Pickled eggs can be traced back to a time when there was no refrigeration and eggs were preserved in vinegar brine. Although I didn’t live in the no-fridge era my mom made them and they were always a mainstay of dad’s 1950s-style smorgasbord restaurants.
Have you seen them lately? Probably not because they’ve fallen off the culinary map. Even the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, the red-and-white plaid standard for home cooks, has dropped the recipes for pickled beets and pickled eggs from its pages. I found this out when I went searching for the recipe in my newer copy.
There are some of us who not only like to preserve the eggs, but also the past. My sister Jane is one of those so she made some for Easter. Knowing they are loaded with nostalgia and taste, she said, “Look Barb, I made pickled eggs!”
My husband Bill said, “Oh yeah, good old bar food.”
“Huh?” my sister and I replied.
“Yes,” Hank Deitle’s Tavern on Rockville Pike [Maryland] had jars of them. That’s all they served — pickled eggs, bags of chips and beer. Then he added some advice, “Jane, you should have them in your restaurants at the bar.”
She dismissed the idea but she might reconsider when she hears this. It turns out Bill’s advice has merit. In England, pickled eggs, onions and beets were considered a working man’s food and gained popularity in pubs where the eggs tasted good with a pint of ale. In the United States, just like Hank Deitle’s, a jar of pickled eggs were a permanent fixture on the bar.
It seems my sister and I haven’t been in enough bars to know about this but maybe she will bring the old times back in Bonefish Mac’s – a chain of restaurants in south Florida she owns with her husband Chuck. At least the old coots will appreciate them and maybe the egg jar fixture will breed a new generation of pickled egg lovers.
And by the way, Hank Deitle’s, since 1916, is still there. It’s not much to look at stuck in between luxury condos and new office buildings, but it remains a no-frills beer bar, cash only. Bill remembers his dad stopping off for a quick one while he left the 11 kids in the big station wagon to hoop and holler and make their own good times.
Jane’s recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book that she got for a wedding present when she and Chuck married in 1973. She says about the grease-stained, dog-eared book, “I still love it! The new one can’t compare!”
Rosy Pickled Eggs
From Better Homes and Garden’s New Cook Book, 1972, Fifth Printing
- 1 cup juice from jar of pickled beets
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 4 cups water
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 medium bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons pickling spices
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (sometimes I use garlic salt and omit the garlic clove)
- 12 hard-cooked eggs, cooled and shelled
- 1 small onion, sliced and separated into rings
Combine beet juice, vinegar, four cups water, garlic, bay leaf, pickling spices, and salt. Mix well. Put into a covered container and add eggs and onions. Cover tightly and refrigerate for several days. The longer they sit, the rosier and better they get.