Preserving Eggs: pickle or pack

Our chickens are laying an average of an egg a day. When the light starts to decline, that rate will diminish. Fannie Farmer’s cookbook was published in 1896 – a good resource to consult for traditional egg preserving methods. According to Fannie Farmer’s section on eggs, there are three ways to “keep eggs. I. Pack in sawdust, small end down. II. Keep in lime water. III. Eggs are often kept in cold storage six months, and then sold as cooking eggs.”Borden - pickled eggs

I like her idea of “pack in sawdust, small end down.” I found more references to that method, many of them recommend rubbing the outside of the egg with salted butter to prevent the air entering the egg and packing in anything from salt to sawdust. I am going to collect fresh eggs, rub them in butter, pack them in flour, and see what happens in 6 months as an experiment.

Fannie Farmer’s second recommendation, “lime water,” was made from pouring boiling water over “unslacked lime” – now known as pickling lime.

Pickling lime is calcium hydroxide and it helps keep pickles crunchy. Modern cooking methods recommend that you soak pickles in the lime and then wash it off thoroughly before you put the vegetables into the brine – the alkalinity of the lime can undermine the acidity of the brine and botulism can result. Therefore Farmer’s argument to keep the eggs in “lime water” could be an experiment best left untried. However, pickling eggs, which one could argue is an extension of lime water, is a tradition alive and well.

A month ago, Mike Smith of Solar Refuge Farm was selling quail eggs at the Westside Farmers Market and recommended to me that I pickle them.

I took the quail eggs home, hard-boiled them (with two of my green eggs from the girls) and put them in reused cucumber pickle brine. Today I ate my first pickled quail egg, and I am going to make more. Pickled quail eggs are bite-sized, pleasantly chewy, and have a nice bite from the pickling vinegar. I found the pickled chicken eggs too soft and mushy in contrast to the quail egg’s dense flavor.

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has a long tradition of spicy pickled eggs as an accompaniment for beer. The tradition is so ingrained that the Michigan Tech Alumni page has a list of various recipes for spicy pickled eggs. According to Mother’s Kitchen the most famous place to get pickled eggs is B&B in Houghton. This recipe is posted on the MTU website and on Mother’s Kitchen.

Ingredients:
2 dozen hard-boiled eggs (peeled)

4 cups vinegar

1 jar sliced jalapenos, including the juice

1 onion, chopped finely

1 cup water

1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce

1 tablespoon salt

Directions:
Put peeled eggs in a large glass jar with a lid. Put remaining ingredients in a large saucepan and boil for 10 minutes. Pour over eggs and let steep in the refrigerator for a minimum of 3 days. Serve eggs in a paper cupcake liner with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, black pepper and plenty of the jalapenos.

Pickled quail eggs worked for me because there is only so much brine that I want to ingest. Spicy pickled eggs are a good next step as I work to preserve our summer egg bounty from the girls.

Here is the article on annarbor.com.

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