This recipe comes from Ken Rogers, a former roommate of mine at Western Carolina University. Ken is a native of Franklin, North Carolina, and he introduced me to Appalachia. So, when I received this assignment, he was the first person I thought about. When I emailed him about an heirloom recipe, it took less than 24 hours to receive his reply:
“Might be able to help you here. I have an old okra pickling recipe that I use to make pickled eggs. I guess it would fall under ‘laying food by’ as once pickled these things will sit on the counter for at least a year.”
I remember those pickled eggs being firm, having just a touch of spice, a hint of sweetness, and lacking the usual heavy vinegar smell and flavor of other pickled eggs I had tried. Ken swears by the cocktail onions for “taming” the vinegar. He occasionally keeps a glass jar of these on his kitchen counter.
As Ken says, “One day while sampling the latest batch of great grandpa’s home brew my father mentioned that they really needed some pickled eggs to go with it. They messed around with various recipes used for making regular pickles but none of them produced results they liked. Then they thought of an old recipe they used for making pickled okra. This recipe makes mildly hot pickled eggs, and the basic pickling juice can be tweaked in many ways to suit different tastes.”
3-4 dozen eggs
1 or 2 pods hot pepper per jar
1 clove garlic
1 quart white vinegar
¼ cup water
6 tablespoons salt (non-iodized)
1 tablespoon celery seed and/or mustard seed
Wash a one-gallon container. Hard boil the eggs. Three dozen fit well in a gallon jar, but often several fall apart during peeling so this ensures you will have enough. Layer the eggs in the jar with the pepper and garlic. Boil all other ingredients together and pour over the contents of the jar. If any celery or mustard seed has stuck to the sides of the pot, use some more vinegar to rinse and pour this into the jar also. If necessary top off the jar with vinegar, leaving about 1 inch of space below the mouth of the jar. Cover the mouth of the jar with a clean cloth until the contents cool, then close. Let the jar sit overnight to allow the eggs to get well pickled before eating.
Note: To take the “edge” off the vinegar, try mixing in a jar of cocktail onions.