Thursday, June 18, 2009

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Bread and Butter Bar Eggs

This Spring, my bread and butter pickles took a hard left turn. Bread and butters, after kosher-style dills, are arguably the most well-known cucumber pickle in the US. My recipe is pretty consistent from batch to batch, but this time I couldn’t leave well enough alone and got chickens involved.

As I’ve mentioned before, pickled bar eggs are a particular favorite of mine, even if they are a bit old fashioned (or just plain divey). Here and there, you still find bars that have a large glass jug with pickled eggs bobbing around in vinegar and bay leaves. Whether they really rise and fall with changes in the barometric pressure—as some flannel-mouthed bartenders claim—is a question for another day.

Some of my pickled egg experiments don’t turn out as well as hoped (the Cape Malay masala version needs work). Overall, though, eggs make great spiced pickles, exactly the kind I’d like to see more often grace back bars for hungry drinkers. The smack and tang of vinegar also make them a good mid-day snack when I’m peckish, but don’t want to eat a whole meal. A pinch of salt, maybe some Sriracha hot sauce, and I'm good.

When the latest batch of bread and butter cukes was down to just a few slices, the jar still held nearly a quart of pickle juice flavored with seeds of celery and mustard and the ubiquitous turmeric (the rhizome that turns ballpark mustard yellow). Rather than pitch it, I cooked a batch of eggs, slipped them into the spiced liquid, and pushed the jug to the back of the fridge. After two weeks, the eggs firmed, turned a luminous turmeric yellow, and took on the definite sweet-and-sour tang of the original pickle.

Here’s the shortcut to make them without the cucumber prelude. Remember, hardboiled eggs are a mistake. If you’re boiling them, you’re doing it wrong. See here for easy instructions on cooking eggs without that sulfurous, stanky green ring.
Bread and Butter Bar Eggs

2 dozen hard-cooked eggs, peeled
1 lb onion
1 ½ Tbl kosher or sea salt
1 ½ tsp celery seed
1 tsp powdered turmeric
¼ tsp cracked allspice (or 1 tsp pimento dram)
1 Tbl each brown and yellow mustard seeds
4 cups cider vinegar
3 ½ cups light brown sugar

Peel and slice the onions into half-moons, about ¼” wide. Toss with the salt in a nonreactive bowl and set aside for an hour. Rinse and drain.

In a nonreactive pot, add the remaining ingredients (except the eggs) and bring to a boil. Stir as needed to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let cool to room temperature.

Place the eggs in a nonreactive container, such as a big glass preserving jar or food-grade plastic, and pour the liquid over them. Cover and refrigerate. The eggs should be fully pickled in two weeks, but even a few days will make a dramatic difference.
Serve with beer, whiskey, boilermakers, a pinch of salt, and a grind of pepper. Get all fancy if you like and slice them into quarters lengthwise for adding to salads. Toss them in a picnic basket or a shoebox lunch.


Col. Hector Bravado - Denver Six Shooter said...

Holy crap, those look good. But given that even the preparation of a sandwich puts me in a state of pique, I probably won't be trying a batch myself. But if you ever open a bar, tell me there's a jar of those on the counter, and I'm there.
Saw the moonshine mention in your sidebar. One of my writers had a question about tracking the stuff down. A few years back, a magazine I worked for threw a party at a local bar, and the GM hauled out a jar of what he claimed was the real Kentucky thing. I tried a capful, and have never forgotten it. I admit to sharing my writer's curiosity on the matter. Perhaps you'd like to weigh in:

Uncle Scott said...

Delicious! Great recipe, thanks. I made them for my family. All of us are picklers and this was well received.

Matthew Rowley said...

Hey Uncle Scott ~

Glad you liked 'em. We're getting ready to move house this summer and a halt to pickle production is part of the preparation. It's killing me. These, though, I can crank off and have gone in two weeks' time. Thanks for reminder that bread and butter eggs will help satisfy my jones for putting up pickles. At least for now...

Uncle Scott said...

Here is a link to my brother's pickled egg recipe that you may enjoy (He calls them Sexy Memphis Gator Eggs):

I know it sounds like a lot of heat, but it is deceptive.

Anonymous said...

These sound great. I was wondering how long these will last in the frig?

Matthew Rowley said...

If they're stored in the fridge, I'd try to eat them all within a week when they're at their best. Even two weeks is ok, but at three weeks, they've noticeably shrunken, gotten firmer whites, and lost the tenderness that makes the whole thing so good. Cheers!