Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Incredible Edible Egg - Purple Eggs and Deviled Eggs

Summer is officially in full swing.

That means picnics, trips to the beach (lake or seaside or creekside, your choice), picnics, eating al fresco, picnics, BBQ's, picnics.

Did I mention picnics?

When it comes to picnic food is there any food more versatile than the egg? We mash them into potato salad, we boil them and serve them cold, we devil them, we bake them into meringues and whip them into angel food cakes. We cook them into custard to make that wonderful summertime treat, homemade ice cream.

And if you are from Pennsylvania, you pickle them.

Yup, pickled eggs. When I was growing up no picnic was complete without a big gallon jug of purple eggs. Sweet with beets and tangy with vinegar, hard boiled eggs are brined in a combination of beets, beet juice, sugar, vinegar, water and onions and left to soak over night in the refrigerator. We called them purple eggs. My mom even had a special glass gallon jug that she used just for purple eggs.. My brothers could eat 5 or 6 or 8 of those eggs. They would brag about how many they ate in the car ride home (and we always kept the car windows open and it wasn't because we didn't have air conditioning).

Many a good old boy Pennsylvania bar will have a gallon jug of pickled eggs resting in their cooler. Nothing tastes better than a cold beer and a purple egg in a good old boy Pennsylvania bar.

If you are looking for a native Pennsylvania egg dish or just something different (but delicious, I promise) try Purple Eggs, if that doesn't sound right to you I've included my recipe for Deviled Eggs.

Before you get started on any of these recipes I have a question for you. Have you ever made deviled eggs and when you sliced them in half the yolk was too far off to the side; making one side of the white too thin for stuffing or making your finished eggs lopsided? Here's a trick for perfectly balanced, yolk in the middle, eggs every time:

About 3 hours before boiling your eggs, tip the egg carton on its side. Doesn't matter which side. The yolks will center themselves inside of their shells. I'm serious. Try it.

Perfectly centered yolks, every time.

Purple (Pickled) Eggs - Makes 1/2 dozen

1 15 ounce can of red beets, with juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1 small onion (or a small bunch scallions), sliced

Place the eggs in a deep pot and cover with COLD water. Bring to a boil. Take off heat, cover and let stand in the hot water for 12 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and peel.

In the meantime, combine beets, beet juice, sugar, vinegar and onions in a saucepan. Bring to boil.

Place the eggs in a large bowl, jar or other some such vessel. Pour the hot liquid over. Make sure all the eggs are covered with the beet mixture. Cover and store in refrigerator overnight. A perfect pickled egg will have all of it's white, all the way through to the yolk colored (and flavored) purple. Ride home with the windows open.
Beet mixture with scallions

Going into the fridge.

A finished, ready to eat 'purple' egg - we like them with salt

The Good Cook's Deviled Eggs (with perfectly centered yolks) makes one dozen

6 eggs, hard boiled using the technique described above. Cooled.
1/4 cup mayonnaise (your favorite, but I like Hellman's)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, finely grated
pinch of salt
smoked paprika (optional)

Peel the hard boiled eggs and slice in half the long way. Place the yolks in a small bowl.
Add mayonnaise, mustard, cheese and a pinch of salt and mash well using the back of a fork.
Taste. Adjust seasonings by adding more mayo, mustard or salt.
Stuff the eggs using a teaspoon - about a teaspoon in each egg center*.
Sprinkle with smoked paprika**

*you can get fancy and use a pastry bag to fill the egg whites but I like to keep picnic food casual and unpretentious.
**some variations: add a daub of caviar (oo-la-la), a slice of olive (ole) or a daub of relish (how american!) or just leave plain.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat. 

A Cook's Notes:

Eggs are so ingrained in our culture we have incorporated them into our common vernacular. 

He's an egghead.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Common paint color? Eggshell.
You've got to crack some eggs if you want to bake a cake.
Don't egg him on.
Remember Humpty Dumpty?
Eggo Waffles
And I'm sure you can think of some of your own. What is your favorite eggcellant egg recipe?


  1. I recently ordered a couple of cases of assorted canned items from Jakeandamos.com in Pa. and one of the items was pickled eggs and I sure enjoyed them and you have got me to thinking about doing my own. Thanks & have an awesome day.

  2. Odie - oh my goodness, I just went to jakeandamos.com and saw those pickled eggs... I'm laughing to myself, who would have thought? Now you can make your own, fresh, local and way less expensive. Enjoy!!

  3. I've never had the purple eggs, but they sound really good! But those deviled eggs sure got my attention! Thanks for sharing and for the tip!

  4. I love deviled eggs but always feel so guilty when I eat them. I can feel my arteries clogging with each bite!

  5. I just got two dozen fresh eggs from a local customer. Her family enjoyed a free day of swimming for the eggs. My husband loves egg salad sandwiches, but he loves deviled eggs, too.

  6. Marguerite - Enjoy and you are welcome!

    Otin - moderation in all things..

    Kathy - Farm fresh eggs in trade for a day of swimming? That's a great deal. I'm with your husband, I LOVE egg salad sandwiches.

  7. I could live on deviled eggs :) My kids love them too! I have never seen the purple eggs! Will have to try that..oh has the amish barn raising started???

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  9. I grew up in Northeastern PA and there were always "Pickled Eggs" around. My father tells stories of going to the "Beergarden" and drinking and eating pickled eggs. Amazingly enough I have never had one. Back then I was a very picky food person. My Dad is 80 now and I know it's been quite a long time since he had these eggs. Maybe I'll make them for him.


Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I love feedback... what with being a cook and all. I will respond to your comments via email (if you do not have a "noreply" address or here, below your comment) As always, Bon Appetite!

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