M: The first time a ever had a pickled egg, I had just seen the movie Barfly. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a fairly depressing movie loosely based on a time in Charles Bukowski’s when he was drinking heavily. It stars Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway as people lost in a haze of excessive drinking and seedy bars.
Nothing about the film makes drinking glamorous and I’d never been much of a drinker, yet somehow walking out of The Movies Repertory theater in downtown Cincinnati, all I wanted to do is find a seedy bar and have a drink.
I may have my details wrong here, but I think we ended up in the lobby bar of the Milner Hotel just a block over. The Milner is now long gone, but at the time it was the kind of place you could get a room for less than 200 bucks a month and the accommodations reflected that. Perfect.
I ordered a shot of JTS Brown Kentucky Bourbon, because that’s what Paul Newman drank in the movie The Hustler (yeah, I was a huge movie geek. What’s your point?). I may have even been underage, but the bartender didn’t even glance up as he poured the drink. I was feeling more like Mickey Rourke every second. What else you you do in run-down bars? There wasn’t a pool table, so I had my eye on that jar of pickled eggs at the end of the bar. Bright pink in a way that should appeal to no one, and yet it beckoned. One please.
The drink was awful. But nothing compared to that rubbery crunchberry pink atrocity that was my pickled egg. Everything tasted terrible, the place was filthy, poorly lit and just as depressing as anyplace Mickey had stumbled into. Awful. Just awful. But exactly what I was looking for and an absolutely great night out.
I took a few things from that evening. First, sometimes the worst places make for the best times. Second, I did not like whiskey. And finally, pickled eggs? No thanks.
Well, some 25 years later I still manage to have the best times in the worst places. That part has held true. But somewhere along the line I’ve developed a great affection for the the occasional whiskey. I’ll even order JTS Brown now and again (here’s to you, Fast Eddie). And that pickled egg? Didn’t touch another one for twenty years. I had established I didn’t like them and that was that.
Until I started raising chickens.
When you’ve got dozens of eggs piling up in the fridge, anything you can think to do with them is a good idea. And so the pickled egg came back into my life.
And here’s the thing. The bright pink pickled egg one might buy from a dusty jar at the end of the bar is not the best pickled egg in town. Turns out I’m a fan these days and they commonly live in the door of my fridge. I even include some pickled beet brine when I have it on hand to get some of that pink in there. A tip of the hat to the good people at the Milner Hotel, bless their hearts.
This recipe is a good place to start. It’s a solid brine and works very well just as it stands, but tweak at will. I tend toward skipping the mace and throwing in some sliced onions.
Best served with a shot of JTS Brown.
Recipe: Pickled Eggs
Summary: Not the pickled eggs one finds at the end of the bar. If you haven’t given pickled eggs a fair shot, this is the best way to remedy that. From The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook.
- 12 Hard Boiled Eggs, peeled
- 3 c Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 T Salt
- 3 Small Dried Peppers
- 10 Allspice Berries
- 6 Cloves
- 2 Blades Mace
- 12 Coriander Seeds
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 T Sugar
- Pack eggs in a sterile quart sized jar.
- Combine all remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to boil over high heat.
- Reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer 5 minutes.
- Pour brine over eggs to cover completely.
- Tightly close jar and refrigerate for at least one week before serving.
Pink eggs: Add 1 c pickled beet juice to brine.
Golden Eggs: Add 1/2 tsp turmeric to brine.
Hot and Spicy: Omit allspice, cloves and mace. Add 6 jalapeno chiles cut lengthwise and 2 cloves garlic.