When my kids were small, coloured boiled eggs were always on the Easter Sunday breakfast menu. Rather than using commercial dye, we wrapped each egg in a covering of onion skins and then secured them with a piece of cloth and a tie before boiling them. It’s such a nice little ritual and the marbling on the shells is so pretty.
It’s so much nicer to use natural dyes than synthetic to colour eggs for Easter as you feel better about eating them. So we decided to see what other colours from the vegetable rainbow worked well as dyes.
Unless you’ve got a friendly local chicken farmer, it’s getting harder and harder to find white eggs these days, so just find the lightest brown that you can. They work really well with my trip-down-memory lane marbled onion-skin eggs, plus we played around with a bunch of vegetables and other common kitchen ingredients – the most successful being red cabbage, blueberries and turmeric. We also tried dill seeds, carrot, chamomile teabags, but they didn’t work as well.
To make natural dyes, combine 1 cup of colourful veges or fruit with 2 cups of water. We used red cabbage, beetroot and kale, but frozen blueberries are also very good. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. While dye is cooling, hard-boil your eggs by placing them in a pot, covering with water to a depth of about 2cm above the top of the eggs and bringing to a boil. Cover, turn off the heat and allow to sit for 15 minutes to cook through. Drain then run under cold water to cool.
Strain cooled liquid and discard solids. Stir in 1 tbsp vinegar per 1 cup of dye. Alternatively you can just stir 2 tbsp turmeric and 1 tbsp vinegar into a cup of boiling water or use strong black coffee or grape juice with vinegar added at a ratio of 1 tbsp vinegar per cup of coffee or grape juice. Pop in the boiled eggs, making sure they’re fully submerged, and refrigerate overnight.
The next morning lift the eggs from the dye and allow to dry on a rack or paper towel. Keep refrigerated if you intend to eat them.
To make marbled onion-skin eggs, carefully wrap raw eggs in large pieces of red or brown onion skin.
Tightly wrap each in cloth or cheesecloth and tie with twine to keep the onion skins closely pressed to the egg shell. Place wrapped eggs in a pot, cover with water to a depth of about 2cm above the top of the eggs, add 3 tbsp vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for five minutes. Cover, turn off the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes to cook through.
Drain, cool, then carefully unwrap. Keep refrigerated if you intend to eat them. Or just put them in a bowl and enjoy looking at them!