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.
To 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. 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 out 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.
- 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.
Unlike 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