Sophia, along with many others of her generation around Transylvania ,is starting now to save the eggs her chickens are laying so that she will have enough eggs to decorate in the old way, the way they used before there were supermarkets and dyes with a lot of fancy colors…
I went to visit her last year so that I could learn her secrets. How, I wondered, did she make these beautiful, dark-red eggs with lovely yellow shapes of different flowers and leaves? I found them so ravishing, so intoxicatingly beautiful that I had to know how they were made.
So I saved my onion skins for a whole year. Yes, for a whole year I put all the dry skins aside and in bags after they were fully dry. Onion skins made a beautiful, natural dye. and I had heard that this was the main ingredient used for these eggs. Skins from yellow onions and red ones as well. Sophia was very happy to see my bags full of onion skins! She took them all and put them into a pot which, to me looked to be already almsot full of skins that were already boiling in water. This made the water very thick with skins indeed. This she kept boiling for quite a time while she began the next step of decorating her eggs.
She sat on her couch / bed (made during the time when Ceaucescu was still in power, the same kind that everybody in the countryside still has and uses!) and began to work with the eggs. She had already been out in her courtyard or orchard collecting quite a number of little plants that would serve as decoration: anything small and flat with lovely contours. She also had some old pieces of panty hose.
She took an egg in her hand and carefully picked out a plant from the stack on her apron. Using a bit of saliva as glue (she just spit on the egg and rubbed it around), she would then "paste" the plant (clover was a favorite, along with the new mille feuille leaves) carefully onto the egg. (Add a bit more saliva on top and around edges as needed.) Next she would put this into the panty hose, to the bottom, being very careful that the little plants were not rubbed off. She tied the top of each panty hose casing off with a string. This she did many more times, twisting well and tying off in between eggs.
These artful "egg sacks" she then placed in that same pot of boiling onion skins. I think she cooked them for around 10 minutes, making sure that the eggs were always covered. One panty hose sack at a time, as the pot was already so full with onion skins!
Sophia's eggs were some of the darkest, richest red eggs I saw that year in the village. Others, it seems, do not use so many skins, perhaps use more water and maybe they even cook all the eggs at once which would cut down on the time it takes to make these Easter treasures. The other eggs were also beautiful with a more orange sheen to them. Which brings me to the last, crucial step in this lovely ritual: you need some pig fat to rub onto the eggs once they are dyed and dried. In the modern world where not everybody has their own pot of pig fat to see them.