Every year at Easter, we entertain. Until now during the coronavirus outbreak.. From the time that our kids were little and into adulthood, we’d have Easter egg hunts. They’ve been for all kids, all adults and all families. Last year we had 50 people and hundreds of eggs. This year we are distancing ourselves even from our families. But the hunt goes on for one small family searching for a dozen eggs, plus an old golden egg, gold-leafed in a previous year. We used to get exotic about the dyes and decor and coped with an understandable amount of food waste. Not now. Every egg is precious so I went all-natural with the dye, cleaning out my pantry in the process. Since I’m a devil of an egg hider, the natural colors became a perfect camouflage!
Left to right: Dried turmeric root, yellow onion skins, red onion skins (top), dried hibiscus flowers (bottom), beet trimmings including peel, tops and tails, and the two I wrapped with onion skins. If I’d had red cabbage, I could have made bright blue eggs and light green ones with a touch of turmeric. Yellow onion skins accumulating at the bottom of the basket were the first. There’s an Estonian tradition to wrap uncooked eggs in onion skins, tie them in a cloth and hard-boil them the usual way. Sometimes small pieces of greenery or flowers are wrapped inside, leaving a splotch of color or the shadow of a pattern. I wet the onion skin before applying to white eggs and wrapped each one carefully in foil. To hard-boil them, start with cold water to cover, bring to a rolling boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot, let sit for 10-15 minutes depending on how soft you want the yolk and then plunge in ice water to stop coking. I chose 15 minutes and put them in the freezer since I wasn’t sure what water would do to the coloring.For the others, I made batches of dye from water and food scraps that were simmered for 20-30 minutes, drained of solids, cooled and turned acidic by adding one tbsp of white vinegar per cup of liquid. Hard-boiled eggs were soaked in the cooled liquid for various durations depending on how strong a color I wanted (this is particularly noticeable among the pink ones made from beet peelings). A couple of tips: before dying the eggs, lighting wash them with non-toxic castile soap, which helps the dye adhere; and after dying and drying the eggs, rub them with a little vegetable oil and buff them to create a slight sheen.