugar, so I’m comfortable with the measurements on those (and to be honest, I kind of eyeball it anyway). My one word of caution: be careful with the cloves, as they’re kind of like culinary mothballs. They can get too strong very quickly, and then are impossible to get rid of.

Bring the pickle to a simmer to dissolve the salt and sugar, and to bloom the spices a bit.

Meanwhile, consider your pickling jar. In my youth, we used a gigantic glass jar leftover from discount bulk dill pickles bought from the store. These days, I use two quart-sized mason-style jars because they fit better in my fridge, and I have them around.

With these jars, I’ve actually been able to fit a full dozen eggs into a single jar before, but I find they pickle better with a little room to swim, so I… uh… don’t put all my eggs in one basket anymore:

Layer in the eggs with the sliced beets, then cover with the pickle. If you need a little extra liquid, go ahead and add equal amounts vinegar and water, but know that if you’re drastically short, you’ll need to weigh the new mixture and salt and sugar it appropriately in order to avoid throwing off the solution strength.

From here, get them in the fridge for at least a day, but they really hit their prime after three. How long do they last? Well, as long as a regular hard boiled egg is a good guess. The thing is, they’re so useful and delicious, they rarely last longer than a week in this house.

Serving suggestions? From the fridge with your fingers is popular. Also, sliced in a salad or as part of a charcuterie appetizer also work. Really, though, their peak application is as a side to a very marginal deli sandwich and some trashy bbq potato chips with a cream soda on a spring day during a break from yard work.

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