It’s hard to imagine Easter without eggs. They are pagan symbols of earth’s rebirth. In the Christian religion they represent the boulder that was rolled away from the tomb of Jesus Christ during his resurrection. In the Jewish Passover tradition, boiled eggs on the Seder plate stand for renewal. And eggs are an integral part of the sehri meal consumed by Muslims before dawn during Ramadan. And don’t forget the chocolate-, marzipan-, or dyed hard-boiled eggs discovered by young and old on a sunny Easter Sunday morning. We put a spotlight on the various ways, Germans make use of egg during the Easter season.
Dyed Hard-Boiled Eggs
Dying and decorating eggs before the Easter holiday is a Central European tradition that dates back as far as the 13th century. Lenten culinary traditions forbade the consumption of all animal products, including eggs and milk. So, eggs were boiled to preserve them and dyed to differentiate them from the fresh ones. Beautifully decorated eggs served as gifted to the church or manor lords. Some of these century-old traditions are still in practice today. Ausgeblasene Eier (with the egg white and yolk carefully blown out to leave just the hollow shell), are being painted, adorned with lace and ribbon and hung on forsythia branches to make an Osterstrauch. Colored eggs are also used to play Ostereiertitschen, a game played predominantly in the Bavarian Oberpfalz and Rheinland. Players use the tips of their eggs to knock that of their opponents with the intention of breaking it. The winner is the one whose egg survives the longest. This game is played on Easter morning around the table with family.
Boiled eggs (gekochte Eier) play a starring role to decorate an Osterzopf (see recipe) a slightly sweet, braided yeast bread.
A boiled egg hidden inside of meatloaf (Hackbraten recipe here) is the basis for a dish known as Falsche Hase, meaning “False Rabbit” or, more correctly, “Fake Hare.” The recipe originates from the meager post World War II years when meat was scarce. The meatloaf was made from mixed chopped meats which was wrapped around boiled eggs and formed to look like rabbit, a gourmet meat at the time.
Ei in Grüner Sauce
On Gründonnerstag (Maundy Thursday), it is traditional in Hessen to eat hard-boiled Eggs with green sauce (recipe here). While grün means green, the name Gründonnerstag actually has nothing to do with the color. Rather the name is thought to have derived from the word greinen, meaning to mourn. Nevertheless, it is still customary to eat green-colored dishes on this day. Many German families also dye their eggs green on Gründonnerstag as a symbol of mourning. Eier in Grüner Sosse is a perfect way to use up any left over boiled eggs and makes a great choice for a Sunday brunch. In fact, we’ve chosen it for our recipe of the month in April. You can read more about Grüne Sosse in our travel article about specialties from Frankfurt.
Green Eggs and Ham (on Fried Potatoes)
Any city slicker who only knows white and brown eggs may be surprised to learn that Dr. Seuss’ famous book title is based on reality. Green eggs do exist. Any farmer with a chicken brown can confirm that green eggs are the products of a rooster and hen with genetic disposition towards eggs with brown pigments and blue pigments. Dr. Seuss’ children book may even have been based on a popular German dish: Strammer Max (see recipe) – fried potato pancakes or fried potatoes, topped with ham and a sunny-side-up egg. Its cousin, the Strammer Otto, replaces ham with a slice of beef and in Bavaria, it is replaced with a slice of Leberkäse, a type of meatloaf.
Eggs on Schnitzel
Beyond Easter, the sunny-side-up egg (Spiegelei) is an important component of recipes such as Holsteiner Schnitzel (recipe here), a specialty from Northern Germany, consisting of a fried egg atop a breaded pork schnitzel, garnished with capers or anchovies.
Eggnog with Brandy
When mixed with sugar and alcohol, eggs becomes the delicious beverage known as Eierlikör or Eierpunsch (similar to eggnog but warm). Eierlikör, a mixture of egg yolks, sugar or honey and brandy is also known as Advocaat and, with or without alcohol, as eggnog in the U.S. It first came into existence in 1876 when a Dutchman by the name of Eugen Verpoorten opened the first eggnog factory in Heinsburg, Germany. Eierlikör was based on a drink discovered by Dutch colonists in Brazil in the 17th century. The original recipe was made with avocados, cane sugar and rum, hence the name Aguacate or Advocaat in Dutch. Upon returning to Europe, the colonists were unable to replicate the drink, since avocados did not fare very well in the European climate, until a resourceful Dutchman discovered that egg yolks could create that creamy consistency and color and thus eggnog was invented.
Today, the Verpoorten family still makes Eierlikör according to the original recipe passed down through 5 generations. More than 130,000 bottles are produced daily and exported to more than 30 countries, including the U.S. Eierlikör is not only consumed as a beverage, it is also used in various desserts, as a topping for ice cream and as a filling for chocolates and candies. See Verpoorten eggnog recipes here. Verpoorten is used in popular truffles and chocolates with Eierlikör fillings. Look also for brands such as Niederegger, Ritter Sport, Berggold and Riegelein.
Painted, poached, fried, scrambled or blended, the incredibly versatile egg has earned its place of honor on the Easter breakfast, brunch or lunch table. Just as popular however, is of course is the more modern tradition of confectionery eggs.