Recipe of the Week: Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

I know, I know. It’s the Wednesday before Easter, and I’m talking about dying eggs with natural colors–but it doesn’t take as much time as you might think! Like many of you, I don’t like the chemical dyes, but I still want fun colors for my Easter eggs. So I had a little time this weekend, and tried out natural dyes.

Read Up First!

Draining raspberries. The cool, collapsible strainer shown is available at Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Draining raspberries. The cool, collapsible strainer shown is available at Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

After a lot of internet research, a few tips from the Tightwad Gazette, plus some great info from the always reliable Encyclopedia of Country Living (pages 673-674,) I decided to rummage through my kitchen and see what I could put together. I’d just been to the grocery, so I knew that I had:

  • two dozen eggs
  • frozen raspberries
  • onions
  • tea

In the cupboards and freezer, I had

  • coffee packets
  • frozen spinach
  • tart cherry juice
  • dill weed
  • vinegar
Fun just bubbles up with Fizzies drink mix! Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman's in Kidron, Ohio.

Fun just bubbles up with Fizzies drink mix! Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

I also had a couple of packets of Fizzies left over from a taste test. (The taste test article is coming soon!) I grabbed the grape and root beer flavors.

My vinegar was a national brand’s double strength cleaning vinegar, so I was hoping it would really help set color.

Boil The Eggs

An enamelware pan is ideal for boiling the eggs and vinegar. Don't use aluminum--the vinegar will allow it to stain the eggs.

An enamelware pan is ideal for boiling the eggs and vinegar. Don’t use aluminum pans–the vinegar and aluminum pans react poorly, and you may have stains on your eggs.

The eggs were hard boiled in a large pan according to my family’s secret recipe:

  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • Enough water to cover the two dozen eggs
  • Cook 10 minutes at a hard simmer, take off the heat and let rest until the water is cool enough to remove the eggs, approximately 30 minutes.

For the dyes, I put 1/8 cup vinegar in each dye cup, added the eggs, and added the colors.

I took the first dozen eggs and plopped them into the dyes, and let them sit 36 hours in the refrigerator. Here are the results, and they are not at all appetizing, let me tell you. The shells flex and dent (eww), even though the colors are nice and deep. These eggs reminded me of the ‘rubber egg’ experiment I did in sixth grade!

The 'rubber eggs.' Great color, but inedible. Note the dents on the egg at bottom left.

The ‘rubber eggs.’ Great color, but inedible. See the dents on the bottom left egg?

The second batch of eggs were dyed in the same colors (after removing the first group). I waited about three hours and removed the second batch of eggs. The colors aren’t as dark, but the eggs don’t bend either.

Making the Dyes
I would recommend just boiling the eggs in vinegar and water, and then just using the dyes with no extra vinegar added. Experiment, and see how your colors deepen as you leave them over time. Rinse each egg when you’re happy with the color. If you want to ‘shine them up’, rub eggs lightly with olive or vegetable oil. Keep eggs refrigerated! They should not be at room temperature more than two hours. Ever.

Onionskin Dye
Simmer skins of six yellow onions in 4 cups water in a non-aluminum pan 10-20 minutes, until water is desired color. (The longer you boil, the darker your egg will be in the end.) Cool to room temperature. The fluid will reduce as you boil it, not quite by half. Remove onion skins, or the dye will continue to darken. Ladle into cup over cooled, cooked egg. (Use the onions for onion soup–recipe to come soon!)

Top row, L to R: Black cherry, Fizzies Root Beer, onion. Middle row: Fizzies Grape (2), coffee and raspberry. Bottom row: tea, onion/dill, spinach.

The second batch! Top row, L to R: Black cherry, Fizzies Root Beer, onion. Middle row: Fizzies Grape (2), coffee and raspberry. Bottom row: Tea, onion/dill, spinach.

Cherry Juice Dye
Place hard boiled egg in cup. Top off with cherry (or organic, dark colored juice of choice) juice.

Spinach Juice Dye
I used frozen spinach, which I drained and then squeezed dry over a bowl. After placing egg in cup, fill cup with spinach juice. Stir fry leftover spinach!

Raspberry Dye
Drain 4 to 8 ounces home or commercially frozen raspberries over a bowl or large measuring cup to collect juice. Press through fruit to extract all juice. After placing egg in cup, fill cup with berry juice. Whirl pulp in smoothies.

Coffee And Tea Dyes
I had tea bags and the individual coffees in giant tea-type bags. But you could use strong leftover coffee or tea. The lighter the coffee or tea, the lighter your eggs will be.

Boil one cup water each for coffee and tea in two 1-cup containers. Put 8 tea bags to steep in one of the cups, and 4 coffee packets to steep in the other. Once the coffee and tea cool to room temperature, remove coffee and tea bags, and place eggs in the coffee and tea solutions.

Onion and Dill Weed Dye
Add 1/8 cup to 1/4 cup dill weed to any leftover onionskin dye. Simmer until dill has become moist and releases some color. The dye will look slightly greener than the original onionskin solution. Cool to room temperature. Place egg in cup. Fill with onion/dill weed solution to cover egg.

Fizzies Dye
Make Fizzies–only put all four tablets in the liquid specified for one serving. Swirl until tablets are dissolved. Add egg.

Afterthoughts
In any of your dyes, if you need to, add a bit of water so your eggs are fully submerged.

Double-strength vinegar seems a bit much for the job. I think that using regular vinegar when boiling the eggs, and leaving vinegar OUT of the dye baths is a better plan than what I did.

Use plastic or ceramic containers for your dyes, not metal. The metal will affect the color, and leave stain marks on your eggs. I used polycarbonate drink cups and the bottom of an empty soda bottle. I poured out my colors with a glass measuring cup that I washed and dried between colors.

Vinegar-free color means you can leave your eggs in the dye longer, and get richer color. You may also find the eggs color more evenly.