Today’s guest post comes from Heather Francis. Heather is originally from Nova Scotia, Canada and has spent the last decade working and living on boats. Since 2008 she and her Aussie partner Steve have been living and sailing Kate, their Newport 41’. They document their travels and their edible DIY projects on their blog, Yacht Kate. Last year, Heather shared her recipe for mango chutney with us. Today, she’s telling the tale of pickled eggs. Enjoy!
Captain Chook is the Master of the good ship Pollo Picante. He watches over his crew, keeping everyone safe as his vessel is heaved to and fro by the ocean. His job is not an easy one, his crew are not the heartiest bunch and his vessel has limited space. No more than 24 can live aboard in peace and late one night we woke to find that mutiny broken out.
Overloaded, the Pollo had broken free from her mooring and was run aground. We were able to salvage the ship and some of her crew, but several were mortally wounded and were given a burial at sea. We think Chook he is a fair and able Captain; not many under his command could be considered ‘bad eggs’.
We eat a lot of eggs onboard. A couple mornings a week we have an egg for breakfast and I will often make a frittata for lunch or serve a fried egg perched atop a stir fry for dinner. On passages there are always hard boiled eggs in the fridge for an easy to grab snack while on watch, and when there is fresh bread and good mayo around I treat us to a curried egg sandwich.
Fresh eggs have never been hard to find, once I stopped looking in the refrigerated section of the supermarket, that is. In most places we find eggs sold at the local open-air markets alongside all the fresh fruit and vegetables that people grow or forage. These markets are held in the municipal center or large township and islanders from surrounding villages often travel for several hours and camp out for days in order to participate.
I frequently buy my eggs in bulk, a flat at a time, so we have enough on board to last 3-4 weeks, or until we get to the next market town. However since my hanging egg basket (A.K.A the good ship Pollo Picante) can only safely hold so many I use another method to store eggs onboard; I pickle them.
I didn’t realize that pickled eggs were something unusual until I mentioned it to an Aussie a few years back. Turns out the pickled egg phenomenon never made it Down Under. I, on the other hand, have been eating pickled eggs for as long as I can remember.
On hot summer days when we all piled into the family car to take the long meandering drive through rural Nova Scotia to visit my Grandparents we would always stop for a pickled egg. On a sharp corner of a long wooded road was a small milk-carton shaped building, not unlike nearly every other house we passed that day. Maybe it was a corner shop, maybe it was just someone’s house; there was no sign or takeout window and none of us kids ever got out of the car to find out.
My Father would disappear around the corner of the building and a few minutes later return with a half a dozen pale brown pickled eggs in a small clear plastic bag. The bag was passed around the car and we would each pick out our own firm, but slightly squishy pale-brown egg. I could literally taste the anticipation as I waited or my turn, the air filling with the acidic tang of vinegar that would tickle my nose and make my mouth water. It has been over two decades since I last drove down that road and stopped at that mysterious house but a good pickled egg is still a favourite snack of mine.
Making pickled eggs is easy: hard boil and peel the eggs, put them in a large jar with desired spices and cover with a vinegar brine. When cool put them in the fridge and wait at least a week before eating. Eggs will keep for 4-6 weeks in the fridge and the flavour will continue to develop and intensify the longer you let them sit.
Traditional pickled eggs are flavoured with a blend of pickling spices; bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice, caraway and mustard seeds. And although I have a soft spot for that classic flavour profile I also like to experiment. Which is how I came to make pink and yellow pickled eggs one year around Easter time.
Unlike painted Easter eggs the colours for my pickled eggs are not achieved used dyes but by adding natural ingredients to the pickle brine. For the pink eggs I layer the hard boiled eggs with slices of pickled beets from a tin and add a little of the water from the can to the brine solution. The deep burgundy colour is slowly absorbed by the eggs and after a couple weeks penetrates almost all the way to yolk. When the eggs are sliced they are both startling and beautiful. Although many people have aversions to pink foods most agree that my Beet ‘n’ Pickled Eggs are delicious.
Anyone who has cooked with turmeric knows of its power to stain hands/aprons/dishcloths/utensils. I figured a teaspoon of ground turmeric would do good job of staining eggs too, and then I threw in some mustard and cumin seeds and a few chillies for good measure. The turmeric doesn’t penetrate the egg as severely as the beets but the result is a pretty sunshine-yellow egg with bright Indian flavours.
To most batches of pickled eggs I also add onion slices to the jar. The onion not only adds flavour to the eggs and ends up nicely pickled as well, and is a delicious addition to sandwiches or sundowner crudité plates. Of course you don’t have to wait until Easter; I keep a jar of pickled eggs in the fridge year round.