Is there anyone who did not look forward to dyeing eggs in all the colors of the rainbow and indulging in colorfully wrapped chocolate eggs for Easter as a child? I know I did. When I was very young, I thought the eggs which my mom had painstakingly decorated with chemical paints and markers, were so beautiful that I couldn’t bear to crack all of them just to eat them. Which is why some of these precious eggs were re-hidden by me in a little toy-basket only to be found weeks later by my parents due to the terrible smell that was filling my room.
Now that I am in Greece, I’ve learned it is not that common everywhere to dye the eggs in all the colors of the rainbow, rather, most eggs are dyed a beautiful deep red color. There are many myths surrounding the red eggs. The eggs themselves, of course, can be seen as a symbol of resurrection and new life, while the red dye is said to represent the blood of Christ. Traditionally, the eggs are dyed on Holy Thursday, but nowadays its commonly done on any day before Easter Sunday.
Some weeks before Easter you can see pre-dyed red eggs and packets of red dye appearing at the market and on shelves in the supermarkets. An alternative to using these chemical egg dyes, or rather the traditional way to do so, is to use natural products to dye your eggs. This process which I have used here is also common in many Eastern European countries. You’ll have to start collecting the dry outer skins of about 15 onions some time before Easter. When you are ready to dye your eggs, place the skins in a pot with 2 liters of water and add two tablespoons of vinegar. Bring everything to a boil and you will start noticing the water will quickly turn a deep dark red. Once the water looks properly colored, turn off the heat to let the mixture cool down a little.
You can now either place the uncooked eggs straight into the water and boil them until the shells start to color, or you can put in a little more effort into decorating the eggs with herbs. Placing nicely shaped herbs and/or edible flowers on the eggshell and wrapping them tightly in a clean pantyhose will create beautiful patterns on the outside of the egg after boiling. The eggs should be boiled a little longer than you usually would boil an egg (about 40 minutes, or more) and they should be allowed to cool after. To create a beautiful shine and amplify the red color, the eggs are often rubbed with some vegetable oil after they have dried and cooled down. Despite being so pretty, these are not the most delicious eggs I’ve ever had (I like my eggs soft-boiled), but they are very decorative and perfect to be used in an Easter Brunch egg salad!
In Greece, it’s common to play a game with the eggs in which the main goal is to crack all of your opponents’ eggs. Two players each take one of the red eggs, and one taps the end if their egg against the end of the other’s egg. The winner then uses his egg again to try to crack the other end of the other player’s egg. The game continues until there is only one winner left – the one who is holding the un-cracked egg – and it is said that this person will have good luck the rest of the year. When all the eggs are cracked it is of course time to eat the eggs, which are more or less the first animal product that’s eaten after fasting… What a treat!
Easter Eggs Dyed with Onion Skins
- 6 - 12 eggs
- Skins of about 15 onions
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- Pretty looking herbs such as dill and parsley (or flowers)
- Little vegetable oil
- Also needed: clean pantyhose, thread
- Place onion skins in a pot with 2 liters of water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Bring to a boil.
- When the water has turned a dark red color. Turn down off the heat and let it cool down a little.
- Meanwhile, clean the eggs and place herbs and/or flowers on the shells. You can use a little water to make the herbs stick. Wrap the eggs and the herbs tightly in small pieces of pantyhose and tie the ends with some thread.
- Place the eggs in the pot with the red water and onion skins and bring back to a boil. Cook the eggs for about 40 minutes to an hour, or until the shells have turned a deep red.
- Let the eggs cool and dry and rub on a little vegetable oil to make them shine.