Picnic season is upon us (the next ROSENGARTEN REPORT in June will feature great French ways for “le pique-nique!”) But I thought I’d start rehearsing dining al fresco…in a German vein! Pennsylvania Dutch, in fact…which really means “Pennsylvania Deutsch!” The following is a wonderful Amish specialty, little-known outside the Pennsylvania Dutch country—where it is a great holiday treat, and a staple of the summer picnic spread. When spiced beets and hard-boiled eggs marinate together for a few days, the eggs pick up a deliriously beautiful purple-pink color—making this dish as beautiful as it is delicious (beets and eggs are great together!) The onions I’ve included below are not always part of the dish, but I think they’re an important addition to the flavor ensemble. By the way, I found three days of marination to be perfect. At one day the eggs are pasty; at one week they’re real rubbery.
4 medium beets (about 2 pounds)
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups beet water (see below)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon allspice berries (about 10 berries)
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 bay leaf
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
1. Trim leaves from beets, leaving about 2 inches of stem. Wash very thoroughly. Place in a saucepan with water to cover, and simmer until beets can be easily pierced with a knife. Let beets cool in water, then peel and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place in a non-reactive container with onions (big enough to hold all of the ingredients) and set aside. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the beet cooking liquid.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, vinegar, beet water, salt, allspice, mustard seeds, cloves and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes to blend flavors. Cool for about 10-15 minutes, then pour over beets and onions. Cool to room temperature and add the eggs. Cover, and refrigerate for 3 days before serving.
photo: Monster/Flickr Creative Commons