Dying eggs for Easter is a tradition that has miraculously survived through the Soviet era and has successfully anchored itself in the present Russia. During the Soviet times fresh eggs were not that easy to get, so they mostly were used to decorate the festive table – I immediately associate hard-boiled eggs with winter New Year’s table (stuffed eggs), Okroshka soup in summer and Easter in spring of course. Lots of hard-boiled eggs for lots of breakfasts and dinners to come : ) So the two most popular things to make / buy for Easter in Russia are dyed eggs (try to get white eggs before Easter – impossible!) and sweet leavened cakes called kulich. People stand in long queues to get their Easter treats consecrated at the local churches and the cathedrals. The traffic gets crazy and everybody seem to be moving to or from the church clutching plastic bags loaded with kulich. Not sure if all these people are really involved with the religion that much but one thing is certain – they do pass these traditions on to their children.
In my church-going-free family the Easter tradition is, well, really family-related. We have our own traditional treats that are closely knit with this time of the year – just because my Mother kept making them throughout my childhood. I will tell you about a sweet treat my Mother used to bake which I particularly was looking forward each year in my next post. Here we’re talking about this egg tradition. Even my Granny born in the Stalinist 30s dyes eggs every year. Oh those Russians, a weird mixture they have in their heads, that of pagan beliefs, Orthodox religion, Soviet propaganda engraved in their brains and new consumer-commercial ideology embracing their lives.
Each one of this eggs has been dyed using a very natural technique – no artificial dyes required, no stickers or anything of a kind. I think you’ve already guessed what these patterns are made of (with). This technique is not just characteristic of Russia, it can be found in Eastern Europe as well. There’s also this tradition of sharing eggs with your friends and family (you end up actually exchanging eggs), so in the end you get like a dozen eggs of various design and color.
These are the tools and ingredients you will need for dying eggs with onion peels and spring plants:
- eggs – as much as you wish to have and give out, preferably white but any kind will do. Don’t forget to wash them.
- lots of yellow onion peels (I guess if you try red onion you will get violet eggs!) – the more you get, the more intense the color
- various spring flowers and leaves (please, be sensible and kind, do not ruin all fresh and young plants in the neighborhood, pick up just some – or use the flowers from your vase like we did) – the more detailed the leaves the more intricate a pattern you will get. Clean thoroughly.
- cloth from natural material (the best choice is gauze but any not very dense cotton will do just fine). Cut these into pieces larger than the eggs (just imagine you will have to wrap each egg entirely and cut the pieces accordingly)
- a thread from natural material
- a pot that can be… well, ruined a bit (the dye will get into the pot)
We usually pick our plants from the nearest yard being careful not to get too close to the places where the local dogs abide (but you never know). This process is also a sign of spring and Easter – when you walk around and see people stooping over these tiny shoots which have just appeared above the ground. By the way, onions are also very popular this time of the year! And my sister even got a bag full of peels from a local fruit & vegetable shop.
Looks like a workshop – we were three to dye eggs this year, although I resisted at first… You see, when you boil the eggs they get really hard. Imagine forgetting your eggs for 20 minutes? That’s what you’ll get! Lots of hard-boiled eggs with beautiful pattern.
These large flowers did not adhere to the egg shell really tight so they resulted in a somewhat bluish though distinctly flower pattern. The best plants were these tiny yellow flowers seen in the background (we call them Duck’s Legs) and the sophisticated leaves.
The process – wash the eggs, leave them to half-dry and then decorate them one by one by picking your favorite flowers and leaves (also half-dried) and pressing against the egg shell. Be careful not to break the eggs but at the same time secure the plants so that they leave a more distinct pattern. Don’t overdo the decoration, leave space for just plain brownish color.
Wrap each egg into pieces of cloth and then tie each ‘baby’ (don’t they look like babies? especially when your Mother tells you those cloth pieces used to be your baby clothes recently discovered at your Granny’s Ali-Baba-cave-like place) with the thread quite tightly. You don’t have to actually make a knot in the end, just interlace the end of the thread with the rest. Your aim is to make sure these plants will stay close to the egg while boiling. Keep your egg ‘parcels’ ready for the next stage:
Once all the eggs are ready (although you might have to boil them in batches, depending on your ‘appetite’), start heating water in an old pot with all the onion peels inside. DON’T FORGET SALT. It will prevent the eggs from bursting out when they get into warm-to-hot water. Place the eggs in the pot and boil for 20 minutes (counting after the water starts boiling). Then leave the pot to cool down a bit, take the egg parcels out carefully and place them on a plate to cool down. When they are ok to be handled unwrap them CAREFULLY, wipe off the rests of the plants with the cloth wrapper (discard the cloth, the thread and the plants obviously) and marvel at the pattern! You can reuse the water with the onion peels for the next batch – you might get an even denser result.
This is what happens to an unlucky egg when it’s unlucky owner tries to beat a luckier friend, owner of an egg with a harder egg shell =) I know that Greeks have this tradition too, they dye the eggs red and then ‘compete’ with each other to find out whose egg is the hardest.
For a glossy ‘look’ rub some sunflower oil on the egg shell:
Blogging keeps me from thinking this joke of life is a bit too much, really. Somebody’s having a really bad taste in jokes, not funny : ( I’m talking about being (or rather – getting) unemployed for the …th time in my life. Also about being torn out of the already MY job and a habitual way of life… Well, let’s face this challenge!