Natural Easter egg dyes. April 3, 2012Posted by ourfriendben in chickens, homesteading, recipes.
Tags: Easter eggs, natural dyes for Easter eggs, Pennsylvania Dutch, Pennsylvania Dutch customs, Pennsylvania Dutch Easter eggs, red beet eggs
In the runup to Easter, we’re reprising some Easter-egg-related posts from previous years to make sure you don’t miss them. We hope you love Easter eggs as much as we do!
Silence Dogood here. Have you dyed your Easter eggs yet? If not, you might want to skip the food coloring and try these natural dyes, instead.
Onionskins: Traditional to my part of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Dutch country, are Easter eggs dyed with onionskins. Either red or brown skins can be used. (Red can yield a purplish or reddish color, brown typically yields a more orange color, a combination will give you a rich red-brown.) This practice remains so popular that you can find bags of mixed red and brown onionskins for sale at farmers’ markets and other area stores in the weeks leading up to Easter. Or of course, you can simply save your own in a special bag so you’ll have plenty on hand.
To make the dye, fill a large pot with onionskins and water and boil until the skins release their color. When the water is dark, remove the onionskins, add 1 to 2 teaspoons vinegar to fix the color, and put in the eggs in a single layer. Keep the eggs submerged with a large spoon as needed so they’re evenly dyed. When the eggs are a rich red-brown to reddish-purple color, remove them to a plate to cool.
You can use this dye on both white and brown eggs; of course, the brown eggs will take on a darker mahogany color. The result in either case is a rich, beautiful antique color that looks exquisite in a natural (undyed) basket.
Another Pennsylvania tradition is to etch beautiful designs on these eggs with a straight pin. I have some gorgeous etched eggs in my collection that are covered with flowers, birds, and etc. But if you want to etch your eggs, make sure you blow them before you dye them! These are keepsakes; it’s much too much effort to etch hardboiled eggs that you plan to eat later.
Red beet eggs. Another beloved tradition in Pennsylvania Dutch country is to make red beet eggs. These are shelled hardboiled eggs that are pickled in pickled beet juice, which turns them a brilliant pink to bright rose. I see no reason why you can’t dye the eggshells using this technique as easily as the eggs themselves.
To dye the shells, add the liquid from a large can (or two, if needed) of beets to a large pot along with 1 to 2 teaspoons of vinegar to set the dye. Bring to a low boil and add eggs in a single layer. (You’ll want to stick to white-shelled eggs for this dye.) Again, use a large spoon to keep eggs submerged and evenly dyed as needed. When the eggs have become adequately pink for you, remove them to a plate to cool.
Want to enjoy the traditional red beet eggs themselves? (Despite the color, they’re actually good.) You could make a pickling solution, but I’ve found that local cooks prefer to simply start with a pint jar of pickled beets. Shell 6-8 hardboiled eggs and put them in a widemouthed quart jar. Pour the liquid from the pint of pickled beets over the eggs, then pour the beets on top of them to keep the eggs submerged in the liquid. Screw on the top and refrigerate for 24 hours before eating. Slice on a salad like any other hardboiled egg and enjoy the extra color and tang, or be bold and try making an egg salad or deviled eggs with red beet eggs!
Turmeric. As my yellow-orange hands are reminding me, every time I make Indian food I seem to end up getting some turmeric on myself. And talk about a durable stain! Instead of lamenting the turmeric on your hands, clothes, and counters, why not turn that staying power to your advantage by using some turmeric powder to dye your Easter eggs?
Again, go with white-shelled eggs for this. Add 1-2 tablespoons of powdered turmeric and 1 to 2 teaspoons of vinegar (to set the dye) to water in a large pot and heat to a low boil, stirring, until the turmeric powder has dissolved. Add eggs in a single layer and cook until the shells have taken on a bright marigold yellow-orange color. Remove to a plate and allow to cool, watching your hands, clothes, etc. to keep the liquid from dyeing you along with the eggs!
I think the sunny color of turmeric-dyed eggs makes a perfect background for decoupaged dried flowers, ferns, and so on. But again, if you decide to take this extra step, blow the eggs before you dye them so you can preserve them as treasured keepsakes to bring out at Easter for years to come. And don’t forget to use the contents of those blown eggs to make scrambled eggs, omelettes, frittatas, or French toast!
Spinach. As anyone who’s ever cooked spinach knows, spinach water turns the most amazing emerald green. In my part of the South, I grew up eating boiled spinach topped with vinegar and salt, so it makes perfect sense to me to add vinegar to the spinach water after removing the cooked spinach so you’ll set the dye on the eggs.
To make green eggs, simply boil up a box or bag of frozen spinach or a bag of fresh spinach, reserving the cooking liquid. Either eat the spinach right away or refrigerate it and reheat it when you’re ready to slice those hard-boiled Easter eggs and serve them on top! Meanwhile, reheat the liquid, adding 1 to 2 teaspoons of vinegar to set the dye and water as needed to cover a single layer of eggs. As always, use a big spoon to keep any recalcitrant eggs submerged until they turn a lovely green. Then transfer them to a plate to cool.
Once again, use white eggs with the spinach dye. And a pale green egg would also make a gorgeous backdrop for a dried flower design, but as with the turmeric-dyed eggs, blow them first if you want to decoupage your eggs as keepsakes.
Try not to cook the eggs in any of these dyes for more than 15 minutes if you plan to eat them. And please, don’t forget your pets when you’re ready to serve up the eggs! I can say with confidence that dogs, cats, parrots, and (gulp) chickens will enjoy a slice or two of hardboiled egg every bit as much as you do!
‘Til next time,