Dyed Easter eggs have wandered in many directions in their history, from dying them red in remembrance of Christ's blood, to what a lot of kids will tell you now: they color eggs to make them look like jelly beans.
This time of year there are some pretty amazing craft-tastic ideas online and in magazines making it entirely possible to devote days to creating museum-quality ova. I prefer the less design-y and more rustic approach. After all, they're eggs you might be stashing somewhere in the lawn. And with a small child in the house, this is not a project likely to involve X-Acto knives and tiny electrical tape stencils.
Easter is a reminder of fertility and abundance, so I say turn on the color and let loose.
A few years I wrote about dyeing eggs with onion skins, which gives a pretty spectacular result, especially if you rub them with oil to add shine. Last year I took the idea of coloring eggs with vegetable scraps a step further and created a larger palette. This year we'll push it further and as the kids around me get older, we just might add a few extra flourishes. No razors and making tape, but maybe a few of those rubber band tricks. I'll let you know.
How To Make Vegetable-Dyed Eggs
Keep in mind the effect of the dyes varies depending on how concentrated the dye is, what color egg you use, and how long the eggs are immersed in the dye. I used half a purple cabbage, shredded, to dye four eggs. Err on the side of more rather than less when creating your dye.
Hard Boiled Eggs, room temperature, or white and brown eggs, preferably not super-fresh
1 tablespoon white vinegar per cup of strained dye liquid
Purple Cabbage (makes blue on white eggs, green on brown eggs)
Red Onion Skins (makes lavender or red)
Yellow Onion Skins (makes orange on white eggs, rusty red on brown eggs)
Ground Turmeric (makes yellow)
Red Zinger Tea Bags (makes lavender)
Beets (makes pink on white eggs, maroon on brown eggs)
Oil (canola or olive)
Clean the eggs so there are no particles sticking to their shells.
To prepare the colored dye, first chop the cabbage, chip or peel away the dry skins from the onions, or shred the beets. In a stainless steel saucepan, boil enough water to generously cover the number of eggs you'll be dyeing. Add the dye matter and bring to a boil, turn heat down to low and simmer, covered, for 15-30 minutes. The dye is ready when it reaches a hue a few shades darker than you want for your egg. Examine a sample in a white dish. Remove from the heat and it let cool to room temperature (I put the pot on my fire escape and it cooled off in about 20 minutes).
Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into another stainless saucepan, or into a bowl then back into the original pan if that's all you have for dying, otherwise use a flat bottom vessel like a large jar, Dutch oven, etc. Stir in the vinegar at the rate of 1 tablespoon per cup of strained liquid. Arrange the room-temperature eggs in the vessel in one layer and carefully pour the cooled dye over them.
Place the dye bath in the refrigerator until the desired color is reached. Carefully dry the egg then massage in a little oil to each, then polish with a paper towel. Store the eggs in the refrigerator until it is time to eat (or hide.)
Note: You can also start with raw eggs and cook them in the dye bath as described in the previous post about onion-skin eggs. I found with dyes like the Zinger tea and beets, the color was more concentrated with the refrigerator method. Of course, this method requires clearing out some space in the refrigerator.
(images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)
This is a re-edited version of a piece originally posted April 2, 2010.