dyeing easter eggs without artificial color

A couple years back, I researched natural Easter egg dyes for a blog post, and did my first experiment with using spices and foods instead of those little colored tablets. The experiment took forever (but then again, so does much of my cooking), but I was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Conventional Easter egg dyes yield bright, colorful eggs, but they also seep through the shell onto the egg white itself. Studies are finding that food coloring, which is used in conventional egg dyes, can have negative effects on children's health, including hyperactivity, allergies and learning impairment. While there may not be a definitive answer on the effects from food coloring, do you want to chance it with your children, especially when you can achieve the same festive outcome with real food ingredients?

This year, we planned a long Easter weekend up at my fiance's parents' camp, so I suggested that we dye Easter eggs using natural ingredients. Armed with my own blog post, my memories, a Better Homes and Gardens link I used last time, and a Tiny Peasant guide, I arrived with some white vinegar, a can of pickled beets, four red onions, and some turmeric and paprika. The goal? Some gorgeous pink, jade green, reddish orange and mustard yellow colored eggs.

We started with some beautiful local farm raised eggs my fiance's stepmom got before the trip and had them hard-boiled and ready to go.

Don't ask me why red onion skins yield a jade green hue, but it worked last time at least! This time, they made our eggs a rich shade of brown. Maybe I should not have thrown the outer onion layer in with the skins. In keeping with reducing waste, I saved the rest of the onions to chop and freeze for future use. Since we weren't at home, it was easier this time to use a freezer bag instead of a reusable container, even though it's not the best option. The bag will at least get good use!

Now that I've got a second attempt under my belt, I'm learning that the approach to natural dyeing is pretty flexible. It's not like baking, where measurements need to be exact for something to come out right. You can play around with the ingredients to see what works better for you.

For example, my directions said to boil the two cups of water before adding my spice and vinegar. After watching my eggs sit in the mixture for about 15 minutes, I noticed the spice was separating and sinking to the bottom. Next time, I'm boiling the spices in the water so everything fully dissolves.

One of my favorite parts of this process is the good smells that come out of the kitchen. Forget the vinegar smell that burns your nose hairs...it smells like you're cooking something straight out of a restaurant. Two tablespoons of turmeric? Yes please! Pickled beet juice? Okay, I might be a little weird for loving that smell, but I do love it.

We let the eggs sit in their dyes for probably 30 minutes...I did forget to bother timing it, but I sat and watched them for the majority of the time. After I got tired of watching eggs turn colors, and because I wanted to go out to the dock and fish, I took them out of their baths and set them on a drying rack.

The results aren't overly vibrant, but they are different colors from when they started, so I consider the project a success! In the above photo, the top three on the left were in the red onion skin water, the bottom three on the left were in the paprika, the top three on the right were in the turmeric, and the bottom three on the right were in the beet juice. Those three were my favorites, because of their pinkish hue. I also love the one egg that looks lime green!

So, if you're hankering to dye eggs even after Easter, or you're saving ideas for next Easter, consider trying natural dyes instead of the conventional methods. It's fun, it smells great, it doesn't stain the egg white, and it's healthier!

Now would be the PERFECT time to try cooking my grandfather's old-school potato salad recipe, since it uses hard-boiled eggs, pickled beets and onions!


Unknown said...

It was fun to watch you while you dyed the eggs. Your enthusiasm is infectious! Keep up the great blogs.

Caitlin said...

Aw thank you! I had a great time with you! <3

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