~ Pretty in Pink: Pennsylvania Dutch Pickled Eggs ~
Pickling isn't just for cucumbers. Pickling is a process that dates back to medieval times and was used as a means to preserve all types of food. Without refrigeration, food spoiled quickly and pickling was a means of preserving it for out-of-season use or transporting it for a long journey. Pickle comes from the Dutch word "pekel", which means "brine", and a brine is nothing more than a mixture of vinegar, water, salt, sometimes sugar and/or spices. Depending on the brining solution, pickled foods can take on all sorts of colors and flavors: Pickled foods can be sweet, sour or spicy, as well as subtly-flavored with herbs such as dill or thyme!
When I was growing up, the women in our family pickled a vegetable mixture called "chow-chow". Chow-chow is a mustard-flavored, mixed-vegetable-and-pickle relish, which I acquired a love for as I got older. A lot of different types of garden vegetables can be used to make chow-chow, but my mom and grandmother stuck to crunchy ones like blanched carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers and green beans. Nowadays, my mom buys chow-chow and it's no surprise that she chooses Wos-Wit. All of their products are made on a family farm in Schuylkill County, PA, which is where my parents live and where I grew up. Notice the label? It says "Pennsylvania Dutch". I'm here to make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either. The term "Dutch" is slang for the German word "Deutsch". So: When we say Pennsylvania Dutch, we mean Pennsylvania Deutsch and are crediting the Germanic or German-speaking people for this delicious cuisine! FYI: Wos-Wit also makes fantastic bread and butter pickles!
The other thing my family and I pickle are eggs and I absolutely adore these. There are a lot of recipes for pickled eggs, but the ones we make and I love are the Pennsylvania Dutch version, which are sometimes called pickled-beet eggs or red-beet eggs. In our Eastern European family, my mom and grandmother serve/served them once a year as a side-dish for the Easter holiday. But, in our local German community, pickled eggs were/are a very popular tavern food and are commonly found sitting in large jars on bar tops next to the beer taps all over Pennsylvania... which makes them a perfect knosh to serve for this week's Oktoberfest celebration. It takes 3-4 days for them to turn pink so, let's get started:
1 dozen extra-large eggs, hard-cooked and peeled
1 14 1/2-ounce jar small, whole red beets or sliced red beets, not pickled red beets
3/4 cup beet juice, reserved from above jar
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup firmly-packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
~ Step 2. Drain the beets and set them aside. Place 3/4 cup of the beet juice into a 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan along with the wine vinegar, light brown sugar and salt. If you are shy of 3/4 cup of beet juice, just make up the difference with water. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring almost constantly. Remove from heat and set aside to cool about 30 minutes.
~ Step 4. Seal the jar and refrigerate for 24-48 hours or longer. The pickled eggs in the the next picture have been in my refrigerator for 4 days:
The pickled eggs are ready to slice and eat, but I have an added treat for you:
If you like deviled eggs, you can make Pickled-Deviled Eggs and they are ohhh sooo good. Here is all you need to do:
~ Step 1. Slice the pickled eggs in half. Place the pickled egg yolks in the work bowl of a food processor that has been fitted with the steel blade. Arrange the pickled egg "whites" on a serving platter. Add:
2 tablespoons minced, fresh dill
1/4 teaspoon (heaping) each: sea salt and white pepper
3/4 cup mayonnaise
24 large capers, for garnish
Note: DO NOT be inclined to enhance this deviled-egg filling with Dijon mustard! The pickled eggs have already taken on the oh-so-wonderful, tangy flavor of the brine! You're good to go!
~ Step 3. Twist the pastry bag closed at the top and decoratively fill the empty egg "white" shells, forming a mound as you work towards the centers. Garnish each pickled-deviled egg with a caper. Place 5-6 toothpicks in 5-6 eggs, spaced randomly but well apart, to support a "tent" of plastic wrap to cover the eggs. Refrigerate 1-2 hours, or overnight. Serve chilled:
Special Equipment List: 1-cup measuring container; 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan; 1-quart, wide-mouth canning jar w/lid; food processor (optional); 10" Ateco #3118 pastry bag fitted w/small star tip (optional)
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)