I've always loved dyeing eggs, I think it's ageless, who doesn't enjoy dropping an egg into a dye bath and watching it take on color? I thought I'd try my hand at natural dyes this year, it was a truly fun experiment seeing how the colors came out. It's definitely not as easy as opening a Paas box, and adding a tablet to vinegar, but making the dyes are simple. Natural dyes do take longer to set, I chose to refrigerate my eggs overnight in the dyes, so plan ahead if you want these on your Easter table.
I chose my dyes based on Martha Stewart's recipe and experimented with a couple extra colors based on what I had in my kitchen. Since most of the dyes I made, and eggs, are cheap, I think it'd be great to let your children choose items at the grocery store for what they'd like to color their eggs with.
I normally purchase farm fresh eggs that are brown, I also purchased store bought white eggs for this experiment to compare. The white eggs took the dye much better, you couldn't even tell some of the brown eggs were dyed, especially for the onion skin, beet, and coffee dyes. One of my favorite colors was the brown egg in hibiscus tea, it turned the egg salmon colored. If you only want to buy a dozen eggs to dye, I'd definitely recommend white eggs. White eggs in purple cabbage dye turn a lovely blue shade, and the beets a nice dark pink.
Give natural egg dyes a try sometime, I'd love to hear some colors you come up with, and see how your eggs turn out!
Step 1: Gather Ingredients
You'll need: As many hard boiled eggs as you want to dye. You can see from my pictures the white eggs colored better than brown eggs, but I think it's fun to experiment with the different colored eggs too.
The basic formula Martha Stewart used is: 1 quart of water and 2 tablespoons white vinegar added to:
Purple (red) cabbage dye: 4 cups chopped cabbage (I shredded in my food processor)
Turmeric dye: 3 tablespoons turmeric
Red onion skin dye: 4 cups onion skins (skins from about 12 onions)
Beet dye: 4 cups chopped beets (I shredded peeled raw beets in my food processor)
These colors were my own experiments:
For the coffee and hibiscus tea dyes: I simply made 10 oz. coffee and tea and let them cool before adding eggs.
Tart cherry juice dye: I mixed 2 cups tart cherry juice with 2 Tbsp. white vinegar (I assume the vinegar caused these eggs to be speckled and I might not use it next time, or perhaps I'd heat up the juice and vinegar and whisk well.
Step 2: Cook Dyes
For the onion skins and turmeric dye I boiled them on my stovetop 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, then strained each, saving the liquid, discarding any solids.
I chose to pressure cook the purple cabbage and beets to utilize different cooking areas, and suspected (correctly) my PC would do a great job extracting the colors from the cabbage and beets, they were each cooked (with 4 cups water and 2 tablespoons vinegar) on high pressure for 8 minutes. If you don't have a pressure cooker you can use your stove to boil them. Strain the vegetables, reserving the liquid, and wash the PC insert before adding another vegetable, discard solids.
As I said under ingredients: I prepared 10 oz. each coffee and hibiscus tea and let them cool before adding the eggs.
And I poured 2 cups Tart Cherry juice into a measuring cup and mixed in 2 Tbsp. vinegar, no water.
Let all liquids cool to at least room temperature before adding the eggs to prevent the eggs from cooking any further.
Step 3: Dye Eggs
After all the dyes are cooled, transfer them to cups suitable for holding eggs, and if refrigerating overnight, ones that will fit in your fridge. Pint-sized ice cream containers are perfect for holding two eggs, quart-sized containers good for four eggs.
For the red onion skins I tried two methods: I wrapped eggs in onion skins, then in cheesecloth, before adding to the onion skin dye. And the second method I just added eggs to the onion skin dye. I really didn't notice much difference in either method! If you're good at wrapping things tightly you can add small leaves or herbs to the eggs before wrapping and the dye won't go under the leaf leaving a nice pattern, but I don't think I could wrap the skins around the eggs that tightly.
You can sit and watch the colors and remove when you like the shade, but natural dyes aren't like artificial ones and they take longer to work. I left them each on the counter about an hour and stirred the eggs around a few times, then put each container in the refrigerator overnight. If the eggs weren't fully submerged, I tried to weigh them down with a spoon, or small prep bowl. Some of my eggs ended up spotted, from where the egg was touching the cup sides, bottom, or not fully submerged, next year I'll try to stir more often.
Step 4: Remove Eggs From Dye, Let Dry, and Enjoy
The next morning, remove all the eggs from the dyes and let them drain on a couple layers of paper towels.If you want your eggs to have a sheen you can pour a bit of vegetable oil on a paper towel and wipe the eggs, be sure to wipe excess oil off.
You can take your natural dye experiment further by adding an already dyed egg to another dye, Martha Stewart's site has several ideas for which colors to mix.
Don't leave the eggs at room temperature longer than two hours, and be sure to eat them in less than five days.