After a long winter with way fewer fresh farm eggs available than we’d prefer, we were thrilled when our neighbor’s hens began laying again. Now that these yummy, nutrition-packed little gems are plentiful, we decided to celebrate by making quiches and custards and all sorts of egg-y treats. And I also got the big idea that I would try dying Easter eggs—but I didn’t want to soak my beautiful pasture-raised free-range eggs in the chemical dyes from the grocery store. No sirree!
So I went online and began looking into the “how-tos” of natural dyes. These non-toxic dyes are easy to make and they don’t even really require much skill in the kitchen. They can be a little messy, but what great kitchen project isn’t? This is a great family project—and you don’t have to worry about exposing your children to anything toxic. And waiting to see how your colors turn out is pretty darn fun!
We started by boiling our eggs—putting them in cool water, bringing them to a boil, and letting them simmer for 12 minutes with the lad ajar on the pan. When the 12 minutes was up, we poured out the boiling water and replaced it with cool water. We let the eggs cool the rest of the way while we made the dyes.
My 16-year old stepdaughter Maria, who’s a whiz in the kitchen, joined me at this point in the “eggs-periment.” She rounded up and prepared all of the material we needed for making the dyes:
• 2 cups of grated beets (for purple eggs)
• ¾ cup dried hibiscus flowers (for lavender)
• 2 cups of grated red cabbage (for blue, believe it or not)
• 2 cups of yellow onion skins—the papery parts (for orange)
• Ground turmeric (for yellow)
For all of these concoctions (except for the turmeric), we put the ingredient in a saucepan, covered the vegetable material with about an inch of water, and brought it to a boil. Then we turned the heat down and simmered each “dye” for a while. Supposedly, the longer you simmer the dye, the deeper the color. We went about 20 to 30 minutes on each—longer on the red cabbage. For the turmeric, we simply added about three tablespoons of the ground spice to 2 cups of water and simmered it for 20 minutes.
Once the liquid came to room temperature, we strained it into wide-mouth mason jars. (No need to strain the turmeric dye.) We also added two tablespoons of plain white vinegar to each jar to help fix the colors. Next time, I’ll try adding a tablespoon more—especially to the beet dye. We carefully lowered the boiled eggs into the jars, screwed on the lids, put them in the fridge, and let them steep in the dye overnight. We learned that it’s a good idea to stir the eggs around a few times, to make sure that they dye evenly. White/light spots can occur when they sit up against the side of the jar.
In the morning, we fit a cooling rack into a jelly roll pan and took our jars out of the refrigerator. We lifted the eggs gently out of their dye jars and set them on the rack to dry. As they dried, their colors lightened. Once dry, the finish was matte. Some bloggers suggested rubbing them with olive or coconut oil for a shinier look, but we liked them as they were.
The eggs dyed with beets turned a beautiful purple color, but as they dried they became lighter and even mottled. They weren’t eggs-actly what we eggs-pected, but they were kind of pretty anyway. The eggs dyed with hibiscus were a disappointment. They came out with kind of a fuzzy coating on them that we had to wash off. Not sure what color to say they turned, but it wasn’t lavender! In many cases (and as you would expect) the white eggs came out more colorful than the brown ones, with one exception: the brown ones came out of their onion-skin dye bath a glorious orange! Next year, I’ll out the darkest brown eggs in the onion skin dye for certain! My favorites were the lovely lemon-yellow turmeric eggs and the sky blue eggs dyed in red cabbage.
Stay tuned for next week, for Part II of this blog when I answer the “egg-estential” question of what to do with all of these boiled eggs now that Easter is over! (Hint: it’s all delicious.)