Natural Easter Egg Dye

No matter where you are on the spectrum of healthy living, you should know that natural Easter egg dye isn't just for the crunchiest among us. Oh no, friends, you can wear deodorant, drive a car, and even buy your clothes in a store instead of weaving them from the nose hairs of a wild yak in the Himalayas. Indeed, natural Easter egg dye is for all of us!

I have fond memories of dying Easter eggs as a child, but make no mistake, we used the kits. You know what I'm talking about, right? And it was so much fun!! I didn't want to take that experience away from my own kids but knew that to feel OK about it, we needed to find a way to reduce the chemical load, and finding natural dye alternatives was the answer.

Over the years we've tried dyes made from a lot of different ingredients, some of them worked well and some of them (like spinach for green eggs) didn't. But this year we've pretty much got it down to a science so I'm sharing our process so that you can duplicate it at home.

The first thing you have to do is clean any stamps from your eggs. This is very easily done using a bit of vinegar on a rag or, as we did here, a napkin.

The next step is to hard boil your eggs. We use the Instant Pot for this because it's just so darned easy. Truly, if you have an Instant Pot and have not used it to hard boil eggs, you're missing out. We use the large steamer basket for this, and, as you can see from the picture, you can do lots of eggs at one time. There are 40 in this batch. 

The process for hard boiling is super easy, and super easy to remember. Add one cup of water to the bottom of the Instant Pot (I pour it in before I insert the steamer basket) and then put your eggs in a steamer basket or on a trivet in the Instant Pot. Close and lock the lid and then do the following: 
  1. Set the Instant Pot to Manual for 5 minutes.
  2. Allow a natural release for 5 minutes before manually releasing the remainder of the stem and taking the eggs from the Instant Pot.
  3. Immediately put the eggs into an ice water bath (this prevents the green/gray ring around the yoke of the egg) for 5 minutes and also, they'll peel like a dream.
  4. Take them out and pop them into the fridge. So easy!! Just remember 5-5-5.

While our eggs were cooking away, we prepared the dye. The ingredients we use are pretty simple; beets for red dye, purple cabbage for blue dye, turmeric for yellow dye and onion skins for orange dye. You can also mix a bit of your turmeric dye with the cabbage dye to make a beautiful green. 

I find that prepared beets are easier to use, certainly less messy, and can create just as deep a color. We've also cut up our own beets and it's not difficult, but in either case, you'll want to cook them until much of the color has gone from the beets. 

This is the first year my kids have truly been helpful in the process, in lieu of playing a more passive role, and they were excited to help out. Their first job was to peel the onions. Part of our Good Friday tradition is that we have French Onion Soup for dinner. This originated from a desire to use the onions now missing their protective skins and I look forward to it every year. If you want to do this, too, be sure you buy a quality Gruyere cheese, it makes a difference. If you're in need of a good recipe, try this one from Ina Garten. The only thing I do differently is that in lieu of veal stock, I stick with beef. 

The next thing  you want to do is get your ingredients on the stove. You'll want a larger pot for the cabbage, which is roughly cut and will take up lots of space in the pot. I fill the pots to the tippie top with water and then set them all to boil, before turning them on simmer for about 40 minutes. How much of each ingredient you use is completely up to you, but the more you use, the deeper your colors will be. I generally use half of a large head of cabbage, the skin from 4 kilos of onions, one large jar of red beets and two tablespoons of turmeric.

By the time our dye is on the stove, the eggs are ready to be put in their ice water bath. Remember, five minutes and then you'll want to get them in the fridge!

A quick note about turmeric. Unless completely incorporated into your water, you're going to get a bit of gritty turmeric sludge that will likely end up on your eggs, as well. I suggest whisking it well and before you take it off the stove, run a napkin over the top to get most of the turmeric floating there. And once you take your eggs out of the dye, I just wipe the extra turmeric off the eggs once they've dried. If you do it while they're still wet, you risk wiping off some of the color. 

OK, once all your dyes are ready you'll want to take out the veggies/peels so all you're left with is liquid. For this I use the handy little tool normally reserved for grabbing up Spätzle once it's had a nice dip in some boiling water but you could use anything you have at home that will allow you to separate the liquid from the solids. And don't forget, everything you're pulling out can be composted!

Once your dyes are made let them cool off before adding vinegar (I literally grab my gallon jug and pour a splash into each pot). Then pop in your eggs and let them sit overnight. On Saturday, you'll want to pull the eggs out and let them dry in their egg cartons before putting them out for the bunny to do his thing.

These are our eggs from last year. Aren't they beautiful!!

OK, friends, time to go wild with your own natural Easter egg dying adventure. I'd love to know hot it goes for you so once the chocolate bunnies have been eaten and all the eggs found, comment below to tell me how it all worked out!

Happy Easter!

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