Many of us who grew up in the Coal Region certainly remember dying Easter eggs using little tablets that came in an egg-dying kit. My Mom would line up bowls, one for each color, on the kitchen table after laying down a thick layer of newspaper.
Into the bowls went water and vinegar; the tablet was dropped in and, as it dissolved, vibrant pools of dye came alive.
Picasso…or, not so
My Pop preferred the paint on style dye that was made by the same company, but came as a set of colors with applicators that were basically single-ended cotton swabs. The swabs had a wooden stick onto which the cotton was adhered; after they got dipped into the dye in the bottles a few times, the dye would start to make its way up the stick!
Pop always joined Mom and me in the decorating, but by the end of several dozen eggs, my Mom’s and mine were (at least we believed) artfully decorated — Dad’s, on the other hand, looked like they had spent a couple days at Woodstock and were attempting to reproduce an acid trip…a really bad one at that.
But they all tasted good and they all served their purpose of being hidden throughout our backyard for me, my cousin George, and several neighborhood kids to enjoy hunting down.
Back to nature
Nowadays, my connection to cooking piqued my interest in using natural food to create dyes for Easter eggs. Past generations often used natural ingredients to create dyes; most notably cooks used to save up onion skins in the weeks prior to Easter to use in conjuring up dye for eggs.
It is still a little messy using any kind of dyes, but if you plan ahead and use a little common sense, dyeing eggs using natural dyes is a fun and satisfying experience in which the whole family can get involved.
Easy and fun for the family
The process is simple; simmer the ingredients with water and then soak the eggs in the dyeing liquid. Below the “TIPS” you will find the formulas for creating several colors and you can use your imagination for more combos like turmeric and carrot, red wine, coffee, parsley and more.
Keep in mind the length of time the egg stays in the dye, the amount of times dipped, and natural shade of the egg will affect the outcome. Brown eggs will take on a different color than white eggs, so you might want to “mix-n-match”!
I absolutely love this nifty little egg cooker. It turns out easy to peel eggs quickly and easily. I use it exclusively whenever I need hard-cooked eggs for any reason. You can read more about the 6-egg size here on my blog. It also comes in a 12-egg size for added convenience.
Tips For Dyeing Eggs the Natural Way
- Strain the solid ingredients from the liquid by pouring through a fine strainer or using a slotted spoon to remove the solids.
- Used distilled white vinegar where the directions call for “vinegar”
- Cover your work surface well with something disposable. The are real “dyes” and you want to protect other surfaces from spills and drips.
- Glass canning jars in the wide-mouth pint or half-pint size make good containers to dye in.
- Use the egg containers to store your dyed eggs in.
- Use room temperature hard-boiled eggs for best results. For the most vibrant colors, keep eggs in dye overnight in the refrigerator.
- Before you dye any egg, wipe the eggshell gently with distilled white vinegar in order to help the shell absorb color.
- Eggs can be written on (names, designs, etc.) using a white crayon before dyeing. The egg will remain its natural color under the wax once dipped in dye.
- You can store the left over dye in the fridge for up to 3 months.
Conjure up a rainbow
Pink/Purple-ish – Cut 1/4 head of red cabbage into chunks and add to 4 cups boiling water. Stir in 2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar. Let cool to room temperature and remove cabbage.
Pale pink – Mix 1 cup pickled beet juice and 1 tablespoon vinegar.
Pale green – 16 ounces spinach leaves simmered for 30 minutes in water. Do not add vinegar to this, it will dull the color.
Bluish-Gray – Mix 1 cup frozen blueberries with 1 cup water, bring to room temperature, and remove blueberries.
Jade Green – Peel the skin from 6 red onions and simmer in 2 cups water for 15 minutes; strain. Add 3 teaspoons distilled white vinegar.
Faint Green-Yellow – Peel the skin from 6 yellow apples. Simmer in 1-1/2 cups water for 20 minutes; strain. Add 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar. OR Simmer 4 ounces chopped fennel tops in 1-1/2 cups of water for 20 minutes; strain. Add 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar.
Orange – Take the skin of 6 yellow onions and simmer in 2 cups water for 15 minutes; strain. Add 3 teaspoons white vinegar.
Faint Red-Orange – Stir 2 Tablespoons paprika into 1 cup boiling water; add 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar.
Yellow – Rich yellow: Simmer 4 ounces chopped carrot tops in 1-1/2 cups water for 15 minutes; strain. Add 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar.
Mustard-yellow – Stir 2 Tablespoons turmeric into 1 cup boiling water; add 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar.
Pale yellow – Simmer the peels of 6 oranges in 1-1/2 cups water for 20 minutes; strain. Add 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar.
Brown-Gold: Simmer 2 Tablespoons dill seed in 1 cup water for 15 minutes; strain. Add 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar.
Brown: Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to 1 cup strong coffee.
Dark pink – Cut 1 medium beet into chunks and add to 4 cups boiling water. Stir in 2 Tbsp. vinegar and let cool to room temperature; remove beets.
Lavender – Mix 1 cup grape juice and 1 tablespoon vinegar.