Exchanging eggs at Easter is a world-wide custom dating back to preChristian times, which became fashionable in Imperialist Russia when Tzar Alexander III presented his wife with an expensive jewelled egg, designed and made by the court jeweller, Karl Faberge. On a more humble level, ordinary Russians, partic-ularly Ukrainians, adopted the fashion and, over the years, attained a high standard of artistic skill in decorating and dyeing ordinary egg shells.
To make Yaitsa Kraschenic (yayt-sah krah-shey-neh), natural vegetable dye or food colouring should be used. Place only white-shelled eggs in a saucepan containing the chosen dye (see the colour guide which follows for further information on this) and bring the liquid to the boil. Simmer the eggs over low heat for A medley of coloured eggs, Yaitsa Kraichenie are traditionally served in Russia during the Easter festivities. minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs from the pan. Pat the eggs dry with kitchen paper towels and set aside to cool. If they are to remain a plain colour, rub the eggs with vegetable oil. If they are to be further hand painted, rub them with vegetable oil when decoration is complete.
COLOUR GUIDE FOR NATURAL VEGETABLE DYES
The outer skins of onions boiled in water deep yellow
Raw beetroots boiled in water red, pink
Birch leaves boiled in water green
Moss-down boiled in water, .light green
Alternatively, a few drops of edible food colouring can be added to the water.
DECORATING THE EGGS
Onion skins wrapped around the eggs and tied on with cotton thread develops a marbled effect when the skins are removed.
Eggs wrapped in silk material and tied with cotton take on a ‘tie-dye’ effect when the material is removed.
Thin strips of masking tape stuck on to the eggs in varying geometric and flower patterns, before boiling, will reveal patterns in white when the tape is removed.
Flower petals stuck to damp, uncooked eggs and then covered with onion or shallot skins, tied with cotton thread, produce yellow flower-patterned eggs.
Dental floss or cotton thread rubbed in beeswax and wound around the eggs, then removed when the egg is cold, produces a myriad of lined patterns. Alternatively, unwaxed cotton thread wound around the eggs produces a myriad of deeper coloured patterned lines.
Eggs which are simply simmered gently in an edible food colour may be hand-painted with other edible food colours to any design imaginable.
The eggs should be eaten within 48 hours of decoration.