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Traditional Armenian Easter Eggs Dyed with Onion Skins
Beautiful natural brick-reddish brown eggs
Growing up as an Armenian Orthodox Christian, the preparation for Holy Easter was (and still is) always marked by the period of Lent. Lent for us means abstaining from all foods that come from animals,including dairy, cheese, eggs -- a complete vegan diet. We use a lot of onions in our cooking, and so I go about saving all my onion skins - the papery outer skins of yellow onions - for this forty day period.
But if you don't cook with a lot of onions, then just ask your produce guy at the market to save you the onion skins when they clean the onions. OR you can just go to the market and clean out the onion bin yourself. This will get you a lot of strange looks, but you can usually gather a whole bag of skins, and they won't charge you for it. If you feel odd, just throw in one onion, and fill the rest of the bag with the papery skins.
I'll be writing predominantly about the Traditional Armenian Easter egg shown in the photo as the reddish brown egg. The other two colors are done with Turmeric powder (for the yellow egg), and Blueberries (for the gray eggs)
- You'll need a large pot (a soup pot is good). You'll be boiling the eggs in the pan with the skins, so you don't want to crowd the eggs to get a nice even color.
- Onion skins from 10 large onions (or, a plastic produce bag full)
- Eggs - You can reuse the onion dye, so you can dye anywhere from 1 dozen to 8 dozen eggs
- Olive oil for polishing your eggs
OPTIONAL: If you'd like to make the leafy designs on your eggs, you'll need the following:
- Clean nylon stockings (I pair of panty hose will allow you to make 6-8 eggs)
- Parsley or Cilantro
If you'd like to make the Yellow and Gray Eggs pictured, you'll need additional pans, eggs, and the following:
- 4 cups frozen blueberries
- 4 tablespoons Turmeric powder
- white vinegar
Preparing your eggs and dye
- As early as the day before you want to dye your eggs, or two hours prior to dying, put your onion skins in the pot, add water enough to push the onion skins down into it. It's not an exact science. I would estimate about 8 cups of water. Heat the water and onion skins, pushing the skins down in. Bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes. You'll notice the water has turned a pretty reddish brown color. Remove from heat and let it cool.
- FOR SOLID EGGS (No leaf design) - Once the dye has cooled, carefully put your raw eggs into the dye bath. Add more water if you need to, enough to cover the eggs. You don't want the eggs to be too tightly placed in the pan. (that produces a more splotchy effect, which is beautiful as well, but not what we're going for). Bring to a gentle boil. Boil for about 20 minutes (gentle boil/simmer).
- Gently stir to keep the onion skins loose and free. Once the desired color is achieved, turn off the flame and remove the eggs and place on a cookie cooling rack (or back in the egg carton to cool). If you'd like a darker color, you can just allow the eggs to cool in the dye mixture.
- Adding the cross decoration and polishing: After the eggs have cooled, you can rub a cross design on them using a q-tip dipped in a little cleanser. The design pictured is the traditional design, but you can experiment with your own ideas. Once you've rubbed your design, rinse and dry your egg. Use a little olive oil on a paper towel to gently polish your eggs. Voila!! You're done! What? You want to know how to get the cool leaf design? Read on.
Prepping the eggs for the Leaf Motif
How to wrap your eggs
Use a pair of scissors to cut clean nylon stockings into 4" tubes. One leg will usually make 4 tubes.
Snip small sections of cilantro or parsley leaves. Place them on the RAW egg, and stretch a section of nylon over the egg holding the leaf in place. Pull the section to the back of the design, twist so it's nice and secure and knot it so the leaf is now held in place.
Place the wrapped eggs in the cool dye mixture, and boil as above. Remove from the dye bath when cooled (after cooking approximately 20 minutes) and allow to cool. Remove the nylon and leaf and rinse your eggs. Polish your eggs with a little olive oil on paper towel.
Using Turmeric and Blueberries
Experimenting with Turmeric and Blueberries
I'm no expert on these two dyes. I've always dyed eggs our traditional way, but this year, my daughter and I experimented with Turmeric and Blueberries. We thought the blueberries would give us a pretty bluish purple, but instead with got a beautiful cool gray color.
The ratio for the turmeric eggs (yellow) was 4 cups of water to 2 Tblsp of Turmeric powder. I added the turmeric to the water and brought the mixture to a boil. At first the turmeric doesn't mix in well, but as it heats it will. Stir the mixture. (wear and apron as the yellow is very intense) . Add 1-2 Tbsp white vinegar. When the mixture has cooled, then add your eggs (as above). I boiled the eggs right in this mixture and allowed them to sit in it til they cooled to get the desired yellow color. Remove from heat, cool, rinse, polish.
I used 1 package of frozen blueberries (about 4 cups) to 4 cups of water. I added 1-2 TBSP vinegar (I splashed and didn't measure). Make your dye by boiling this mixture. Add your raw, leaf/nylon wrapped eggs to the cooled dye mixture. Boil your eggs for 20+ minutes to achieve the desired color. The blueberry dyed eggs will darken a bit as they cool. Remove from the dye, drain, rinse, polish.
Onion Skin Dye and Blueberry Dyed Eggs
Here's some more on traditional Armenian cooking
So now you know a little about our traditional Armenian eggs. So with that I will teach you the Traditional Armenian Easter Greeting:
"Krisdos Haryav ee Merelohtz" - Christ has Resurrected from the Dead
Response: "Ohrtyal eh Harootyoon-un Kristosi!" - Blessed is the Resurrection of Christ!
Enjoy your eggs and have a blessed Easter!
- 3 - 4 dozen eggs
- a produce bag full onion skins, paper outer skin of yellow onions
- 4-5 pair clean nylon stockings, dollar store or used clean stockings are fine
- One bunch parsley or cilantro