For the 12 years that we’ve been married, my husband always talked about the decorative onion skin eggs that his grandmother used to make for Easter. An old tradition, they involved wrapping eggs in red onion skins and boiling them to transfer the color. They always sounded pretty complicated and I was used to just dropping a color tablet into a cup, scooping out a brightly colored egg and calling it a day therefore never tried them. However, this year he asked me if I’d consider making the beautiful marbled eggs that he remembered so fondly from his childhood. As he amusedly recalled a childhood memory of his grandmother stuffing the loose remnants of grocery store bin onion skins into her shopping bag (and myself loving a good grandma tradition) I felt happy to give it a shot! Going by his recollections of making them and several texts to my sister-in-law who has continued the yearly tradition, I pieced together the simple ingredients-
Onion Skin Easter Eggs
• 1 dozen eggs
• Kitchen twine
• Red Onions
• White Vinegar
• Olive Oil
My daughter and I foraged our backyard for some herbs and flowers to add our own little design flair to the eggs. We wound up with sage leaves, parsley, peach and plum blossoms, and strawberry leaves. This step is optional though. The eggs will still be beautiful using just onion skins!
Next up was wrapping the eggs in onion skins. I quickly realized during this step that we should have planned ahead and saved the dry onion skins over time rather than peeling them all off of six onions, but live and learn! The remaining onions went into the freezer for future use. To imprint a design onto the egg, I chose a flower or herb from the ones we gathered, and gently pressed it onto the eggshell before covering it with a piece of dry onion skin.
One at a time the eggs were then wrapped with onion skins, followed by a square of cheesecloth which was gathered at one end and tied tightly with kitchen twine (but not so tight as to crack the shell!) to hold the onion skins onto the eggs. My 11 and 6-year-old children quickly assigned themselves the jobs of tying the twine and cutting the cheesecloth into squares! When we were finished, we had 12 little egg bundles placed in a large pot!
I covered the eggs with an inch or two of cold water, added a splash of vinegar and brought the water to a boil over medium-high heat. At that point I turned them off and let them sit and think about themselves for a good 15-20 minutes, just like making regular hardboiled eggs. I used tongs to carefully remove them and ran them under cold water for a bit.
When they were cool enough to handle, my children and I cut the cheesecloth off with scissors and were thrilled with the results! The eggs were a gorgeous reddish brown with a subtle marbling effect. The herbs and flowers we had pressed onto the eggs made unique designs. We found that the parsley worked the best and was the most apparent, along with the peach blossoms. We rubbed olive oil onto the eggs while still warm to bring out the color and give them a gorgeous shine. All 3 of my children were fascinated by the project, and while it was more time consuming and labor-intensive, there was something very special about the process. Dying eggs naturally with onion skins is definitely something we will continue as part of our family tradition! Try it if you are so inclined, and have a wonderful Spring!