Graveyard Eggs from your Pet Chickens October 24, 2014

One of the things I loved about living in China was the street food. There was delicious, delicious food available almost everywhere for next to nothing. (The same goes for New York, but it’s a lot more expensive!) I remember lucking into some delicious steamed red bean paste dumplings for about twelve and a half cents each. My other favorite were the Tea Eggs, which are eggs that have been hard cooked, and flavored with tea and spices. I call my take “Graveyard Eggs.”

Graveyard Eggs on an autumn morning

Graveyard Eggs are perfect for a cool, foggy October morning.

The 4 best things about Graveyard Eggs

  1. They’re easy to make.
  2. They look gorgeous.
  3. They taste wonderful.
  4. They are fun for Halloween.

If you follow our blog, you’ll know how much I love Halloween, so making Graveyard Eggs is something I love to do. When you make them with eggs laid by your own backyard hens like I do, they’re even better, because you know they’re so much more nutritious than store bought–PLUS, you know your own backyard hens are treated humanely (usually even spoiled!).

Most Tea Egg recipes I’ve seen call for boiling the eggs for a long, long time. Way too long—sometimes 30 minutes or more. Well, NO. I hate overcooked eggs. This is one of the reasons I felt the need to change around the recipe.

The best way to hard cook eggs in the shell is to bring salted water to a boil for just about a minute, remove the pot from heat, and let the eggs sit covered in the hot water for about 20 minutes. By cooking the eggs in salted water that has just reached boiling for a minute and then that cooling water cooks your eggs, you get perfectly cooked eggs every time because the eggs don’t get too hot, and you avoid those ugly green rings. When the center of your eggs reach boiling water temperatures, the yolk has a chemical reaction that gives it that ugly green ring–not to mention, the whites become rubbery when they’re over-cooked. (This is also why the gimmicky idea of baking your eggs in muffin tins at 350 is mind-blowingly wrong.)

Here’s how to do it deliciously.

How to cook Graveyard Eggs

  • Eggs
  • Water to boil
  • Tea bags
  • Chinese Five Spice Powder

That’s why I cook Graveyard Eggs differently than Tea Eggs are traditionally prepared. Follow the above method for hard cooking eggs (bring eggs to a boil for one minute, remove pot from heat, let eggs sit in hot water for 20 minutes), and make these changes. For Graveyard Eggs, at the 10 minute mark, remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon one by one. Working quickly, gently crack each egg shell all the way around (rolling works nicely, but don’t push too hard; your eggs aren’t completely cooked yet).

When the eggs are cracked, place them back into the water and drop tea bags and spices into your water, too. (How many tea bags will depend on how much water you’ve used to prepare your eggs. You want it to be a strong, dark tea. You can use any black tea, but I personally  prefer Earl Grey tea–the monarda has a nice citrusy flavor that works well with the Chinese Five Spice powder.) Here’s the thing about making tea: black tea should really steep only about 5 minutes. After that, it will become bitter. So, after 5 minutes of steeping—in other words with 5 minutes left for your eggs—I remove the tea bags and discard. My tea to stain the eggs is plenty dark by that time.

Graveyard eggs with shells

The spice tea mixture stains the egg white through the cracks in the shell. Here you can see Graveyard Eggs beside the removed shells.

Allow to steep for as long as you like, up to overnight. Keep in mind that if you intend to steep several hours or overnight, when the Graveyard Eggs/water go below 170 degrees, you will want to refrigerate them. Holding cooked eggs at room temperature for several hours is a bad idea. I tend to make my tea strong and allow the Graveyard Eggs to steep about an hour before peeling.

And to finish, I love to provide a little dish of poppy seed or black sesame and black salt. Tell your kids (or your guests) to be sure to dip their ancient eggs in grave dirt. This recipe lends a subtle flavor. If you don’t want any flavor, you can simply use a nice food dye the same way you’d use the tea and spices.

However you make them, Graveyard Eggs make a lovely presentation for a Halloween table!

Graveyard eggs with poppyseed

Provide your kids or guests with a little dish of poppyseed and black salt, or black sesame and black salt.

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