16 June 2012

Peter Piper picked a peck of... Pickled Eggs !?

 Where did pickled eggs originate & why? First the why. As with most food items these delectable treats were born of necessity for preservation purposes, before refrigeration many food stuffs were salted, brined, dried or smoked. In order to keep food edible during the winter months. Many believe that the British introduced pickled eggs to the New World, when in fact they are of German ancestry most likely brought by early German immigrants in the mid- 1700's, they were also a popular food item of the Hessian mercenaries fighting against the Colonials during the Revolutionary War. Many early recipes come from the Pennsylvania Dutch living in Southeastern & South Central Pennsylvania.

Pickled eggs to many people are an oddity that most snicker at. I admit, though I will sit and eat 5-6 of these at a time, even I can't make myself eat the plain white pickled eggs you find traditionally south of the Mason-Dixon. I mean no disrespect to these jars that occupy counter space next to the boiled peanuts and pecan logs, they serve a useful purpose in a region where food can be quite spicy. These preserved oval orbs cool the palate & the brininess helps enhance the flavor of slow hickory or fruit wood smoked pork.

This recipe for pickled eggs & beets I would normally save for around Easter because that's the time of year when I remember my mother making these the most. For some reason she seemed to only make them once a year, however they now have a spot reserved in her refrigerator and appear at least twice a month now thanks to my father. I remember getting excited when the first crock of pickled eggs would make their initial appearance, it meant to me that summer was around the corner, the garden would be planted and the fresh fruits & vegetables that my parents would coax from the soil would soon make it to my plate. I will be featuring many of these items over the next several weeks.

There are many variations of this recipe that have been made by my family over the years made with sugar, cloves, chili flakes or hot peppers. Try different flavor combinations, you will not be disappointed. The basic recipe is as follows.

Large container w/ lid
1 dozen eggs
2 cans of whole or sliced beets
1 medium sweet onion
Apple cider vinegar

Hard boil eggs and peel. I prefer to use older eggs as they tend to release their shells much better.
Add 1 can of beets plus liquid to container, add 1/2 of onion as well. Next place eggs in container. Add last can of beets & onion. Finally pour in enough apple cider vinegar to cover. Close lid and place in refrigerator for 24hrs. These eggs will keep for a couple weeks. Serve cold.

Food for me has the ability to instantly take me back to a time before cell phones, computers & social media. The mid 70's & early 80's were a simple time for me in Northwestern PA, yet far more advanced than what my parents experienced in the previous two decades. The sweet smell of a peach, the warmth of a tomato held to the cheek or the sound of peas dropping into a metal bowl while sitting on the patio shucking a bushel of pods. These sensations put me back in the moment. I can hear the sounds, feel the sun warming my skin and smell the smells.

I love these memories. I try and recreate them as often as I can, & I love my parents for providing them to me. Thank You Mom & Dad.


  1. Looks very interesting, Jim. Gonna have to try them out and take a batch to my German grandmother so she can enjoy as well (and who knows! I may just spur on a flood of memories for her. I'll keep my pen and paper at the ready, just in case :) ) Thanks for posting!
    ~ Kristen in WA


  3. Looking for a recipe that came from the Civil War, this one isn't it though. Anybody know where to look? It has no red (beets) and has garlic, a red pepper, ?mustard seeds?, and other ingredients my friend doesn't share (makes for the restaraunt) so I don't place blame for that. Any help appreciated, thanks! These are the best, the only hint is that the recipe came from the Civil War Era. I think I remember a piece of dill, maybe, in the vinegar water? Many thanks!