Any time you enter a beer joint in Mississippi, you’re likely to find a big jar of pickled eggs on the counter next to the beef jerky, the pieds de porc à l’écarlate and all the other Bubbas that belly up to the Southern sideboard. But those over-boiled, nitrate-infused super-ball eggs in roadhouse jars are just not good food.
On the other hand, properly pickled eggs are a treat; they’re a great side with cold meats, poultry or game, and good in tuna, chicken, or vegetable salads. One recipe I have from a Junior League-type cookbook published in the 1930’s claims that they’re “ever so good chopped into hash, and provide just the right touch bedded on greens with a dressing of sharp, spicy goodness.” Craig Claiborne included a pickled egg recipe in his New York Times Cookbook (wouldn’t he just?), and Rita Mae Brown, a really fine Southern writer, employs this dish as a culinary bone of contention between two cantankerous sisters in her riotous novel, Six of One.
The white of a pickled egg should be firm, not tough or rubbery, and the yolk should be moist and creamy, not crumbly. They should also have a light, balanced tangy/sweet flavor as a platform for other seasonings: I like a couple of slit hot peppers, a slice or two of garlic and a bay leaf to flavor mine, but dill, caraway or even cloves figure among other attractive possibilities.
For pickling, boil a dozen medium eggs until just done; you can easily fit a dozen large in a quart glass jar. Then stuff the (peeled) eggs into the jar along with whatever accompaniments you like (jalapenos, onion, garlic, bay leaf, etc.). Fill the jar with a mixture of white vinegar and water (4:1) just to the top; jiggle the jar to burp bubbles. Pour vinegar mixture into a saucepan along with a tablespoon of salt, a tablespoon of sugar and a tablespoon of pickling spices. (If you miss the barroom rose, use beet juice.) Heat to almost boiling and pour back over the eggs; if there’s not quite enough liquid to cover them entirely, add a little more water. Seal the jar and store for at least a week before putting them out at your next kegger.