Ready to dye eggs?

We are. This is one of the few times of the year that we get to seriously play in the kitchen with no intentions of eating the outcome.

We could, of course, reach for the boxed tablets to drop into vinegar and water. The predictable outcomes are a plus, especially when working with young children.

But we like to be a little more unpredictable in the kitchen. So when food dye comes to mind, we reach for the fruits and vegetables (and spices and other edibles) that serve as our palette for coloring eggs.

You’ll need to choose between the two methods of dyeing eggs with natural food color. In the first, you prepare the dye — as many colors as you like — then cool it down before gently submerging hard-cooked eggs into the liquid. You’ll want to keep the eggs in there at least 30 minutes and you can even leave them in overnight for more depth of color (though do so in the refrigerator). This is called the “cold method” of dyeing eggs because both the eggs and dye are at room temperature or colder.

The second method seems easier and less messy to me. For this technique, the main ingredient of the dye, be it cabbage leaves or chopped red beets or onion skins, is simmered in water along with uncooked eggs that, of course, cook while the dye is being heated, hence it is called the “hot method.” This often results in a darker color and, in all likelihood, eggs that will be too tough to eat from all that cooking time.

Whichever method you choose, if you want a darker color, keep the egg in the dye longer. Sometimes that works, sometimes it does not. Eggs occasionally defy logic and refuse to darken. For the best results, begin with white eggs.

When making your own dye from food items, you will need a lot to create a significant color change. That would be 4 cups of skins or chopped vegetables to 4 to 6 cups of water. You can also use fruits — mashed blueberries or raspberries work well — and spices (turmeric, curry powder, chili powder and paprika). Other liquids work, from coffee and black tea to tea made from hibiscus leaves.

Whatever you choose, the process will be messy and colorful. And, of course, fun.

Natural Food Dye for Eggs

Makes 4 to 6 cups.

Note: For a deeper hue, add more of the coloring agent and keep the eggs in the dye longer, even overnight in the refrigerator. From Lee Svitak Dean.

• 2 to 3 tbsp. spices or 4 c. or more chopped fruit or vegetable

• 4 to 6 c. water

• 2 tbsp. white vinegar (per 4 c. to 6 c. water)

Directions

Combine spices or chopped produce with 4 to 6 cups water and the vinegar. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 to 30 minutes.

Eggs can be colored (and/or cooked) in the dye while it is being prepared (make sure the water covers the eggs entirely and simmer them for 15 to 30 minutes), or soak hard-cooked eggs in the dye after it is made and strained. 

@StribTaste