Ouevos Haminados

GUEVOS HAMINADOS   (“GWEH-vos hä-mi-NÄthos”)  – The word ham in hebrew means “warm”; haminado is a Ladino adjective meaning “warmed.”  Far from ordinary, these “warmed eggs” acquire a velvety texture and an intoxicating, smoky onion flavor from a six-hour bath in warm water and onion skins – slow cooking really does make a difference.  Besides lending their marvelous flavor, onion skins also act as a natural dye.  If the eggshells remain intact, the eggs turn a delicate shade of light brown, like a very pale cup of coffee, and when cracked they take on a striking range of deep reds and unique patterns that suggest marble.  It’s a fairly safe bet that the inspiration for dyed Easter eggs began with this custom.

Guevos haminados are one of many Jewish foods that pre-date the Inquisition.  Although eggs were commonplace in all cuisines of Medieval Europe, it was well known in Spain that slow-braising whole eggs was a technique unique to the Jews.  More than a few conversos were imprisoned or sentenced to death on the basis of their having continued to eat ouevos haminados.  500 years after the expulsion, eggs in general remain an important component of the Ottoman-Sephardic diet (and, I should add, the Spanish diet as well).

Guevos haminados are generally most associated with the Sabbath desayuno (breakfast) and with Passover, when they appear on the Seder plate, but they are a fundamental element of Ottoman-Sephardic cuisine, eaten on their own or incorporated into other dishes – for example, baked into a meatloaf (without the shell, of course).



Filed under Glossary, History, Holidays (fiestas judias)

11 responses to “Ouevos Haminados

  1. Mar

    Hi, Janet. I have a slow cooker at home… Do you think this would be a good option to prepare them?

    • Janet Amateau

      I haven’t worked with slow cookers so I can’t say for sure, but I know people who swear by them. Logic would say yes, since they work on the principle of applying low, even heat – exactly what you need to make huevos haminados. It also means you can leave them unattended. A definite plus when you’re cooking something for six hours. I’d certainly try it.

  2. Elyse

    I can’t wait to cook these again!

    Last year, I started saving onion skins in January, only instead of storing them inside a little-used casserole as I had in the past, I put them in an onion sack hanging in the pantry closet. All was well until the week before Passover, when I had help cleaning before the holiday. The sack vanished with the trash, and I didn’t realize it until a few days before I needed them.

    Not one of those items you can borrow from a neighbor, I vaguely remember trying to harvest loose onion skins from the market.
    Granted you don’t need a sack full of onion skins to make juevos haminados, but somehow they’re not the same with only a handful!

  3. Estelle

    In my home we ate these every Friday evening as part of the Sabbath meal. After the egg was peeled we placed it in our palms, prayer style, and applied gentle pressure and the egg opened perfectly in half without having to use a utensil. I wonder if that custom began because of lack of utensils at one time or another. And then we would squeeze on some lemon juice and enjoy.

    • Janet Amateau

      Lack of utensils? I’m not so sure about that one, since a hard boiled egg doesn’t need one to begin with. But it’s certainly more decorous to use a knife. What you describe sounds like someone’s ritual, although it’s one I’ve never seen or heard of. The first thing that comes to my mind is that it seems like a deliberate act to demonstrate not using even knives on Shabbat (how extreme!). Did you use knives for the rest of your Shabbat dinner? Is anyone else out ther familiar with this custom?

  4. Estelle

    Perhaps this was someone’s ritual. I really don’t know but we did use utensils for the meal. True, a hard boiled egg needs no utensils but to have the lemon juice on the yolk it had to be halved. What you said about not using knives on Sabbath is interesting but we used them for the rest of the meal. Sadly, I have no one to ask about this but maybe one of the people who are on this forum will provide us with an answer.

  5. Alyse Elias Matsil

    My Nona Sophie (who came from Castoria, Greece) made these eggs by slow cooking them covered overnight without any onion skins. The insides turned brown, but not the shells. She used to serve these delicious eggs together with spinach boureks for breakfast or lunch.

    My Grandma Anne (who came from Yanina, Greece) made the same eggs, only she added coffee grinds to the water so that the shells turned brown too.

  6. Liz

    I know this is a very old post, but I wanted to thank you for the explanation of these eggs! I have no idea how my mom found out about these (she comes from a totally Ashkenazi background) but we made “brown” or “roasted” eggs every year for Pesach, and it was always this egg that was put on the seder plate. When we were kids, my mom would send us into the garden to get plants, and we would put them on the eggs and tie them in old pantyhose. After cooking, the areas where the plants were had a yellow tie-dyed look, and were pretty cool.

    They definitely are an acquired taste for some, but I’ve passed the recipe out many times.

    I don’t know if this is traditional or not, but my mom always puts a bit of oil in the pot of water, which helps keep the water from evaporating during the long cool.

    • Janet

      Yes, Liz, adding oil is traditional, and part of the secret to its success. Thanks so much for your description of dyeing with pantyhose! You brought back a very early memory – not familial, but an art project from early grade school. How charming, and the effect is so pretty!

  7. Yosef Lopez

    Is there a type of hamin that is also made for Shabbat morning?

    • Janet

      No, not for breakfast, Yosef. In Ottoman Sephardic tradtion (which is mine), a traditional ‘desayuno’ includes ouevos haminados and savory pastries – ojaldres, boyos, borekas, bulemas (though ojaldres are more for very special occasions). Our main meal of the day would more typically include cuajado, fritada, or both in lieu of a hamin. These are savory vegetable puddings (pasteles) made either in the oven or stovetop. They are best eaten at room temperature! My recipe for spinach cuajado is on the blog at this link.

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