This Friday evening, Passover begins. While I have some fond memories of childhood Passovers, it’s hard to forget the torture. Seriously. Ask an introverted child to sit at a table with lots of relatives she barely knows, force that child to listen to an endless at-home religious service (the Seder), and prevent the child from eating anything other than bitter herbs and unleavened cardboard for what feels like hours. And to make matters worse, tell the child she can’t eat pizza or bagels for a week! Okay, maybe not the most traumatic experience, but…
Symbolism and Leavened Food
About ten years ago, I put together my own Haggadah (the text for the Seder), and I fell in love with the metaphors the holiday embraces. My favorite: hametz, the leavened food that we clean from our house before the Seder, represents all that is puffed and bloated in our lives, things like self-doubt and resentment, that prevent us from achieving internal freedom. But I didn’t sit down to write about glutenous food I rarely eat these days. I’m here to talk about the draft. Oops, wrong story—I’m here to talk about the glorious egg.
Hardboiled Eggs and the Seder
During a Passover Seder, a plate is set on the table to hold the symbolic foods: a roasted shank bone, a roasted egg, maror (bitter herb), karpas (green vegetable), and matzah. Most Haggadah say the roasted egg represents the Festival Offering that Israelites brought to the Temple in Jerusalem, yet other than placing it on the Seder plate, we don’t do anything with the roasted egg. We do eat hardboiled eggs, but not during the Seder, and though we say prayers before eating other symbolic foods, we don’t say a specific prayer for eggs. Nonetheless, dinner at all Seders I’ve attended began with dipping a hardboiled egg in salt water, and several rabbis consider eggs the richest symbol of the evening.
I’ve heard the Exodus from Egypt referred to as the passing through a narrow place, not unlike the egg, which has passed through the chicken. Yet the journey is not complete until the chick breaks through the shell. Emancipation represents only a beginning of the journey, a time when the hard work of breaking though the shell has yet to happen. Some say the dipping of the eggs in salt water represents the sorrow we experienced as slaves, but I think it represents the sorrow that comes before a repressed people can break through the barriers that still exist after emancipation.
Pickled hardboiled eggs are not a traditional part of the Seder. This year they will be part of mine. At first I didn’t think of the symbolism of it; I just thought that if Passover were celebrated on my fantasy world of Awan, the Telem would probably pickle their eggs. The Israelites may not have had time to wait for their bread to leaven, and they wouldn’t have had time to pickle their eggs, but if I were wondering the dessert for forty years, I’d want pickled eggs. And now that I think of the symbolism of how vinegar changes the egg without the egg losing all it’s glory, it seems a good symbol to add to my Seder.
And now on to the Pickled Egg recipe…
Pickling Spice Blend
1½ tsp whole Allspice
4 Bay Leaves, crumbled
1½ tsp whole Cardamon seeds
1½ tsp whole Cloves
1 Tb whole Coriander seeds
1½ tsp whole Dill seeds
1½ tsp whole Fenugreek
1 Tb whole Mustard Seeds
1 tsp ground Nutmeg
1-3 dried hot peppers, crumbled
Pickled Hardboiled Eggs
10-15 * hardboiled eggs
1 cup water
1½ cup white vinegar
1 large onion, sliced
12 garlic cloves, peeled
8 slices fresh Ginger
1 batch pickling spice
1 pickling jar *
* We prefer to pickle 15 eggs in a 1½ liter jar with a clamp down lid. If you use a 1 liter or 1 quart jar, use only 10 eggs.
Sterilize jar by submerging in boiling water for ten minutes. For more information on this visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation site.
Green-Free Hardboiled Eggs
- Place eggs into a sauce pan large enough to allow the eggs to lie in one layer, and fill the pan with cold tap water so the eggs are submerged by a couple of inches of water.
- Partially cover the pot and bring to a full rolling boil.
- Completely cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Allow to simmer for thirty seconds.
- Remove the pot from the heat, keep it covered, and let the eggs stand in hot water for twelve minutes. (Since pickling continues to “cook” protein, this is less time than if you are going to just make hardboiled eggs. If you don’t plan to pickle the eggs, then allow them to sit in hot water for up to fifteen minutes.)
- Bring the pot to the sink and run cold tap water into the pot for five minutes.
- Drain out the water. Close and shake the pot vigorously to crack the shells.
- Refill the pot with warmish water so that water can seep into the cracks. (This makes peeling easier). Peel the eggs.
- Add the water, vinegar, onions, garlic, ginger, and pickling spice mix to a small pot and bring to a full rolling boil.
- Turn down the heat and simmer for five minutes.
- Place the hardboiled eggs, onions, garlic, ginger, and spice mix into the jar in layers so that they are evenly distributed throughout the jar. To ensure that the eggs will be fully submerged in pickling liquid, top the jar with a layer of onions, garlic, ginger, and spices.
- Pour pickling liquid into the jar to the very top.
- Close and seal the jar. Label the jar with the date and place it in the refrigerator. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least five days.