Saturday, April 19, 2014

Making Easter Eggs without Synthetic Dyes

Years ago, I watched my mother make Easter eggs at the house on Fairgreen Avenue. Barefoot, filthy, and thoroughly underfoot (as always), I plunked myself down on the kitchen floor and picked at the peeling linoleum while mom worked her magic around me.

She danced from stove to countertop, a blur of raven hair and tinkling laughter. With light but deliberate footfalls she moved– a towering sorceress of womanhood, the harbinger of vanilla-scented secrets I would one day have to learn.  

And then, all at once, in a great wide-winged swoop, mom swept me up in her arms and held me over the stove, where eggs boiled in deep red water. That water, she explained, would turn the delicate white shells of ordinary chicken's eggs to the fiery reds and golds I'd seen on Easters past.

Years and years have trickled by, and Easter has come again. I never got the chance to ask mom exactly how she dyed those eggs, but I've got my own technique now. Credit where credit is due: I grifted the following recipe from the expat parents over at Field Notes from Fatherhood, which you can find here

To replicate this project you will need:

-White-shelled eggs
-Red and Yellow onion skins (to make red dye)
-Red cabbage leaves (to make blue dye)
-Turmeric (to make gold dye)
-Dental floss or string
-Nylon stockings (cut into egg-sized strips)
-An assortment of small leaves and flowers


First, prep your dyes:
Place the onion skins, cabbage leaves, and turmeric (I used about 5 generous spoonfuls) in separate sauce pots, cover with water (deep enough to submerge an egg), and set to boil. Leave them on the stove for about 30 minutes (until the water is deeply colored), and then strain out the leaves/skins. Retain the water, that's your dye.


In the meantime, prep your [uncooked] eggs:
Take the nylon strips and tie them off at one end.
Arrange leaves and petals as you like on the eggshell. 
Note that petals and leaves stick better when wet. I rolled each egg in water before decorating.

DSC_1747 DSC_1743 DSC_1738

Then pull the nylon tight over the face of the egg. This is most challenging and important step. The nylon must be tight enough to keep any plant material flush with the surface of the egg.

Tip: to prevent leaves and flowers from moving, place the nylon flat over the plant material, and then pull it around the rest of the egg. Alternatively, you can also try putting the egg in the nylon before adding plant decor. Tie off the loose end.


Now, boil the nylon-wrapped egg in one of your dyes for about 30 minutes. This will hard boil the egg and dye its shell. Note that eggs should be submerged.


When the eggs are cooked, leave them soaking in the dye for as long as you like (the longer they soak, the deeper their hue). Note that this will only dye the egg's shell, not the albumen inside.

When you're ready, cut off the nylon and see what you've created!

DSC_1793 DSC_1790 DSC_1753 DSC_1769 DSC_1760

And, lastly, face the cleanup. Happy Easter!


1 comment :