Have you pickled your eggs yet? Tis the season! Whether or not eggs are part of your religious tradition, as they are for both Passover and Easter, they fit beautifully with the season. Eggs symbolize fertility and rebirth and after this horrible winter, there are few things I value more than thoughts of fertility and rebirth. Already, my perennials have snuck back in like raging, green lions’ manes.
I started working on this egg project a couple of months ago when a reader wrote asking for a recipe. I realized that I didn’t have one because I’d never pickled (fermentation-style) eggs, before. A few attempts with recipes from the internet yielded results that I was very unhappy with. And not to smack talk, but be careful out there, people; I found a few recipes that I think were actually unsafe.
In any case where you’re hard-boiling the eggs, you will need some kind of starter. Unlike vegetables, which grow in the earth and are therefore laden with lactic acid bacteria from the soil, eggs come out of chickens (surprise!), and while they are certainly covered in bacteria, I don’t know what kind of bacteria we’re talking about, and the boiling of the eggs would kill the good ol’ lactos even if they were present to begin with. Not only that, but lactic-acid fermentation processes require sugars, a substance in which eggs are definitely not rich. So what you’re doing here is more culturing the eggs than fermenting them. You’re allowing the goodness of fermentation to seep in to your eggs, but the eggs themselves are not fermenting. They will be altered in some wonderful ways, though, including a changed texture!
I undertook a few different processes here, so I’m going to list them separately. One was to create gorgeous, decorative eggs of different sorts and another was to end up with a straight-up pickled product. The most important difference will end up being time, but at the start, the most important difference is whether or not you remove the shell.
A word to new fermenters – you need finished ferments to make these, so if you haven’t quite gotten around to tackling lactopickles yet, do it now and then come back to pickle some eggs in a couple weeks!
Brined vs. Veggie-Packed
For all of these recipes, you have the choice of doing them in finished brine, or packed in already-fermented, shredded veggies. If you’re doing them in brine, just place them in the brine of FINISHED pickles, using enough brine so that they’re completely submerged. Finished pickle brine is necessary for optimal safety, since it is already acidic. Brine has the advantage of creating a more uniform dye job. You can also see how things are progressing in the brine if you do the pickling in a clear vessel.
If using a finished fermented vegetable, use a shredded or soupy version, like finished sauerkraut or kimchi. You’ll want to carefully pack the eggs between layers of finished sauerkraut or kimchi, or other shredded pickles, making sure to gently pack them as tightly as possible, covering the whole surface and packing down on the sides. If using a jar or smaller vessel, it’s a good idea to tap the bottom of the jar against the palm of your hand to help the contents settle. You shouldn’t be able to see any part of the egg from outside the jar when you’re done. This method is great for the marbled option.
*Note: When pickling the eggs with the shell on, either do not eat the remaining ferment or test the pH before adding eggs, then again before consuming. The calcium in the shells could raise the pH and the reason ferments are so VERY safe to eat is their naturally low pH. You should always get a reading of 4.0 or below, and the pH shouldn’t rise at all between when you add the eggs and when you remove them.
Before making any of these, you’ll need to hard cook your eggs. Here’s how I do it:
- Place your chosen number of eggs into a sauce pan and completely submerge them in water. Include a few inches of extra water.
- Turn the heat to high and wait for the water to boil. As soon as it does, cover the pot with a tightly fitted lid and turn off the heat. Set a timer for 10 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, they’re done. Remove the eggs immediately and place them into a cold water bath (a bowl filled with cold water and ice cubes). The cold water bath will make them easier to peel.
EGG PICKLING/DECORATING METHODS
Have you ever pickled eggs in vinegar? Or done that elementary school experiment where you end up with a shell-free egg? If you have, you’ll know that egg shells actually disintegrate in acid, so if you put unpeeled eggs in you’ll pull shell-less eggs out several days later. I played with this process a bit, allowing the shells to start disintegrating in order to give the beautiful, marbled appearance. If you leave them in too long, the shell will disintegrate completely. The other factors affecting appearance are the color of the egg (I would skip white eggs for this, personally, unless it’s your only choice) and the color of the vegetables or brine you’re fermenting them in. I chose a light pink brine from purple kohlrabi pickles and red cabbage sauerkraut as my fermenting media and eggs with brown shells.
- Hard boil eggs, as above.
- Once eggs are cool to the touch, place them directly into your brine, or pack them into your veggies, as describe under “Brined vs. Veggie-Packed” above.
- Close the jar and place them in the refrigerator for 3 days. You can play with the timing if you want a different texture, but three days was my favorite look.
- Remove the eggs from the fermented substance, rinse them off and use them to decorate! They won’t taste very pickled at this stage, since the acid won’t have had a long time to penetrate the shell, but they sure are pretty!
TIE DYE EGGS (MOCK TEA EGGS)
Do you know tea eggs? My thought here was to make a tea egg cousin with sauerkraut. It worked! You could do this with any vivid brine or pickled veg.
- Hard boil the eggs, as above, and allow to cool.
- Once they’re cool, roll them along a hard surface with the palm of your hand, until the shell is crack but not broken, like a cracked windshield that hasn’t caved in yet. You can achieve the same effect by tapping the eggshell with a spoon, agin until it is cracked but before pieces of shell come off.
- Place them into your brine or pack them into veggies as described above under “Brined vs. Veggie-Packed.”
- Place them in the fridge for 3 to 10 days. The longer it soaks up the fermenty goodness, the more pickled it will taste. Remove the eggs from the fermented substance, remove the shell and rinse the eggs. The egg white should have a mottled, tie-dye appearance. They’re ready to eat!
These aren’t necessarily as fancy looking as the two methods described above, but they get tasty a whole lot faster. Depending on what kind of pickles you’re using, you can drastically impact the color of your eggs. These would make for some seriously lovely deviled eggs if you pickled them in a variety of pickle brines. Very bold colors will do the best dye jobs, unsurprisingly, but lighter brines can create a pretty palette of subtle colors as well. Longer soak times will yield more acidic pickled eggs and a deeper hue that soaks through, sometimes even through to the yolk which can give it an unpleasant color, depending on your perspective.
- Hard boil the eggs, as above and allow to cool and then peel them.
- Place the peeled eggs into the brine or veggies as described above in “Brined vs. Veggie-Packed.” Place the container in the refrigerator.
- Allow them to soak for 3-7 days. Store them in the container you pickled them in and remove them as you’d like to eat them, keeping in mind that they will get more acidic and colorful as time progresses.