I would imagine that my family is a lot like most American families, religious or secular (I fall into the latter category), at this time of year and we find ourselves thinking about the Easter holiday. I no longer practice the religion, but I can’t seem to break away from the trappings of family holiday celebrations from my youth. I can’t say that I particularly love Easter, but it is one of the few times a year that I like to have “ceremony” with my family.
Easter has always meant dying eggs. Easter also meant having to eat hardboiled eggs – for ages. Even as a kid, I remember hating the weeks that followed Easter. As an adult, I find the abundance of hardboiled eggs a challenge. I like curried egg salad sandwiches and who can resist a good deviled egg?? But even so, what is one to do with 3+ dozen eggs?! Why so many you ask? Well, I feel like I need to have enough eggs for each kid so that they feel like the activity is worth doing. That goes for me too. It is a lot of work to get the eggs ready, the stations set up and the kids into clothing that I don’t care about staining. By the time it is all done, it is a lot of work.
But this year, I had a sneaky idea. Because I wanted to play with natural food dyes, I started dying eggs with the kids a couple weeks ago. As long as the kids got to dye eggs, they don’t care if they are available on Easter morning. They just want to dye the eggs! Besides, after a few hard learned lessons about lost hardboiled eggs in my youth, we only use the plastic ones on Easter morning anyway. So what I did was boil a dozen eggs each week, plus I made 2 batches of natural dye. This gave each kid 4 eggs and 2 color choices at each sitting.
The first week we used red beets and turmeric. The beets were cubed and placed into 4 cups of water, plus 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and boiled for 30 minutes. The water from the beets was a beautiful deep red color, but the eggs came out like a dark pink. The turmeric was also placed into 4 cups of water with 2 tablespoons of vinegar and was boiled for 30 minutes (*NOTE: This is the recipe for each additive: 4 cups water, 2 tablespoons white vinegar and boil for 30 minutes). The turmeric was so yellow that I was worried about it staining their fingers. Each came out of the dye very vibrant, but quickly faded down. The turmeric was still yellow, but not nearly so. I also noticed that they got a bit motled as they dried.
For the second week, we used cranberries and red cabbage. I bought a large package of frozen cranberries and followed the recipe for making the dye. For the cabbage, I simply cored it and chopped it into ribbons before placing into the solution. The cranberries created a water that looked similar to the beets, in that it was a deep red color, but the eggs never picked up much color and came out a very light pink. These were probably the worst of the bunch in that they immediately began to fade and ultimately turned into a strange brown/green color with hints of purple. They were even worse a week later. The dye also was sticky and the eggs had lots of what looked like gelatin on them when they were first removed from the dye. The cabbage made the water this fantastic purple color, but made the eggs a blue color. Again, it faded very quickly. I remember when I was a kid wanting to leave the eggs in for a long time to get jewel-toned eggs, which never happened. We tried that with these solutions, but it didn’t happen here either.
This week we used a bag of blueberries to create lavender colored eggs. The other color option this week was to use coffee for brown eggs, but since I can actually get brown eggs from a chicken, making a pot of coffee for it seemed ridiculous. Anyway, the blueberries had an indigo colored water. The eggs came out this fantastic color of purple, but then changed into what I wouldn’t even call a purple. It was like a weird grayish blue. Needless to say, this was a disappointment, especially given that they come out so pretty initially.
Overall, I don’t think doing the natural food dye thing is worth it. It requires a lot of food to make the dye from. Because of the vinegar, you can’t eat any of it. It was very wasteful. The only upsides for me were that I wasn’t worried about eating the eggs and it was a relief not to crack one open and see the white of the egg a freaky shade of green or something. Even as a kid I knew that blue was not a natural color for egg whites. I may try this again next year with different additives. I saw in a magazine recently (can’t remember which one) that had a weird list of candies they used to make the colors. Might be worth a go. Who knows how I will feel about this subject next year.