Sunday, April 18, 2021

How to Make Red Greek Easter Eggs for Tsougrisma

Tsougrisma is a traditional game played by Greeks on Orthodox Easter. The game is played by cracking red dyed eggs together. The eggs symbolize new life and the color red symbolizes Christ’s blood shed for us. Each person chooses an egg and holds it upright while another person lightly taps their egg against it. The person whose egg cracks then turns it around and uses the other end. When both ends are cracked, the player is out. We take turns going around the table, cracking the eggs with each other. The person with at least one end intact at the end wins and is said to have good luck throughout the year.

When I was young, I remember my mom teasing that she was going to sneak this red alabaster egg, a decoration in our dining room, into the game. And one year, when we were little kids, my sister won this game when we celebrated Easter at my Aunt Vasiliki's. I swear I remember her keeping the winning egg and saving it in her closet at home until her room began to stink and my mom found it there. She insists that never happened, but will admit to saving some chicken bones wrapped in paper towels for her stuffed dog, Blooper. I guess we’ll never know for sure (I’m right), but the point is that I have some fond memories from celebrating Greek Easter with my family. And I hope my own kids will look back one day and recall some fun memories from celebrating this little part of our heritage as well.

Traditionally, the eggs are dyed on Holy Thursday in preparation for Easter. Here's how to color the eggs used in this game and in tsoureki, a sweet bread that has a whole red egg baked into it. I color my eggs with yellow onion skins. You can use any commercial dye (Greek markets sell a red dye at Easter time) but I don't like using store-bought dyes because I feel they don't yield as deep and vibrant a color as the onion peels, plus they tend to bleed and stain your hands red while playing the game.

1.  Get 12 - 18 eggs. Make sure you have enough for every person plus a couple extras in case they crack while boiling. Let the eggs sit out until they're room temperature.

2.  Peel about 12 yellow onions. You might think that red onions, not yellow, would create a red dye, but I promise you, as unlikely as it seems, that yellow onions will dye your eggs a deep red. (Then look up recipes that use a lot of onion! Or you can dice and freeze all those peeled onions in ziplock bags to use at a later date.)

3.  Put the onion skins in a large pot along with 3 tablespoons of white vinegar and 8 cups of water.

4.  Boil the onion skins for 30 minutes, occasionally stirring to ensure the peels are fully submerged. Turn off the heat and let it sit for another 30 minutes to cool.

5.  Pour the cooled liquid through a colander and into another large pot. Discard the onion peels.

6.  Return the red liquid to the stove. Add your eggs and bring them to a boil. Let the eggs boil in the red liquid for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the eggs soak up the dye for another 15 - 30 minutes, checking them occasionally until they reach the color you'd like.

7.  Remove the eggs from the liquid, dry them, and then rub them with a little olive oil.

8.  Now, have fun! Christos Anesti!


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