Owen County Extension Service: You don't need dyes to color Easter eggs

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By Judy Hetterman

The egg’s shape has often inspired artists. It has been the palette for one of the most intriguing of folk arts in many cultures. There is literally no end to the creative possibilities for individual expression on an egg shell. Eggs can be painted or colored with crayons or felt-tipped pens, turned into funny faces, topped with fantastic hats, trimmed with feathers or sequins or simply dyed in an endless variety of hues. However you decide to do it, decorating eggs is fun for grown-ups as well as for kids.
Eggs to be decorated may be either hard-cooked eggs or empty eggshells. The hard-cooked variety is a bit sturdier for children to use, while empty shells are best if you’re making an egg tree or want to keep the eggs on display for a considerable time.
If eggs are to be dyed, washing in a mild detergent solution helps to remove the oil coating so that the color adheres more evenly.
Commercial egg dyes are available especially at the Easter season. Food coloring works too, but some craftsmen prefer to experiment with their own colors from nature. Eggs simmered in water to cover for 15 minutes with one tablespoon of white vinegar for each cup of water and your choice of one of the materials below will produce a shade of the color shown. You’ll have to use your own judgment about quantities. This is an art – not a science.

Fresh beets, cranberries or radishes or frozen raspberries:  Pinkish red
Yellow onion skins: Orange
Orange or lemon peels, carrot tops, or celery seed:    Delicate yellow
Ground turmeric: Yellow
Spinach leaves: Pale green
Yellow delicious apple peels: Green-gold
Canned blueberries or red cabbage leaves:    Blue
Strong brewed coffee: Beige to brown
Dill seeds: Brown-gold
Chili powder: Brown-orange
Purple or red grape juice or beet juice: Grey

Why we paint eggs at Easter
The decorating of Easter eggs is a diverse practice among many cultures. Eggs were painted with bright colors to represent spring an were used in egg-rolling contests as well as given as gifts before the advent of Christianity.
Because eggs were forbidden food during Lent, Easter was a time to celebrate with eggs. Centuries ago, people gave eggs as gifts to friends and servants. Over time the tradition of painting and decorating eggs has continued, particularly with eastern Europeans known for their ornate and beautiful designs.
The “extreme of egg decorating” is the “Easter egg” created for a member of Russian royalty by artists Peter Carl Faberge in the late 1880s in St. Petersburg, Russia. The egg is a gold, enamel, pearl, diamond and ruby creation that features a hinged, enameled yolk that conceals a royal crown. This hinged crown then opens to reveal a ruby egg. A Faberge Egg once sold for $5.6 million.

Easter tips
Every family loves Easter, and when the time comes to hard-cook and decorate those eggs, the following tips will be just what you need.
Decorating – For a personal touch on decorating this year, use wax crayons, magic markers, or paints on your egg shell to create your own design; then coat it with clear nail polish to prevent smearing. To make the shell glisten, use pearl-colored nail polish. For a porcelain finish, apply several coats of diluted school glue.
If you are going for the natural theme this Easter, try organic coloring. By using strong tea, cranberry juice, apple juice, grape juice, etc. you can create beautifully colored eggs. For this idea, set up large containers full of the desired juices and add a teaspoon of vinegar to each juice (this helps set the color) Drop the hard-cooked egg into the juice, making sure to cover only the part of the shell you want colored, and allow to set over night or longer in the refrigerator. When you remove the egg from the water, you will have an elegant, organically decorated egg.
Hard-cooked eggs – Keep in mind that the fresher the egg, the harder it is to peel. Try to buy your Easter eggs a week or two in advance.
Put eggs in a single layer saucepan. Add enough tap water to cover the egg by at least one-inch. Cover and quickly bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and let stand 17 minutes. Immediately run cold water over the eggs until cool.
When eggs are cool, thoroughly crack the shell and roll egg between hands to loosen shell. Start at the point and peel.
Egg safety – After decorating your eggs this Easter, refrigerate them as soon as possible. Refrigeration is an absolute must for eggs, since cold temperatures maintain quality and retard spoilage. Keep those eggs in the refrigerator until the Easter egg hunt. As long as the eggs are not out of refrigeration over two hours and did not crack during the hunt, they will be safe for consumption. Following the hunt, if the eggs are not consumed, it is all right to refrigerate them again.
When left in their shells, hard-cooked eggs will remain edible for one week; however, if you prefer to peel the egg, put it in a tightly closed container or wrap them with moisture proof material and use within 2-3 days.
If you are considering freezing your hard-cooked Easter eggs, keep in mind the yolk will freeze well for toppings and garnishes, but the whites become tough. Eggs should be thawed in the refrigerator overnight and used within 24 hours.