Snapshots from Europe: Solæg, or Pickled Eggs

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[Photograph: Steen Hanssen]

When drinking in watering holes in the border area between Germany and Denmark you'll often see a tall jar glass filled with rust-colored pickled eggs submerged in a slightly muddy-looking liquid on the table. In Denmark these are called "Solæg" and supposedly originated from the region of Southern Jutland (Jutland being the Danish peninsula connected to Northern Germany).

Solæg is served with the egg shell removed, sliced in half with the halved yolk on the side. A number of spices, herbs, oils, hot chili sauces, vinegar and mustard go directly into the empty hard-boiled egg white shell for seasoning, and the yolk is then reinserted back into place. The egg half is eaten in one quick bite immediately followed by a shot of room temperature aquavit (Gammel Opland from Norway would be a good choice). The same procedure is repeated with the remaining egg half.

As with so many brilliant small dishes, simplicity is the key to Solæg.

How to Make Solæg: For 20 minutes, simply hard boil the eggs wrapped in red onion peelings. This gives the eggs an appealing color often with different structure and shades. After cooling, gently crush the egg shells (without removing) before placing them in a heavily salted jar of water with one red onion, the obligatory caraway, and whatever herbs you want. Caraway is important because it'll nicely complement the aquavit shot, where caraway as its dominant flavor. The eggs will rest in the salty herb water for at least two weeks before consumption, some even add extra salt every week or so.

For true Solæg connoisseurs, the color of the egg yolk is important. The darker the better, and the longer the egg is cured in the salty water the closer you'll approach the wanted color. During the saltwater curing, the yolk will typically transform from yellow over to greenish to dark bluish and finally after very long curing, it'll eventually turn almost black which is considered most desirable.

In many Berliner Kneipen (pubs) and bars you'll also find Solæg and other small bits and jarred snacks cured in salt. The Berliners call these dishes for Hungerturm which means "Hunger towers."

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