Red eggs (in Greek: kokkina avga, κόκκινα αυγά, pronounced KOH-kee-nah ahv-GHAH) are perhaps the brightest symbol of Greek Easter, representing the blood of Christ (the red color) and rebirth (the egg). The process of dyeing the eggs is part of many families' Easter holiday tradition. Then they are baked into traditional Easter bread (tsoureki), used as decoration and are part of a customary game (tsourgrisma).
Eggs are also dyed other colors, but rarely will a Greek Easter be celebrated without lots of red eggs. Commercial dyes are available, but this old-fashioned natural method creates red eggs with a deep, rich color. It may sound counterintuitive, but the skins of yellow onions work wonderfully.
This recipe will make one dozen red eggs and will take almost three hours, including two hours for the eggs to cool.
Ingredients and Equipment
- 12 uncooked eggs, at room temperature
- Skins from 15 yellow (Spanish) onions
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 4 1/2 cups of water
- Slotted spoon
- Paper towels
- Cooling racks
- Olive oil (or other edible oil) for polishing
Instructions for Making Red Eggs
- Carefully remove any material clinging to the surface of the eggs.
- Make the dye with the onion skins: In a stainless saucepan, place onion skins and white vinegar in 4 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
- Strain dye into a glass bowl, and let cool to room temperature. (Don't be fooled by the orange color.)
- In a stainless saucepan (around 8 1/4 inches in diameter), add the cooled strained dye and the eggs. The eggs should be in one layer and covered by the dye.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat. When boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer.
- Dyeing time will be affected by the original color of the eggs. Start checking for color at 12 to 15 minutes. Do not simmer longer than 20 minutes (see step 7 if they aren't red enough). When eggs are the right color, proceed to step 8.
- If eggs are not a red enough color after 20 minutes, leave in the pot and remove from heat. When the pot has cooled enough, place in refrigerator and let sit until your desired color is reached.
- Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and cool on racks.
- When the eggs are cool enough to be handled, coat lightly with olive oil and polish with paper toweling. Refrigerate until time to use.
- Save onion skins in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Do not use any porous (wood, ceramic, plastic, etc.) materials as they can be colored by the dye.
- If stainless cookware and utensils get colored by the dye, wash with regular detergent and a small amount of chlorine. Rinse very well.
Tsougrisma: The Red Egg Easter Game
Red eggs are the key piece to a fun game called tsougrisma, which tests the eggs' strength—and perhaps the players' strategy. The word tsougrisma means "clinking together" or "clashing." In Greek, it is τσούγκρισμα, and is pronounced TSOO-grees-mah.
The game requires two players and two red eggs; the goal is to crack the opponent's egg without cracking your own.
- How to Play: To play, each player holds a red egg, and one taps the end of her or his egg lightly against the end of the other player's egg. When one egg's end is cracked, the person with the clean egg uses the same end of the egg to try to crack the other end of the opponent's egg.
- How to Win: The player who successfully cracks both ends of their opponent's egg is declared the winner and, it is said, will have good luck during the year.
There are no rules about which end of the egg to tap first, how to hold it or how to tap the egg against the other, and there's never been a method that has been proven to work every time.