Behold: the pickled egg, served with all the fixins. It is a treasured American bar snack – and, sadly, it is an endangered food.
I realize your first reaction to “pickled egg” is either that’s gross, bro or did you go blind? But let me ask you two questions:
1) Do you enjoy hard boiled eggs?
2) Do you enjoy pickles?
If you answered YES to both of these questions you will probably really like pickled eggs. They have an initial briny and sour bite, but set on the backdrop of the creamy and satisfying hard boiled egg. Add in some saltines, pepper, and hot sauce, and you have a world-class bar snack. So why don’t you see them at all of your favorite watering holes?
You see, dating back to the 19th century and continuing to this day, states and municipalities adopted laws requiring any establishment that serves alcohol to also serve some sort of food. This is a pretty good idea, since we’ve known for thousands of years that consuming food with alcohol is a great idea if you want to avoid ending the night stumbling home to your abode. But many bars saw this as just another regulation they need to comply with.
So, in order to do the absolute minimum to meet the law’s requirements they would make available pickled eggs. They’re cheap and they would only need to make a batch every few months…that is, if the proprietors were scrupulous. Patrons would observe how much dust was on the egg jar to surmise whether they were safe to eat.*
Obviously, there’s much more to the history of pickled eggs as a bar snack than that…but that’s the most entertaining take. Nowadays pretzels, peanuts, food trucks, and clip-strips of chips have largely replaced the humble pickled egg. And that’s too bad, because they’re delicious. I cooked up a batch over the July 4th weekend, doing my part to make America a more perfect union. They couldn’t be easier to make.
A final note: major props to Tandem Ciders in Suttons Bay, MI for their dedication to bringing back the pickled egg in fine fashion – pictured above. It’s the perfect accompaniment to one of their fantastic ciders. While we were there we spied Mario Batali quaffing a cider and enjoying a round of pickled eggs with his companions – that’s a man who knows a tasty snack when he sees it. Oh, and Tandem only charges $1 for them. That beats a bag of chips any day.
Do you know of any places in Cincinnati or elsewhere that serve pickled eggs?
*History paraphrased from Duane Swierczynski’s “The Big Book O’ Beer”