One of my fondest childhood memories is dyeing eater eggs with my sisters. I carried on that tradition with my own daughter, and even though she is an adult, we still spend time together to color and decorate eggs for Easter. This tradition of decorating eggs dates back to the 13th century. Eggs were formerly a forbidden food during the Lenten season, the 40 days before Easter, so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period of fasting, and eat them on Easter as a celebration.
The first step to dyeing eggs is to hard-boil the eggs. Lay raw eggs gently in a large saucepan, cover them with water, and put on a tight-fitting lid. Place the saucepan over high heat and wait for the water to boil. When water comes to a boil, remove from heat keeping the lid on the saucepan, and let it sit for 12 minutes. Then drain out the hot water, and fill the pot with cold water to stop the cooking process. Some eggs may crack so you can set those aside to use for eating. Let eggs cool before coloring.
There are kits sold in stores for coloring eggs but if you want to avoid those synthetic dyes – try making your own dye with natural ingredients. It may take longer but it will be more fun and a great time to enjoy as a family. Select what colors you want to dye the eggs and buy the appropriate food. The shell color of your eggs will also determine the color of your dyed eggs.
For white eggs, purple cabbage will create a blue shade; beets create a pink shade; turmeric creates a yellow and gold color; onion skins can give reddish browns (red onions) or orange shade (yellow onions). Hibiscus tea provides a dark charcoal-purple color, Red Zinger tea creates a lavender color, and coffee provides a nice brown shade. The fun thing with using foods is the colors may vary depending on the length of time immersed in the dye as well as the color of the food itself.
Here are the steps to dye eggs naturally:
1. Bring 1 cup of water to boil in a pot for each color dye that you have selected. Add 1 cup of chopped or shredded purple cabbage, beets, or onion skins to the boiling water. For the yellow color, add 2 Tablespoons turmeric to the cup of boiling water.
2. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Brew or steep the coffee and tea in a jar while the vegetables simmer. The dye is ready when it is a few shades darker than you want for your egg. Check the color to be sure it is the shade that you want by dripping a little on a white paper towel or dish.
3. Remove from heat and let the dye cool to room temperature. Once cool, pour the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a jar and remove the tea bag from water.
4. Stir 1 Tablespoon of white distilled vinegar into each color. The vinegar creates a chemical reaction with the shell’s calcium and helps the color absorb better.
5. Carefully put the boiled eggs into the jars of dye and secure with a lid.
6. Place the jars in the refrigerator for six to 12 hours or overnight, depending on the color you want. Longer times will produce deeper shades.
7. Remove the eggs from the jar and place them on a towel-lined cookie sheet to dry.
8. Allow them to dry completely. You can polish them with a little bit of vegetable oil to give them a shine.
Add a little creativity to your egg design by wrapping rubber bands or lace ribbon around the egg before coloring. After it has completely dried, remove bands or ribbon to see your design. For a personalized touch, draw or write something on the egg with a white crayon or candle and then submerge in the dye mixture. The wax will prevent the dye from sticking to the egg so you can see your design.
Remember to keep eggs refrigerated and use within one week.