Natural Easter Eggs Dyed with Onion Skins – Traditionally Armenian

I grew up in Los Angeles, the granddaughter of Armenian Genocide survivors.  My grandmother lived on the corner of our block and we were very close.  She often called me to come over to help her cook.  One of the things I remember the most is her beautiful Armenian Easter eggs.  Always this rich brown color, dyed naturally with onion skins.  Her traditional eggs were not imprinted with leaves or flower like mine are.  Instead she would make them a solid brown and then use a cloth and some cleanser to rub crosses on the surface.  I loved the care and attention she put into these eggs.  And on Easter morning, we would have an egg challenge.  We would all pick the egg that we thought had the strongest shell.  We would take turns tapping our eggs against each other’s.  The winning egg would be the egg left untracked.

When my grandmother passed away, I started carrying on her family traditions.  I’m the one in my family that makes her delicious stuffed grape leaves.  And I’m the one that dyes my eggs the traditional way, with onion skins.

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We start collecting onion skins when Lent begins.  In the Armenian Orthodox tradition, we take on a vegan diet during these forty days.   The recipe has simple ingredients:  Eggs, onion skins, and if you want to imprint designs on them, you will need some small leaves or flowers, and some nylon stockings (I buy a couple from the dollar store).

So let’s start:  Take your eggs and DO NOT boil them ahead of time.  Put the onion skins in a large soup pot.   You will need a good amount of onion skins.  The more skins you have the deeper the color.  You can mix red onion skins and brown onion skins for a deeper brown, but the traditional color is achieved with brown onion.

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If you want the traditional solid egg with crosses rubbed on them, place your raw eggs on the onion skins, and cover with water.  Bring to a boil.  Boil for about 15 minutes with a medium flame.  Turn the flame off, and then let the eggs sit for several hours.  The longer they sit, the deeper the color.  So keeping them in the onion mixture for a short time will give you a light orange color….progressing to a deeper orange, to brick red, to a deep brown.  Remove from the onion bath and allow to cool.  Then use a Q-tip dipped in a little cleanser to rub crosses on the surface.  Rinse, dry, and rub with a little bit of vegetable oil for a glossy egg.

If you’d like to imprint your eggs with designs, you’ll need some small leaves or flowers.  I generally use parsley or cilantro, but this year I forgot to buy them.  So I opened the fridge to see what I could find and decided to use strawberry tops for my design this year.

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Open the packs for nylon stockings and cut off the toe.  Then cut each leg into five or six 4” tubes.  (Does that make sense?)  Place the flower or leaf on the surface of the egg and stretch the nylon over the egg, securing the leaf to the surface.  Knot the excess in back of the egg.  Place the egg on the onion skins in the pot.  Continue wrapping your eggs until you’ve done them all.  I dyed 24 eggs with 2 pairs of nylons but I used all parts of the nylons.

Once you’ve got them all done, fill your pot with water to cover the eggs.

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At this point, I invert a small luncheon plate over the surface of the eggs just to keep them all submerged while I bring the eggs to a boil and while they steep.  As outlined above, boil them for about 15-20 minutes, turn off the flame and just allow them to sit there submerged until the desired color is achieved.  Once you like the color, drain the eggs and remove the nylon (discard).  You can then rub the surface with a little vegetable oil if you like a glossy egg, or leave them matte.

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Here is a photo of eggs I dyed last year using flat leaf and curly leaf parsley.  This also shows the result of rubbing oil on the eggs for a glossy finish.

Wishing you all a very blessed Easter!  Crisdos Haryav E Merelotz!  Ornyal eh Harootiunun Crisdosee!

Christ has Resurrected from the dead.  Blessed is the Resurrection of Christ.

Easter Eggs Dyed with Brown Onion Skins

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Soft Blue Eggs using Purple Cabbage as Dye

Although onion skins are the traditional Armenian easter egg dye, I do like discovering natural dyes of other colors.   I’ve achieved this pretty mottled soft blue using purple cabbage.  The way to wrap to get the leaf patterns is in my Onion Skin blog post.

It’s pretty simple but takes time.

Items Needed:

  • Eggs
  • 1 large head of purple cabbage
  • White vinegar

How to:  Chop up your cabbage and place it in a large pot.  The mottled arawppearance of the eggs is achieved because of crowding in the pot.  So if you want a more solid egg color, use a very large pot with less eggs.  I personally like the mottled look.

waterAdd your eggs into the pot and cover with water.

Turn flame to medium heat and bring your eggs to a boil.  You’re going to boil the eggs and cabbage for a long while…about a half an hour, so turn the flame to low.  Make sure all your eggs are submerged.

Once the flame is low, then add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar.  You’ll see the color change.  At this point, the color of the water will be so pretty, you’ll be all excited to see your eggs….and then you’ll put up an egg with a spoon and be super disappointed because the color will not have absorbed yet.  It’s okay.  It takes time.

water2In the photo on the left, you’ll see that the cabbage leaves have lost almost all their color, which has now gone into the water.  After simmering for about a half an hour, just turn off the heat and let it sit there.  You can cover your pot and just leave it.  Go about your day.  The water will cool…the eggs will be fine.  Give it several hours.  The longer you leave it, the deeper the blue.

I put my eggs on the stove at night.  By 11 p.m. I turned off the flame and left them overnight.  And I had blue eggs in the morning.

That’s all there is to it.  One thing to note:  because there’s vinegar in the dye and the eggs are submerged for a long time, this softens the surface a bit.  Once you pull your eggs out of the water, give them a rinse in cool water and then just let them air dry, either on paper towels or kind of suspended horizontally over your egg carton.  If you try to dry them, you’ll rub off some of the dye.  (live and learn).

Have fun…and Happy Easter.

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Armenian Easter Eggs – dying eggs naturally using onion skins

yellowMy daughter made a funny observation:  “All year long you buy brown eggs, and then at Easter, you buy white eggs and dye them brown.”  I never thought of it that way, but it’s true.  My family enjoys eating eggs, and once a year at Eastertime, I LOVE dying them naturally.

In my tradition, you save your onion skins throughout the period lent.  Our orthodox religion asks that we observe Lenten tradition by following a vegan diet.  The use of onions to flavor and complement meals is escalated, so by the end of the 40 day period, you have quite a few onion skins.  But if you would like to try this and don’t have a stockpile of skins, you can ask your local produce person if they will save the skins for you when they clean onions…or just go buy an onion and fill the rest of your bag with skins.

I used red and brown onion skins.  Although the result is still a warm brown color, the red skins produce a more coffee brown color, and the brown onions a deep brick red/brown.  Both are beautiful.

I’ve experimented with other natural dyes , but the beautiful and rich color of the onion skins is my favorite.   Unlike dying colorful eggs, you do not dye these eggs one by one but in a batch.  The eggs are prepped and then boiled in the skins….so once your prep work is done, but rest is just cooking and sitting time.

Here’s what you’ll need:  IMG_20170411_195317_260

Red or Brown onion skins (or both), enough to fill a soup pot loosely

Eggs (2-3 dozen…it’s up to you)

Leaves for imprints – I used parsley (flat and curly leaf), and mint.  Rose leave look really beautiful too.  I’ve also used small daisies.

Nylon stockings!  – I buy cheap nylons from the dollar store in my area.  If you have old clean stocking you want to cut up, that works too.  and of course, water and large soup pot or two.

The way my grandmother would dye the eggs is to just boil the eggs in the onion skins and beautiful solid reddish brown eggs would emerge.  She would then use a q-tip and some cleanser and rub off the dye in cross patterns over the surface of the egg.  I always remember my grandmother at this time of year because I would go help her dye the eggs.  She took a lot of pride in her beautiful creations as do I.  Through the years though, I’leafve started imprinting my eggs with leaf patterns, experimenting with different leaves and flowers, but I always make some of my grandma’s traditional eggs with cross patterns as well.

Let’s start:  Cut the nylon stockings into about 4″ tubes.  This can be done by cutting off the toe of the stocking and then just cutting up toward the waist.  Place a sprig of parsley or leaf of your choice on your egg and stretch the nylon over the leaf pressing it tight against the egg.  Pull it toward the back of the egg, stretch so it’s as tight as possible, and then knot the back.  Do this with all your eggs.  If you’d like to leave some just plain, then don’t wrap them.

redPlace the eggs in your soup pot with the onion skins.  You don’t want to stack your eggs on top of each other.  That will create a more mottled appearance when the dye doesn’t get into contact with the egg.  So allow room in your pot, but you can have them close to one another.  Add water to cover the eggs.  Boil over medium heat turning the flame down once it starts to boil.  wrapped

 

You want to make sure that the eggs are submerged in the water, so use a wooden spoon from time to time to gently push them under and to cover more onion skins over the top of them.  Boil your eggs for 15-20 minutes and then turn off the heat and allow them to sit in the water for about an hour.  You can check on the color and see how deep they’ve gotten before removing them.  If it’s the color of your choice, they’re read.  Note:  If you’re using brown onions, they can range from pale yellow (very little time in water) to orange to reddish brown.  Just make sure your eggs have cooked before removing your eggs from the water.

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This is how they look once the onion skins have released their color.  In this picture on the left, the egg is a light orangey tan color.

Traditionally, we go for the darker version of color, so let my eggs soak for about an hour.  Once done, gently take your eggs out of the water and pull off the nylon and leaf and gently rinse with cool water.  Place on a paper towel to dry.  One dry, I use a little coconut oil (or you can use olive oil) on a paper towel and just polish them to give a little shine.

They’re now readybrown to enjoy!  The eggs on the left were dyed using the red onion skins, flat leaf parsley and mint leaves.

The eggs below were died with brown onion skins using flat and curly leave parsley.

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Have fun with it!  Please let me know if you try this recipe and how it turned out for you.  : )

Happy Easter everyone!  Kristos Haryav ee Merelotz!  Ortnyal eh Harootiunuh Kristosi!