Dye Red Eggs Using Onion Skins
Orthodox Christians make beautiful deep red eggs for Pascha. It’s an ancient tradition, perhaps going back to the time of the apostles. The eggs, along with meat and cheese and wine, are brought to church in baskets. The baskets are blessed at the end of the Paschal services. During the festivities that follow, many people play the game that Catherine plays in the book: hitting eggs together to see which one breaks. Some say that the shattering of the egg represents the shattering of the gates of Hades. Others say that if your egg remains unbroken, you’ll have good luck for the year. It’s easy to make traditional red eggs using onion skins and vinegar. The natural ingredients are safe, and they make eggs that are a beautiful deep rich red.
First, gather the ingredients you need to make red eggs
12 – 18 brown eggs
A gallon of dark brown papery skin from yellow onions*
Olive oil for polishing
* You can save onion skins all year. Keep them in a zip-top plastic bag in the cabinet or freezer. A gallon bag full of onion skins makes plenty of dye for a batch of eggs. If you didn’t save the skins, just ask the folks at the produce department at your local grocery if they’ll give you a bag of onion skins.
Next, make the onion-skin dye
It’s traditional to dye Pascha eggs on Holy Thursday. You’ll want to start early in the morning.
- Put your onion skins in a large stainless steel kettle or stock pot. (If your pot is made out of a porous material, the dye will stain it.)
- Fill the pot with water. Push the onion skins down into the water so that they’re wet and not floating on top of the water.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cover the pot.
- Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove the kettle from the heat and let it stand until it reaches room temperature.
- While the dye is cooling, take your eggs out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature.
- Pour the dye through a mesh strainer into a large bowl or another kettle. Discard the onion skins.
Finally, dye the eggs
- Place your clean, uncracked, raw, room-temperature eggs in a single layer in the kettle.
- Pour the room-temperature dye over the eggs. Make sure the eggs are covered with at least two inches of the dye solution.
- Add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water.
- Gently bring the eggs to a boil. Let the eggs boil for one minute, then put a lid on the pan and take the pan off the heat. Let the eggs sit, with the pan covered, until they’re cool. The eggs will cook completely as they sit.
- Check the color of the eggs. If it’s not deep enough red to suit you, put the pan with the dye and eggs in the refrigerator overnight.
- Take the eggs out of the dye and let them dry on a rack.
- When they are completely dry, polish the red eggs with a soft cloth and a little bit of olive oil.
Pascha eggs: Why do we have red eggs at Pascha? When did the custom start? What does Mary Magdalene have to do with it?
Embroidered Pascha basket covers: Learn a little bit of the history of making embroidered Pascha basket covers and download a pattern to make your own.
How Easter got its name: It wasn’t named for a pagan goddess. Learn the true story of how Easter got its name.