This is, oddly, already our third Easter in Austria, although we haven’t yet been here two years (thanks to the weirdness of the calendar magic that determines the date of Easter). The first year, our Easter celebration was a little improvised and strange, and didn’t involve dyeing eggs at all because we were living in a tiny temporary apartment with no kitchen table and I would have lost my mind if I’d even attempted it. Last year, we had a really nice Easter, and we even colored eggs, but for that we used the dye I had bought in the US before our departure and had intended to use that first Easter but didn’t (which was also down to all of our things being literally on the ocean when Easter passed by — egg dye included).
As a result, this, our third Easter in Austria, was the first one for which I had to figure out how to dye eggs without familiar supplies from home. My initial hope was that there would be a lovely display of Paas dye kits at the grocery store checkout, but no. Easter eggs are a big thing here — the Easter markets sell hundreds (if not thousands) of hollowed out, intricately hand-painted eggs. The grocery stores sell pre-dyed packages of 10 hard-boiled eggs (because eggs here come in tens, rather than dozens). But I hadn’t seen any way to dye them at home. (And food coloring is NOT a thing here, so that wasn’t an option.) When we were in Salzburg last weekend, I saw some relatively familiar-looking boxes of egg-dyeing supplies, but not wanting to carry it all the way home, I opted out . . . only to come up empty everywhere I looked in Vienna.
Thursday morning of this past week, I still hadn’t come up with a plan and I was running out of time. B had painted eggs in school, so that was my fallback strategy, but I imagined that was going to be more frustrating than fun, in general. So Thursday afternoon, I gave up, went to a grocery store and literally started digging through an Easter display, somewhat alarming the grocery restocking guy. But I found what I was looking for! A flat, thin package of 6 envelopes of “egg ink”. The instructions were, of course, entirely in German, but I went for it, anyway. Not knowing how much “ink” I was getting per envelope, I got two packs, and had Dan pick up 20 eggs on Friday.
Of course, this being Austria (where the organic eggs come stamped with their farm of origin, which is fantastically cool) all of my eggs were brown, and I didn’t know how that would impact our plans. I sat down with Google Translate and came up with a rough idea of the directions, including a helpful guide as to which of the dye packets would work on brown eggs.
My next job was to boil the eggs. Which seems simple, but I couldn’t remember if the eggs needed to be prepared any special way, so I asked the Internet, and came up with a fantastic new method for hard-boiling eggs. 17 eggs (which is how many would fit in the two pots I used) and not a single crack! (I had no idea if they were actually successfully hard-boiled, but they were, at least, more cooked than when I started.) In fact, when I went to douse the eggs with cold water at the end, to stop the cooking process, I was surprised, after covering them completely in a cold water bath, to come back moments later to a pot of hot water! The eggs held so much heat that they reheated the water on their own — it took 3 cold water baths to keep them cold.
Then I set up the dye — warm water and white vinegar, plus the dye packet, which really did look like ink spreading through the liquid.
After all of that, we sat down to color our eggs. I had no idea how it would go — whether I’d bought the right thing, whether I’d translated the directions correctly, whether the brown eggs would work, whether the eggs were sufficiently cooked. But, we gave it a whirl, and it was great. The dye was strong and made rich, deep colors on the eggs, very quickly — and no problem that they were brown eggs. Within a minute or two, the eggs were already darker than I’m used to after a LONG time soaking in the dye from home (my family can attest to my propensity for leaving eggs in dye for far too long). So, the only downside to the whole process is that it just didn’t take very long, which made it hard to keep up with the kids’ enthusiasm. (And I think, had we spilled any dye, it would have been a major, and maybe a permanent, mess.) Other than Liam dropping his first egg, pre-dye (which did at least let me know that the eggs had been cooked all the way through), and him squishing one post-dye, we had a very successful time. Our eggs turned out beautifully, and no one even had to be patient, since each eggs was finished before we could get the next one in.
The boys had fun, and it feels very Eastery here now. Our first truly Austrian egg-dyeing experiment was definitely a success, but, as always, also an adventure.