Thursday, February 20, 2014

Early Spring Pickles

Brined Pickled Eggs

Lately I notice people are fermenting fools! And by that, I mean that there’s a huge movement towards lacto-fermented food of all kinds – sauerkraut, beets, kimchi, kombucha – plus a number of other things people have been eating for time immemorial.  Along with a number of things they haven’t… like fermented mayonnaise and lacto-fermented eggs (at least not by the latest recipes I’ve been finding!). I was having a discussion on a group the other day about the fermented mayo, and basically, I’ve come to the conclusion that such a thing doesn’t exist and no matter what you tell people, they don’t believe you. Merely adding some whey or kraut juice to regular homemade mayo does not mean you have made “fermented mayonnaise”.  Fermented foods rely on the natural sugars in dairy and vegetables in order to achieve fermentation. An emulsion of eggs and oil does not contain the sugars necessary for fermentation to take place.

Thinking that perhaps there might be something to the 300,000+ hits you get when Googling “fermented mayo” I have tried making it several times. To no avail. I have used both whey and kraut juice, plus added sugar to the mix, and it just doesn’t happen. It tastes EXACTLY like the homemade mayo I’ve been making for the last 20 years, and has the same shelf-life, since vinegar or lemon juice have always (yes, always – at least for the last 100 years!) been used for tang and preservation.  I think the confusion lies in the fact that people didn’t make homemade mayo until they heard about it being fermented, and therefore, healthy. They simply don’t realize they made plain mayo but added a little something to it. But really, there’s no harm done beyond completely ignoring science and people are good at doing that anyway. The result is still safe and quite edible.

But I did become genuinely disturbed after finding a recipe for lacto-fermented “pickled” eggs.  I am the last person in the world to be overly concerned about food safety, but the recipes I have found ARE NOT SAFE! The first recipe I found used ONE teaspoon of salt per 2 cups of water, with some whey added for fermentation. She claimed they were “brined, pickled eggs”.  Folks, that is not a brine, and they are not pickled -- that is botulism in a pickle jar!

I was interested however, in the idea of a brined, pickled egg, so I kept searching. The next recipe led me to a higher concentration of salt and the addition of a substantial amount of kraut juice – 1 ½  tablespoons of salt plus ½ cup kraut juice in 1 ½ cups water. I didn’t fool myself into thinking the eggs would be “lacto-fermented” but I thought they might at least have a nice flavor within 72 hours. At the end of the fourth day, they had a nice salty flavor but also a pronounced odor and flavor that wasn’t quite right. We didn’t get sick from them, but I immediately dumped the liquid out and pickled them properly – in a 2.5% vinegar solution. We are still eating them, in spite of that not-quite-right flavor.

The eggs in the picture above are my latest attempt. And they are wonderful! I would also like to point out that EVERYTHING in that jar is seasonal.  That’s the other thing I’m seeing that doesn’t seem quite right – just because you CAN toss a bunch of grocery store junk in a jar and get it to ferment, doesn’t mean you SHOULD! There is a season for all foods and our health can only benefit when we choose (or grow!) the freshest, most-locally-grown produce we can find.

We are having to buy some of our produce this year, but that is unusual for me. A winter garden/root cellar in the south produces fresh dill, spring onions, plus garlic, shallots and horseradish that were put back in the fall. There are winter radishes (daikons), beets and carrots still in the garden, which would be delicious added to that jar. And of course, right around Valentine’s Day, we suddenly get slammed with fresh eggs. Lots and lots of eggs…. If Mother Nature didn’t want us to have them, they wouldn’t be so abundant!

Brined Pickled Eggs
Hard-boil the desired number of eggs. Place the peeled eggs into a crock or jar and completely immerse them in the following brine solution. Continue mixing brine until all the eggs are covered:

*3 cups water
*1/2 cup sea salt
*1/2 cup white vinegar
(rice vinegar or white wine vinegar may also be used)

Let the eggs stand in the brine for 72 hours at room temperature. (A little longer won’t hurt in a cool house.) Pour off the brine and repack the eggs, along with desired vegetables, herbs and spices in a solution of half white vinegar and half water. Refrigerate or keep in a very cool place. They will be ready to eat in just a few days. They may also be water-bath canned, but they are really better fresh. Some good additions to the jar might be:

*Fresh or dried dill weed, plus dill seeds
*horseradish slices or wasabi powder (will turn the water cloudy)
*mustard seeds, prepared mustard (will turn the water cloudy)
*onion slices, garlic, shallots, pearl onions
*hot pepper flakes
*daikon, radish or turnip slices
*carrot slices or tiny baby carrots
*coriander and/or cumin seeds


say what? said...

I suppose it would come as no surprise that I've never eaten a pickled egg?

Should we find ourselves with too many eggs I'll refer back to this post.

Diane said...

I'd never eaten one until this year. They are addictive! Truth be told, I don't really like eggs that much. We raise chickens for meat and we always have too many eggs. But the pickled ones are really nice. I didn't explain this thoroughly in the post, but brining before pickling pulls a lot of the water out of the egg and results in a very firm yolk and white. Someone remarked on a FB group that they like egg yolks that have been salt-cured to sprinkle over pasta dishes, kind of like Parmesan cheese.