The time has come to celebrate the age-old tradition of dying Easter eggs. For most families the historical ritual, symbolizing the renewal of life, will consist of hard boiling a dozen eggs, purchasing a few packets of PAAS egg dye and rounding up whatever stickers are in the house to slap on the pastel shells. While tradition is important in any household, why not mix it up this year and try making your own dye?
For over a century the FDA has been cracking down on artificial dyes. In 1950, many children became ill after eating Halloween candy containing Orange No. 1. The FDA found later the color was toxic. In 1976, the agency banned Red No. 2 because it was suspected to be carcinogenic. While food quality testing has come a long way, if you’d rather not take the risk, here are 10 suggestions for dying eggs au naturale.
When you finish hard boiling your eggs, use the hot water as a base for your dyes. Pour the hot water into medium-sized bowls, one for every color. For each cup of dye, make sure to add 1/8 cup of distilled white vinegar to each color once the water has cooled slightly. This will ensure the color does not fade once it is on the egg. Remember, just because the dyes are natural does not mean they won't stain your clothes. Wear latex gloves and old clothes and cover the surfaces where you are working with newspapers.
There are several ways to make the color blue. You can add a cup of blueberries into your bowl of hot water, let them sit for 10 minutes and then strain. Another method for making blue is to use one red cabbage, chopped into two-inch chunks, and leave the cabbage in the water until the water has fully cooled. Then strain.
The whole spectrum from red to pink depends on the amount of time an egg is left to soak. So, when making red dye, remember you also have pink at your fingertips. Red can be made from adding a can of sliced beets to two cups of boiling water with a teaspoon of vinegar. Let simmer for 10 minutes then strain the beets. The color can also be made from cranberries, although a bag of fresh cranberries has to be soaked in the water/vinegar solution overnight.
Don't cry. The color brown is made from the skins of about six to eight brown onions, using only the dried brown parts. Let them soak in the water/vinegar solution until it turns a rusty brown and then strain. The color can also be made from adding 1/2 cup of ground coffee to the water/vinegar solution before straining.
This cheery color is probably the strongest of all natural dyes. It is made by mixing three tablespoons of dried turmeric to your water/vinegar solution. The golden spice is a key ingredient in Indian curries and will leave a stain on nearly everything it touches. If the fear of having yellow fingers for days is too strong, you can always make yellow by simmering the peels of six oranges in your water/vinegar solution for 20 minutes.
The color orange is made from adding a tablespoon of paprika powder to your solution. Be careful, even the smallest whiff of paprika packs a lot of heat. If you are working with very young children, skip the spicy coloring and use two tablespoons of annatto seeds instead. Let them simmer for 10 minutes before straining the seeds.
For a lighter green, add two tablespoons of green tea powder to your water/vinegar solution. For a deeper color green, use the skins from six red onions. Let them simmer in the solution for 15 minutes and then strain.
There's two options for making the color purple, one slightly more kid-friendly than the other. Purple is made from boiling a cup of either red wine or grape juice and adding in a tablespoon of vinegar as the liquid cools.
For making a bronze/gold dye, simmer two tablespoons of dill seeds in one cup of water for 15 minutes. Then strain the seeds and add a tablespoon of white vinegar.