They can be quail’s eggs, hen’s eggs, goose eggs even ostrich eggs, but to become Easter Eggs they are decorated. Boiled or soaked in a vegetable, fruit or packaged color mix, hand painted, scratched, waxed, outlined with lemon juice or even pierced into a design with a tooth drill and then painted. Whatever method is chosen to decorate eggs there will be few on a German Easter breakfast table, or lying somewhere waiting to be found, which have not been beautified in one way or another.
In Germany egg painting is a hobby for many, and the absolute experts are the Sorbs, a Slavic minority living on the eastern side of the country, along the border with Poland and the Czech Republic, who not only color and paint their eggs they cover them with fine embroidery.
But it is a German Easter tradition even for those of us whose talent would not reach that far, and there are many ways to ensure we have some beautifully decorated colored eggs hanging from branches in our homes or gardens, making Easter wreaths or simply gracing our tables.
First of all some tips before you start your Easter egg decorating
Use the shells from free range eggs. Not only will the life of the chicken be ‘happier’, the shells are thicker so it is easier to blow them out if you are intending to keep them, hard boiled eggs do not ‘last forever’, and the colors and decorations will ‘take’ better.
White eggs are best because the end color results are more authentic.
And last but not least, rub the shells of the eggs with vinegar before coloring. This takes away any grease, smooths the chalk layer so the color remains longer and looks much fresher.
If you choose to blow out the eggs this is how to go about it.
You will need:
A sharp needle or a pin
A bowl to catch the eggs contents
Poke a small hole in the narrow end of the egg with the needle and a slightly larger hole at the other end, making sure you tear through the membrane, the lining inside the egg.
Hold the egg over the bowl and blow through the small hole. The contents of the egg will be forced through the larger hole and into the bowl.
This raw egg can be kept for a day or two, covered with plastic wrap, and used for Easter baking.
There are all types of special egg painting kits to be found, but it is great fun to use natural food coloring to dye Easter eggs, from things which can be found in the kitchen, just as they used to be colored not so many years ago.
Here are a few decorated eggs ideas:
Colors and Recipes from the Kitchen and Garden
Beet - Red Violet
Red Cabbage - Red Violet
Apple tree bark - Reddish
Elderberry Juice - Dark Gray blue
Blue Berry Juice - Gray Blue
Grape Juice - Light Purple
Logwood - Purple
Dandelion leaves - Yellow green
Elder tree leaves - Yellow green to brown
Turmeric - Yellow
Lemon Peel - Light Yellow
Carrots - Orange yellow
Coffee, Tea and Onion Skins - Brown
Ivy Leaves - Green
Spinach - Green
Parsley - Green
Walnuts - Black to dark grey
As soon as Easter is on its way all over Germany white eggs dyed, and over dyed. For example colored first in water with turmeric and then over-dyed with a red cabbage mixture. This makes the egg a vibrant green which more often than not turns some of the white of the egg almost as green as the gleaming shell.
It is fun to experiment with different combinations, although as the eggs can take on a little of the taste of whatever natural dye was used they will not be harmful but not all will be ‘delicious’ either. Tree bark flavored egg?
The Dye Color Mix for 8 cups, 2 quarts, water, with steeping time if necessary and cooking times
Fresh Plants and Vegetables - 1lb - no steeping time - 30 – 40 mins
Leaves, Flowers, Berries - 1 to 4 oz - some hours steep - 30 - 60 mins
Roots, Tree Bark, Wood shavings, Nuts - 1 to 4 oz - 1 – 2 days steep - 1 – 2 hours
Powder - 3 to 4 tsp - 30 mins steep - 30 mins
Tea, Coffee - 1 to 2 oz - no steeping time - 20 – 30 mins
First large vegetables such as beets or carrots must be chopped, and tree bark or any dried berries soaked, before use.
Fresh produce can immediately be used to make the color bath. Filter this before using to dye the eggs.
Putting vinegar in the colored water lightens the color but weakens the shell, so the egg has to air dry to harden before handling.
1/2 tsp alum added to the water makes the colors brighter.
If using hard boiled eggs, which have already been rubbed with vinegar, soak covered in the cooled colored water, occasionally removing them with a spoon to check the color intensity. When they have reached the shade you want put them onto a kitchen towel or paper to dry. The longer they soak the deeper the color.
Eggs that have been blown out should be placed under running cold water as soon as they are removed from the color bath.
There are many techniques which will add an extra dimension to your colored eggs, but simply rubbed with a few drops of cooking oil adds not only shine to naturally colored Easter eggs but they also become brighter and they are ready to use, and of course not only for Easter.
They can be can be hung with ribbons from trees in the garden, in the home from an Osterstrauch, a branch or small tree with spring blossoms or buds, added to an Easter wreath, as a decoration on your Easter bread, or hidden in the garden ‘by the Easter Bunny’, and wherever you are it could almost be An Easter in Germany.