Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

h o l i d a y s

Monica Kass Rogers

culinary historian

Well, here’s a Jacob Grimm you may not have heard : ) As a philologist studying Germanic folk customs, Grimm speculated that the custom of Easter eggs may have stemmed from springtime frolics in honor of Eostre—the Proto-Indo-European goddess of dawn.  If so, it’s just one more in a longtime legacy of eggs and the ancients. 60,0000 year old decorated ostrich eggs have been found in Africa. Rituals connecting eggs and rebirth go back 5000 years or more in Egypt, Sumeria and Mesopotamia. And historians tell us Christians in the latter culture were the first to dye eggs ritualistically, coloring them red as a reminder of  blood.

Today, egg-decorating has launched into all sorts of glittery, fluorescent-hued territory—fun, though not particularly appetizing. The idea of eating chemically-dyed anything has always been a bit suspect. That, plus the appeal alchemy has on me prompted me to try my hand at using easily-found kitchen ingredients to naturally dye eggs.

I’ve been so pleased with the results! Using coffee, onion skins, red cabbage, and a little vinegar I was able to produce a lovely array of hues: Blue from the cabbage, orange and red from the onion skins and warm beiges and taupes from the coffee.

Onion Skin Dye

Ingredients

  • 6 pounds small yellow onions
  • ¼ cup white vinegar

Instructions

  • Peel the skins from the onions.
  • Reserve and refrigerate the onions for another use.
  • Place the skins in a three-quart heavy gauge pot over medium heat.
  • Add 2 quarts of water and ¼ cup white vinegar.
  • Heat the water to boiling.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Simmer for ½ hour.
  • Strain to separate skins from dye.
  • Discard skins.

To dye eggs

Method one

  • (For intense red-orange): Wash eggs in soapy water.
  • Rinse.
  • Immerse uncooked eggs (in their shells) in hot dye and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Remove eggs from dye.
  • Cool.
  • Refrigerate eggs.

Method two

  • (for bright orange): Immerse hard-cooked eggs (in their shells) in cool dye for 5 to 10 minutes.

Red Cabbage Dye

Ingredients

  • 1 small head red cabbage, chopped to make 8 cups
  • ¼ cup white vinegar

Instructions

  • Place chopped cabbage in three-quart heavy gauge pot over medium heat.
  • Add 2 quarts of water and ¼ cup white vinegar.
  • Heat water to boiling.
  • Reduce heat to simmer.
  • Simmer for ½ hour.
  • Strain out and discard cabbage.

To dye eggs

Method one (for more intense blue):

  • Wash eggs in soapy water.
  • Rinse. Immerse uncooked eggs in hot dye and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Allow eggs to cool in dye until the desired blue is achieved. Refrigerate eggs.

Method two:

  • Immerse hard-cooked eggs (in their shells) in cool dye for 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Refrigerate eggs.

Coffee Dye

Ingredients

  • 1 quart strong black coffee
  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar

Instructions

  • Wash eggs in soapy water.
  • Rinse.
  • Immerse hard-cooked eggs (in their shells) in cool dye for 10 minutes to an hour until desired beige/taupe/brown is achieved.
  • Refrigerate eggs.

Monica Kass Rogers:

Monica is a food-business and lifestyles feature writer & photographer  with a penchant for reviving vintage recipes. Building on the “Lost Recipes Found” column she originally launched for the Chicago Tribune, Monica now rediscovers vintage in her blog of the same name Lost Recipes Found and continues to write about and photograph contemporary food nationally for restaurants, hotels and magazines.

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