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I love pickled eggs and even make them at home. But I was shocked as I come across a published report (back in 1997) about a healthy 68-year-old man that was afflicted with foodborne botulism from the pickled eggs he prepared at home!
So I researched about this matter in-depth and here’s what I found…
Are pickled eggs safe? Pickled eggs are safe as long as you handle, store, and prepare them properly. Unlike commercially prepared pickled eggs, home-prepared pickled eggs present a greater risk of foodborne botulism if you don’t practice proper canning procedures and follow tested recipes.
- Are home-canned pickled eggs safe? Dangers of pickled eggs and what you can do about it
- How to safely enjoy home-canned pickled eggs? Tips for safe eggs pickling at home
- Here is the complete guide to safe home canning for pickled eggs, step-by-step.
- Related Questions
Are home-canned pickled eggs safe? Dangers of pickled eggs and what you can do about it
In 1997, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report about a man with a possible case of foodborne botulism that is caused by home-pickled eggs.
Samples of the pickled egg mixture were sent to a Reference Library and shockingly, Clostridium botulinum toxin was detected in the samples.
Now you may have wondered, what is C.botulinum (Clostridium botulinum) and how harmful can they be?
C. botulinum is a type of bacteria that produces neurotoxin and causes a rare but deadly paralytic illness known as Botulism.
This means that Botulism can cause paralysis and the patient will experience paralysis from top to bottom. The toxins will first affect the cranial nerves and then the skeletal muscles.
“Botulism is the deadliest food poisoning known”
If left untreated, the intoxications may lead to dense flaccid paralysis, respiratory failure, and even death!
Botulism poisoning is most commonly caused by eating improperly preserved foods that are prepared at home. This includes canning, pickling, curing, and fermenting.
Botulinum spores grow especially well in low-acid foods such as all vegetables, poultry, red meats, and fish.
And this is exactly what happened in the 1997 pickled eggs case.
The patient prepared his own homemade pickled eggs and stored them at room temperature. He occasionally exposed them to sunlight for seven (7) days.
The poor guy was experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms 12 hours after eating them. Scary!
The good news?
The patient recovered after extensive care. Yeah, he was lucky. Not everyone is as lucky as him.
Good thing for pickled eggs lover like you and I, this is the only reported case of botulism that is caused by pickled eggs.
But wait, what about this statistic then?
“More than 90% of all cases of foodborne botulism is caused by home-canned foods.”
A horrific statistic, I know.
But this doesn’t mean that you need to throw away your love for pickled eggs entirely.
You can safely eat commercial pickled eggs or even make one yourself at home (without fear of waking up in your coffin the next day!) as long as you practice proper home-canning and strictly follow pickled eggs recipes that have been tested under home storage conditions.
How to safely enjoy home-canned pickled eggs? Tips for safe eggs pickling at home
Pickled eggs may look simple to prepare.
All you need to do is boil the eggs, peel them, put them in a container, and then submerge them with vinegar and other seasonings, right?
You need to follow the exact recipe that is proven to be safe under home storage, choose a sound egg, use sterilized jars and practice safe home-canning method at all time.
Or you’ll end up hospitalized!
Sounds tedious? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.
Here is the complete guide to safe home canning for pickled eggs, step-by-step.
Eggs selection for pickling
Choose clean eggs that are in good condition with no shell cracks and breakage.
Small to medium fresh eggs are the best ones to use since you will be storing the pickled eggs for a long time.
However, eggs that are a few days old are easier to peel after boiling.
Selection and preparation of containers for pickling
Choose any containers that can be closed tightly, such as glass jars like this one or metal containers.
Using glass jars are cheaper and easier as metal containers can only be used once and needed special sealing equipment.
Quart-Size canning jars like this one can usually hold about a dozen medium-sized eggs.
The best choice of home pickling containers is the regular, wide-mouth, threaded, Mason-type home-canning jars with self-sealing lids like this one.
Cleaning and preparation of empty jars
Empty jars should be washed in hot water with detergent and rinse well. This can be done by hand or by using a dishwasher.
Take note though that the jars should be kept hot until the are ready to be filled with foods.
You may do so by submerging the washed jars in enough water that cover them and then bring the water to a simmer. The jars can be kept hot in the simmering water.
You can read more about jars cleaning and preparation here (this link will bring you to the Complete Guide to Home Canning pdf published by the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture).
Kitchen utensils and tools used
All utensils and tools used in the pickling process should be cleaned well with soap and warm water. This includes cutting board and your hands.
Cooking eggs to make pickled eggs
The eggs should be cooked adequately with moderate temperatures to avoid overcooking.
The following are the recommended cooking method of eggs for pickling as provided by the Washington State University-Extension.
- Step 1: Submerge the eggs with enough water to cover them.
- Step 2: Bring the water (with eggs) quickly to near boiling.
- Step 3: Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Step 4: Take out the eggs and run cold water over them for fast cooling.
Peeling of eggs
Peel the egg starting from the large end where the air cell is usually located by cracking them first.
Peeling can be made easier by placing the boiled eggs under running water. This way the thin shell membranes around the eggs can easily be removed.
Pickling solution preparation and pickled eggs recipe
Preparing pickling solution may sound easy in most part but you need to be extra careful especially in selecting the ingredients and recipes for preparing safely home-canned pickled eggs.
Spices, herbs, and other ingredients should not be added on whims as this may increase the risk of Botulism.
The University of Minnesota Extension has published an article about botulism and care that should be taken when canning low-acid foods such as pickled eggs.
Below are some of the tips and variables that you need to take into consideration if you want to make pickled eggs at home.
- Though adding salt in pickling or canning can add flavor, salt does not prevent spoilage.
- Add herbs and spices only in small amounts.
- You should never add butter, fat, flour, rice, barley or pasta if the tested recipe does not instruct you to add them
- Modify and adding unnecessary ingredients in a tested recipe may result in an unsafe outcome
In addition, any pricking, poking holes or other similar acts that might allow bacteria into the yolk should also be avoided.
Pour the hot pickling solution that you have prepared over the eggs and make sure the eggs are well-covered by the pickling solution. Then close the container tightly.
Here are some of the pickling solution recipes that have been tested under home storage conditions. Grab them here (this link will bring you to the National Center for Home Food Preservation website).
In most cases, the pickled eggs are ready to be eaten when the pickling solution has seasoned all parts of the egg.
Storage of pickled eggs
Pickled eggs do not freeze well and need to be refrigerated at all times.
For unopened commercially prepared pickled eggs, read the specific product details about their storage. However, once opened, store them inside a refrigerator.
On the other hand, home-prepared pickled eggs must be kept refrigerated.
Remember to NEVER leave home-prepared pickled eggs at room temperature especially if they are opened.
They can only be taken out at room temperature during the serving time which should be two (2) hours or less.
P/S: In case you’re craving for pickled eggs but have no time to prepare them, you can always find commercial pickled eggs on Amazon here. You can find various tasty flavors, including red beet, cajun, jalapeno, garlic, and onion flavor.
What is the lifespan or shelf life of pickled eggs?
Refrigerated pickled eggs are best eaten within 3 to 4 months. The American Egg Board stated that unopened commercially prepared pickled eggs can last for several months on the shelf but be refrigerated once opened and used within seven (7) days. While home-prepared ones must be refrigerated and used within seven (7) days.
How long should pickled eggs sit before eating?
Pickled eggs need some time to pick up the flavor from pickling solution and this depends on the sizes of eggs used. For small eggs, usually around 1 to 2 weeks of seasoning are required. For medium to large eggs, 2 to 4 weeks are needed for them to be well-seasoned.