Today I will show you how to make traditional Lithuanian Easter eggs, or “margu?iai” (mar-gu-chei).
But shhhh! Don’t tell the Ukrainians. They think they have some kind of monopoly on this thing.
You probably already have at your disposal all the implements needed to make margu?iai, except beeswax. Beeswax is the key ingredient, so you won’t want to skip it. I’ve heard of people using paraffin as a wax substitute, but those people were never seen or heard from again.
I ordered my beeswax from the mighty Internet, but you can also find it at natural food stores, craft stores like Michael’s and Jo-Ann Fabrics, or your local beekeeper.
You never know when you’ll need a pound of beeswax. But for decorating eggs, just a few ounces will do.
Okay! Let us take a few deep, cleansing breaths to find our center.
We are ready to begin.
First, boil some eggs and let them cool.
Next, cut a potato in half and place it on a plate, cut-side down.
Now take a large metal spoon you can do without and bend it at a ninety-degree angle.
(If you are not familiar with ninja mind control, I bet you could also just use your hands.)
Stick the handle of the spoon in the top of the potato, put a few pieces of wax on the spoon, and light a small candle directly underneath it, close enough to the spoon to melt the wax.* Like so:
Next, grab a pencil and stick a sewing pin with a smallish head into the eraser end.
When the wax is completely melted and piping hot (may be smoking just a little bit), you are ready to begin decorating.
Dip the pin head into the hot wax and hold it there for a few seconds. Then take it out and brush it on your hard boiled egg with surgeon-like precision, using careful, measured strokes. You’ll need to re-dip the pin head in the wax for each stroke you want to make on the egg. The hot wax always goes on in a teardrop shape, which lends itself nicely to flower, sun, and vine patterns.
The key is to transfer the hot wax onto the egg quickly, before it cools and hardens on the pin head. And once the wax is on the egg, THERE IS NO GOING BACK.
Why? Because the parts of the egg that are covered in wax will not take color, so even if you try to hide your faux-pas by scratching it off, when the egg is dyed, the mistake will become visible for all the world to see. You’ll probably be run out of town and on your tombstone will be written, “She screwed up a Lithuanian Easter egg and tried to cover it up.”
When you feel you have applied a sufficient amount of wax patterns on your egg, dip it in food coloring mixed with hot water and a few tablespoons of vinegar. If you want to go Old Country on your eggs, you can boil all manner of plants and flowers – like red onion peels or beets – to create distinct and vibrant colors. I use Lawry’s food coloring drops.
When you take the egg out of the dye, it should look something like this:
Not too shabby, right?
But, wait! The fun doesn’t end there. You can make multi-colored margu?iai using one simple trick I’m about to show you out of the kindness of my heart.
Wait for your beautiful colored egg to dry.
Take it back to your workstation.
Put some more wax on it. Keep your hand steady and make it nice, for Pete’s sake.
Now, dip the egg in another color dye. The wax patterns you put on during the second go-round will take on the color you dipped the egg into the first time.
Dare I say the end result is magical?
(If you’ve made these before, please add your tips and tricks in the comment section below!)
* You can also use a fondue pot or similar device, which is a better for regulating the temperature of the wax.
Special thanks to R?ta Degutis of the Lithuanian-American Citizens Club of Cleveland, who hosted the workshop where I did my decorating this year. Because if there’s anything I like better than decorating margu?iai, it’s decorating margu?iai while sipping Lithuanian beer. If you live in the Cleveland area, stop by the Gintaras (Amber) Dining Room on Fridays from 5-8 or Sundays from 11-2 for traditional Lithuanian fare.Subscribe to the blog. (It's free!)