My family talks a lot about food. We talk about it so much, in fact, that I would wager a statistical analysis might show that food(its preparation, consumption, etc) serves as the genesis of most all of our conversations. This doesn’t sadden me. On the contrary, it comforts me, because out of these conversations come the most sincere, honest, and passionate opinions. I think this goes for everyone, though. After all, most people don’t lie when it comes to their opinions on food. Want to see the face of honesty? Witness a toddler’s first bite of carrot, or spinach, or apple sauce.
I say all of that to say this:
I met my father’s wife, Mary, about three years ago. She was instantly likable; generous, welcoming, wise. But as the frantic pace of life would have it, time never really allowed for much more than a hello or goodbye. In time, my wife and I grew thirsty for a life outside Kentucky. With little money or prospect, we packed our things into a trailer and moved to Nashville.
What the move did not allow me to discover was that while Mary was indeed kind and warm, she was also an incredibly knowledgeable baker and cook who authors a widely successful food blog. I started getting phone calls from my brother or sisters, the sole purpose of which was to share that Mary had recently made “the best” this or “the most incredible” that. I knew my family to be honest in their opinions on food, but the consistently glowing reviews seemed almost suspect. I needed convincing of my own.
In subsequent visits to Kentucky, I made it a point to schedule some time to cook or bake alongside Mary. Her food was perfectly seasoned and prepared in a way that seemed effortless. One afternoon, Mary brought to the table a dish filled with the most brightly colored red beets. Nestled among them were hard boiled eggs which had taken on the purple hue from the beets. I later found that the recipe is a part of Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. And with dishes like Cup Cheese, Hog Maw, and Bova Shankel, how could one not be at least a little intrigued? Until then, I was unaware of any such tradition beyond Quaker oats, of course. And so, in honor of the Easter holiday, I thought I would pay tribute with a Pennsylvania Dutch favorite.
Red Beet Eggs
6 eggs, soft boiled (I’ve got you covered)
3 large red beets, peeled
1 onion, diced
2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. After soft-boiling the eggs, allow them to chill in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, lightly oil and salt each beet before wrapping it in aluminum foil. Place the wrapped beets on a baking sheet and allow them to roast until they yield when cut with a fork. Depending on the size of the beet, this can take anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour.
While the cooked beets begin to cool, mix the vinegar, sugar and salt into a large pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Chop the beets and the onion. Once the vinegar solution comes to a bowl, add the beets and onion and reduce the heat to low. Let the beets and onions simmer for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes of simmering, let the beets cool.
Once cool, fill a wide rimmed dish with half of the pickled beets. Place the soft boiled eggs on top of the beets and then cover them with the remaining half of the beets. Be sure that the eggs are completely immersed in the deep purple liquid.
And now we wait. You can let the eggs pickle for up to 3 days, but the ones you see in the pictures above were given just 24 hours. As for ways to serve them, they’re swell on their own, or with crackers, or with a side of Hog Maw, I suppose.
As it is Easter, I let the bounty of Spring be my guide: a bed of fresh, bright peas flecked with smoky local bacon gave way to a new take on “bacon and eggs.”