This favorite family project uses ingredients you probably already have.
Easter has always been a special holiday for my family. No matter what else was going on, we would all spend the time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday together. Omi (grandma in German) and Mom would work their green thumbs in the garden, side by side, planting and tending spring flowers, herbs and vegetables.
Dad and I, meanwhile, had our own Easter tradition: dying eggs. Instead of using bright artificial colors, we made Easter eggs the way Dad had when he was a child, with nothing more than onion skins.
Wrapping the skins around the eggs was always fun, but the real excitement came when it was time to unwrap them. Each was a hidden treasure, a mystery. Sometimes the most unassuming onion skin makes for the most dazzling marbled pattern.
As a kid, I remember grousing about how our earthy eggs were not as colorful as the ones my friends made, but secretly I always loved that they were different—and uniquely our own.
One year, shortly after I finished school and returned to the area where I grew up, my beloved Omi got very sick. Her illness progressed quickly. Since it was almost Easter, we made sure we’d be together.
Good Friday dawned wet and rainy. But when she passed away later that morning, the skies cleared and the sun shone brightly. And even though her mind was cloudy toward the end of her illness, I'm certain that my Omi knew the significance of returning to God on that day.
This year my son and daughter will carry on this favorite family tradition. My mother, their Omi, will hide a few onion-skin eggs out in the garden for them to find. I hope they continue to love them as much as I always have.
Read on for the recipe!
One dozen white eggs
At least a dozen good-size onion skins, from yellow and/or red onions
One dozen squares of aluminum foil, just large enough to wrap all the way around an egg
A pot of water
Two or three tablespoons of vinegar
A soft cloth or paper towel
A drop of olive or other kitchen oil
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the vinegar.
2. Poke a small hole at either end of an egg (to avoid bursting).
3. Carefully wrap an onion skin around the egg; you'll notice that the contours follow the natural shape of the egg. Try to cover as much of the egg as possible; if one piece of onion skin isn't large enough, supplement with smaller, loose pieces.
4. Cover the entire egg plus onion skin in a piece of aluminum foil.
5. Repeat for all eggs, and gently drop them into the pot of water.
6. Boil for about seven minutes.
7. With a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the eggs from the water and let them rest in a colander for a few minutes.
8. When the eggs have cooled down, rinse them with cool water.
9. Gather round for the big unveiling: Remove the aluminum foil and onion peels. You'll be amazed at the subtle patterns and color variations the peels have made. If you've kept the cardboard egg carton, put the eggs back in there to cool and dry completely.
10. To really show off your creations, gently buff the surface of the eggs with a drop of oil on a soft cloth until they gleam. Omi used to fastidiously shine our eggs with Speck, or bacon grease. Since I'm a long-time vegetarian, I choose to use olive oil instead, but really any cooking fat will do.