Pickled eggs are typically hard boiled eggs that are cured in vinegar or brine.
As with many foods, this was originally a way to preserve the food so that it could be eaten months later.
Pickled eggs have since become a favourite among many as a snack or hors d’œuvre (a small dish served before a meal) popular in pubs, bars and taverns, and around the world in places where beer is served.
Eggs used for pickling should have clean, sound shells. Small or medium eggs are usually a good choice for pickling so the seasoning can penetrate into the egg. Fresh eggs are the best to use for pickling to ensure the highest quality possible.
After the eggs are hard boiled, the shell is removed and they are submerged in a solution of vinegar, salt, spices, and other seasonings. The eggs require some time to season (i.e., pick up the flavors from the pickling brine). If small eggs are used, 1 to 2 weeks are usually allowed for seasoning to occur. Medium or large eggs may require 2 to 4 weeks to become well seasoned. Use the eggs within 3 to 4 months for best quality.
Pickled eggs must be kept refrigerated and should not be left out at room temperature.
They are high in protein so eating them can help get you through the darker winter days. They have been traditionally eaten for this reason in colder regions of Europe.
Pickling eggs was de rigeur in England as far back as the 1830s, when a public house known as the Pickled Egg (on—where else?—London’s Pickled Egg Lane) was supposedly the place to be.
Americans favored pickled eggs in their dive bars and taverns. A jar of pickled eggs was one of the foolproof signs that you are, in fact, in a dive bar.
One of the first documented mentions of pickled eggs in America appeared in “The Kentucky Housewife” in 1839. There, Lettice Bryan shared a recipe that included nutmeg and cloves, and even suggested cutting them into ringlets.
Near the mid-1800s, pickled eggs were a staple in German saloons in the United States.
A variant historically associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch is the pickled beet egg where whole beets, onions, vinegar, sugar, salt, cloves, and (optionally) a cinnamon stick are used as the brine. The eggs take on a pink or even purple colour from the beets and have a sweet and sour taste. Pickled red-beet eggs, long a common food at picnics and pot-lucks in the Pennsylvania Dutch country, have diffused into the folk cuisine of the surrounding “English” and become a popular snack that can be bought in supermarkets as far east as the Delaware River.
A 50-gram (1.8 oz) medium pickled egg provides approximately 70 calories (290 kJ) of food energy.
Pickling — preserving foods in vinegar, brine or a similar solution—is one of the oldest methods of food preservation. Though the exact origins of the process are unknown, archaeologists believe ancient Mesopotamians pickled food as far back as 2400 B.C., according to the New York Food Museum.
Bird eggs have been valuable foodstuffs since prehistory, in both hunting societies and more recent cultures where birds were domesticated.