Happy Birthday, Have a Pickled Egg

I think I am like most people in that, for the majority of my life, I mostly thought of pickled eggs as a kind of cosmic joke. I’d only ever really seen them on the bar at The Wheel Club, and they were more something you would dare someone to eat than for which you would publish two recipes in a cookbook.

I’m not positive, but I think it might have been for my friend Jonah Campbell’s first book launch that I dared to make them. He is most uncommon, so I wanted to cater his party with uncommon foods, mostly pickled, since I had recently launched Preservation Society. Amongst the pickled sausage, tea eggs, and my first stab at Caesar Celery, I’m fairly certain there were malt pickled eggs. To my delight, people quite seem to like them.

In fact, the newfound love for my pickled eggs so excited me that in 2012, back when I shared a space with wine importer La QV and chef Julie Rondeau, I held a Pickled Egg Festival. I wish I had a photo of the multi-flavoured pickled egg “bouquets” we served, but I only have a snap of the flyer (printed on thrift store tie-dye paper, you’ll remark).

At any rate, some people loved them so well that I started to get special orders. I made many, many jars for Montreal bar Le Cheval Blanc. In fact, the reason why we’re here is because the boyfriend of a lovely woman named Rebecca loves pickled eggs so much that she asked if I might have another recipe for him up my sleeve. As it happens, I never published my most oft made recipe, mostly because I’m fairly certain I cribbed it quite directly from somewhere on the internet, but I am hoping that at this point the statute of limitations has expired. Considering how many jars of these I’ve made, it must be my own by now.

That said, I must urge you to experiment with your recipes. Since this is a fridge pickle, you don’t have to worry too much about pH, sugar or salt content, but if you want them to last I’d keep approximately to the ratio. But take a cue from my dear friend Jess Messer, owner of the incredible Savoure Soda company and pickled egg experiment genius. She has smoked her eggs before pickling, and encourages you to do so. She also loves them with Szechuan peppercorns, smoked shoyu and shaoxing, but her bestseller is a golden egg(!) with turmeric, golden beets, green garlic and fresh bay leaf. I strongly encourage you to take a page our of her book.

Everyone has their own plan for a jar of pickled eggs. They make a high protein snack, or a drunken snack, or a nice addition to a salad… As you can see from the menu above, the options are myriad. I mostly made them in big two litre jars to sell on a stick at craft fairs, but as such I rarely ate any due to the strange way I forget that foods I make in large quantity are, in fact, edible. But the best way to serve them, in my opinion, is deviled, which we did for both my French and English book launches, and which I managed to eat in large quantity. I’ve never followed a recipe for these, and haven’t historically liked any deviled eggs I’d met before trying them using pickled eggs. I just carefully halve them, force the yolks through a fine sieve, them mix those up with some mayonnaise and a healthy splash of the pickling liquid. I suggest piping the filling back in with a star tip for kitsch value, then laying them on a bed of kale leaves and garnishing with chicken skin crisps, ideally.

Should you want to serve them on a stick, I suggest skewering a mini muffin cup on first to catch any juices– for a more genteel pickled-on-a-stick eating experience. (I’d forgotten about this, but was reminded by the old photo, circa 2012 or so, that you’ll find just below the recipe.)

Anyway, happy birthday, stranger!

Malt Pickled Eggs

Yields 1L

12 hardboiled eggs*

1/2 small onion, thinly sliced

280mL (1 c. + 2 T.) malt vinegar

90mL (1/4 c. + 2 T.) water

2 t. brown sugar

1 1/2 t. sugar

1 1/2 t. salt

heaping t. mustard seeds

3/4 t. peppercorns

heaping 1/2 t. chili flakes

Peel the eggs and pack into a sterilized litre jar, interspersing them with the onion slices. Top with the spices.

Combine the vinegar, water, sugars and salt in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring once or twice to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour the hot mixture over the eggs.

Seal, let cool, then refrigerate for up to three months. Like all pickled eggs, they are better after at least a week of marination.

*We did something like cover the eggs with water, bring them to a boil, then turn the heat off and leave them for 12-14 minutes (depending on size) before draining and rinsing with cold water. We mostly used peewee eggs or small eggs (see comments regarding a genteel eating experience), which will require more than a dozen to fill a jar (but the savings! I used to buy cartons of peewees for $1 apiece at the Jean Talon Market in Montreal).

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