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RESTAURANT JOURNAL

Getting eggs into a fine pickle

April 16, 2003|Charles Perry

This is the time of year when bar food might seem fashionable.

Pickled eggs are a fine old tradition, a venerable American pub snack. Especially before Prohibition, a big jar of eggs typically stood on the bar right next to the jar of pickled pigs' feet.

Customs change, though, and for many decades bars have preferred to serve neater cold snacks, such as roasted peanuts, or elementary hot foods, such as nachos. If a bar stocks pickled eggs at all these days -- unless they're pickled quail eggs, which means you must be in a Japanese sake bar -- it probably has many decades of history.

The eggs tend to pick up color from the vinegar they're pickled in: dull tan from cider or malt vinegar, a rather sickly pink from wine vinegar. For this reason some bars dye their eggs. Philippe the Original in Chinatown pickles its eggs in wine vinegar and then punches up the red color with beet juice. Joe Jost's in Long Beach adds turmeric to its vinegar, which turns the eggs a startling yellow.

The pickling process is simplicity itself.

Peel the hard-boiled eggs, put them in a sterilized jar and cover with vinegar that you've boiled with pickling spices: peppercorns, mustard seeds and a couple of whole sweet spices (cloves, allspice, coriander, a cinnamon stick). You could just use packaged pickling spices from the supermarket.

Leave the eggs in the brine a couple of days to pick up some flavor, or at least overnight, and they're ready to eat. They'll keep in the brine for several weeks in the refrigerator.

The Joe Jost's recipe seems to use equal quantities of distilled vinegar and the pickling juice from yellow pickled peppers (there's about half a cup of juice per 16-ounce jar, enough for half a dozen eggs), plus about a quarter teaspoon of turmeric per cup of liquid.

To serve an egg Jost-fashion, set a paper dinner napkin on the table, put a handful of pretzel sticks on it, then a pickled egg and half a dozen yellow pickled peppers. Sprinkle generously with freshly ground pepper.

And serve it with plenty of cold beer.

Now you know what to do with your leftover Easter eggs. After all, there are only so many egg salad sandwiches you can make, only so many spinach salads you can garnish with chopped eggs, before your diners will start giving you the old fisheye.

You don't want them to go to waste, and you know they won't keep forever. That's when it's time to make pickled eggs.

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