Garden To Table: How To Make Fermented Dilly Eggs With Kale, Onion, Chilies, Wild Garlic & Aran Islands Seaweed

If you’re lucky, the Easter Bunny might deliver some delicious fermented eggs to you this Sunday.  But no worries if you don’t discover any in your daffodil patch–they’re pretty darn easy to make yourself. Fermented eggs are similar to pickled eggs, but much healthier because, well, they’re fermented. Instead of relying on vinegar to impart the wickedly wonderful flavor they’re known for, lactic acid works it’s magic–check out this link to read my very unscientific explanation of how it casts its spell on food.

Most often when we have a glut of eggs I make quiche.  Lately, we’re getting nearly a dozen a day, and all of a sudden we had 70 eggs to be used up.  That’s a whole lot more quiche than I was up for making.  50 eggs were used in this batch which is contained in a 5-liter glass jar.

There are no natural occurring sugars in eggs to be converted to lactic acid for the fermenting process so there are a few choices 1) use some brine from another fermented veg as a starter culture, such as pickles or sauerkraut–make sure they’re fermented pickles, not heat processed, commercially packaged products,  2) use a packaged starter culture, 3) use whey as a starter culture or, 4) add in other foods with the eggs that have their own natural occurring sugars.  Any single one of these options would do, but I chose to combine 3 and 4.

DSCF3289To make the whey I strained some yogurt.  Not having any of my own on hand, I bought some whole plain yogurt that clearly had lactic acid cultures in it. DSCF3268 I sterilized a cheesecloth and a medium sized bowl by putting the cloth in the bowl and pouring boiling water atop it, just enough to cover the cloth.  Next, carefully swish the water to coat the bowl.  Both cloth and bowl are sterile now.  With the thought in mind of keeping it sterile, carefully run cold water onto the cloth in a bowl until it is cool enough to handle, then wring it DSCF3313out and line the bowl with it, hanging it over the bowl’s edges.  Tip yogurt (500 g container) into cloth, draw four corners together and tie off.  Hang above bowl for about an hour and this should yield about ½ a cup of whey.

Unless you are on a vegan diet, whey can be used as a starter culture in any vegetable and fruit ferments.  It is not always necessary, but it will give them a nice fermenting kick start.  The addition of whey allows for the reduction of salt in the brine, which may be of importance to some people.  On it’s own, whey is a wonderfully healthy drink and has many other possibilities around the home and garden, but that’s a topic for another day.

So, you have your whey.  Now let’s talk about the eggs…

Did you know you can steam eggs rather than boil them?  This method works particularly well with fresh/less than a week old eggs to ensure that the shell will peel off leaving the egg intact. Anyone who’s boiled freshly laid eggs knows the frustration I am referring to, losing huge bits of the egg white when trying to separate the shell from it.

Put the eggs in a vegetable steamer pan and set it atop a pan of boiling water.  Turn the water down to more of a simmer and cover the egg pan.  Be mindful, same as with veg, that the water doesn’t steam away and the pan burn.  Give them about 15 to 20 minutes of steam time, depending on the size, then cool and peel.  You’ll never boil again.  Soft ‘boiled’ eggs take 5 to 8 minutes.

Ok, so back to the task…

I have cut this recipe down to using 12 to 15 eggs– double, triple, or halve as you like.  The following recipe will fit with room to spare in a 3-liter jar.

DSCF3218

  • 12 to 15 eggs, boil or steam and peel
  • 3 to 4 cups of brine (directions below)
  • 1/8 cup whey
  • a hand full of kale leaves (I used purple kale)
  • I used a handful of wild garlic/ramsons, but if they’re not available to forage, use 1 handful chives, chopped and 1-2 crushed or pressed garlic cloves in addition to
  • 2-3 crushed or pressed garlic cloves
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced into ¼” rings
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill or one tablespoon of fresh chopped dill (coriander, tarragon, or turmeric would be great alternatives–turmeric will turn eggs yellow, or add a ¼ cup beet juice for a pink tint)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon dried dillisk or wakame (seaweed) powder
  • any of the following are optional: 1 bay leaf, ½ teaspoon mustard seed /powder or celery seed/salt

Basic fermenting brine using whey:

Warm 2 cups water on low heat with either 1½ tablespoons fine grain sea salt, or 2¼ tablespoons coarse grain sea salt and stir until dissolved.  Remove from heat and add in a further 2 cups of cold water, stir. *if not using whey, double salt amount*

In a sterile wide-mouth 3-litre jar (or 3-1 liter jars, Ball, Kerr, or Kilner clip-lid type work well), leaving herbs, spices, and seeds aside, layer all other dry ingredients, packed tightly to within 2″ from the top of the jar.  Add herbs, etc. and whey.  Pour brine to cover ingredients to within 2″ from the top of the jar.

The ingredients must be weighed down to keep from rising above the surface of the liquid and having contact with air.  Air will cause spoilage.  You can lay a large piece of kale, cabbage, or several ramsons, over the top and/or put a plate that is just smaller than the jar opening inside and press below the liquid.  Some people boil a stone and use that as a weight atop the cabbage leaf barrier.  Some use plastic bags filled with brine; this has been unsuccessful for me.  On smaller jars, I have used sterilized glass candle holders.  Food grade plastic container covers are great as they are flexible and can be fit into the mouth of jar easily, then I weigh the cover down with a small glass filled with brine. After weighing down, add more brine if needed to fill jar to 1″ from the top.

Set the jar at room temperature for three to four weeks.  It really depends on what ‘room temp’ is in your part of the world; I’m talking around 65 to 72 degrees.  Taste every week and notice how the flavors develop.  When you’ve figured out at what stage you like them, note it, and next time you can avoid taste testing so often.  Personally, I prefer them after a few weeks, even a couple of months, when they are super sour, though it may be hard to keep them around that long.  Many recipes may say to refrigerate your ferment sooner.   Don’t be tempted to do this.  If you can resist eating them for a month or two, this will maximize probiotics as the pH drops and salt decreases (please see How Probiotic Do You Want Your Kraut? for more details).

The gas pressure in the ferment is likely to cause brine to leak out which is normal, but it’s wise to put the jars on a plate or bowl to catch any overflow.  This overflow is a sure sign that the fermenting magic is taking place.  If using an airtight jar, it won’t leak, but it must be burped to allow gas to escape.  Airlock jars are available, priced from over 100 euro/dollars to less than 10.  I have several of the less than 10 from a homebrew shop.  They work a treat for keeping air out while at the same time, allowing gas to escape.  They’re not the only things I use, but when I do use them, I transfer my ferments to glass wire bail jars before refrigeration/eating.

DSCF3260Unlike their chocolate counterpart, these Easter eggs provide long lasting benefits.  Just as processed foods eaten on a regular basis will greatly contribute to digestive problems and other health issues, if fermented foods are eaten regularly they help to restore the proper balance of bacteria in the gut by introducing probiotics or healthy bacteria.

Do enjoy your chocolate treats guilt free, then consider adding fermented products to your diet.  If you are seeking guidance, let me know.  I’d be happy to share my personal experiences and recipes as well as some of my favorite books and websites on the subject.

Take care and have a Happy Healthy Easter!  Melissa Xx

28 Comments

  1. stephpep56 says:

    Melissa, thanks for this Interesting post. I will pass it on to a few friends who often have a glut of eggs from their hens and I don’t think they have ever thought of this method (not a traditional one in Ireland that i am aware of but correct me if I am wrong) My sister who lives in the old workhouse in sligo does a lot of pickling of red cabbage and chutney making , I will pass this on particularly to her if I may? (she started a small fb group called dig deep) will wait for your permission before sharing of course. No rain here today yet in wicklow, so out into the garden again, spade and fork in hand 🙂 hope its staying dry on Inis Mor X

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hiya Steph, I don’t really know traditional Irish practices used for storing foods. Fermenting is a traditional method for preserving food dating back to 4000 BC though, so it’s possible it was done at some time here. It was only three generations back that kefir was made in households here (and parts of mainland) to use as buttermilk in soda bread.
      I remember jars of eggs on counters in small shops growing up in Maine. Pickles too. They were in vinegar. Great memories. Does your sister ferment the red cabbage /sauerkraut and chutney?
      I would be delighted for you to share this with anyone. I shared your post from yesterday on my fb page, just linked my blog to fb yesterday, a big leap for me as I don’t really do fb much. Anyhoo, I am hopping over there now to check out the dig deep, Did you mention that page to me before or was it someone else? hmmm…
      It didn’t rain here today but so darn cold and windy. Really looking forward to spring’s arrival!

      Like

  2. Murtagh's Meadow says:

    Fascinating. I’ve made pickled eggs before but never heard of fermented eggs. My husband does a great sauerkraut so will certainly be passing this on to him as well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The eggs can be fermented in his finished kraut also; that is if it’s fermented kraut he’s making. Layered with the kraut, trying to have none of the egg exposed–eggs are put in boiled/steamed. Shell on or off; the acid will disintegrate the shell and then ferment the egg. I have often thought I should experiment with no shell, cracked shell, and shell on all at same time to see the difference in timing–I’ll do it this year in the late summer when I ferment in 5-10 kilo batches! It can create some interesting marble-like eggs if purple cabbage is used.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve tried pickled eggs and they were great. Fermented eggs are new to me but they sound pretty good too. I have a little egg steamer that I haven’t tried yet but I will after reading what you say about steamed eggs.

    Have a Happy Easter. 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    • They taste so much like pickled eggs, which are healthy most times because they are usually not heat processed (I’ve never seen them jarred by a manufacturer, most folks would just plunk them in some vinegar and wait a few weeks to eat), but fermented are much healthier just by the nature of the culturing process they undergo.
      An egg steamer, eh? I’m picturing little cradles to hold each egg individually, similar to an egg poacher; I didn’t know there was such a thing (of course there is!)
      You have a Happy Easter also Maria 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a little appliance that holds four eggs in separate compartments. It also poaches. I just put a little water in the base and set the timer. It does great poached eggs. 😊. It’s handy if I just want one or two eggs.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I was gifted an egg poacher and it has changed my egg poaching life!! The cover is too low to use as a steamer, but I can envision what you describe here.
          If you ever find your self with an abundance of eggs and a ‘wild hair’ for trying something new, give fermenting a go. It is quite addictive, the flavor and knowing how good it is for you.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for sharing this interesting recipe. I made most of the food from bottom, when my kids were small and through their childhood caused allergies, but I haven’t tried fermenting yet. Sounds exciting and very healthy 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ronovan says:

    Just Pinned to a new board, Food Stuff. Just started because of this. I like this idea. I like the whey idea. I saw that on Graham Kerr when he was doing his healthy cooking shows. He used the plain yogurt after the whey was gone as a substitute for sour cream.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good Morning Ron, It always makes me happy when someone considers trying fermented foods. I always like to spread the word because they are so darn good for you. Somehow I’m picturing pickled foods on the countertops of southern homes and shops, could just be under the influence of too much childhood tv though 😉
      That is what I do with the plain yogurt also (it is kind of obviously a perfect use when you see and taste it minus the whey), it is a side dish for another couple dishes I make. If you are interested in this sort of eating, check out the GAPS diet. Let me know if you have any questions. So happy to chat with you on this beautiful sunny morning…off to the garden now. Melissa Xoxo

      Like

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