Coloring eggs is my favorite Easter tradition. My grandmother used to gather all the children in her home on Good Friday and she would let us decorate the already colored eggs, still warm from cooking. Then each of us would take some of the eggs home, select our favorites and keep them until Easter Sunday for the egg fight.
History of Coloring Eggs
There are many theories on how and why people started the tradition of coloring eggs for Easter and what those eggs, also called Paschal eggs represent in the Christian and pagan symbolic suites. Egg is one of the foods with an extensive symbolism in human culture and history, and the magical and ritual value has been ascribed to it since the ancient times. Nowadays, the most prominent holiday/season of the year when we still use eggs is in spring, during Easter festivities. In many cultures the bird eggs have been replaced with chocolate, wood Styrofoam, but the most basic symbolism stayed the same: the rebirth of the nature after winter. If you are interested in more in-depth information about the symbolism, meanings and use of eggs in human history, this blog is a great place.
In Eastern Europe, the strongest Easter/spring tradition is coloring the chicken eggs and having egg fights on Easter day. Nowadays there are easy to use and safe food colors in every imaginable shade, but in the old times natural ingredients were used. Here is how coloring eggs can be done with items you have around your home.
Coloring Eggs Red/Auburn the Natural Way
Eggs have traditionally been colored with onion peels for a deep red auburn shade. The final shade of the egg doesn’t depend much of the original color of the egg – both the white and the brown eggs will be intense red.
The basic recipe is here:
- Prepare a pot of water with a glug of vinegar in the water and saved onion peels – the more peels the better, as the color will be more intense
- Put the water on the stove on medium heat and add eggs.
- Cook until the eggs reach the desired shade – in general 30 minutes will be enough. You can check the shade by taking out an egg (with a spoon) and letting it dry.
- After the desired shade is achieved, take the eggs out to cool
- Gently rub the surface of the eggs with a cotton ball dipped in a bit of oil for a nice, shiny result. Rubbing too vigorously can remove the color!
Coloring Eggs in Other Natural Colors
The process for other colors is the same as for red – the eggs are cooked with the coloring ingredient until the desired shade is reached. It’s important to note that you need to take the egg out of the water and let it dry to see the final color.
Shades of violet
For light and dark violet use blueberries. Just cook the eggs in water with a cup of blueberries inside. The longer the eggs are cooked the more intense and dark the color will be, so you can play with the cooking time to achieve different shades. Both fresh and frozen blueberries can be used.
Use a spoonful of turmeric in the cooking water for yellow eggs. Please note that the color can fade a bit in the sun, so please leave the eggs out of the direct sunlight. Also, rub the oil for a shiny effect really gently so that the color doesn’t come off.
For blue eggs – use red cabbage. This method is a bit more time-consuming as the color takes a long time to get transmitted to the eggs. Cook red cabbage until the water becomes very dark, add vinegar and leave the boiled eggs in that water until you get the desired color intensity. The first few hours you will hardly notice any difference, so plan to leave the eggs overnight for a true blue color. This works on white shelled eggs. Important: the color is easily removed from wet eggs, so once you are happy with the shade of blue, take out the eggs very carefully and dry them without touching them much, so that the color remains even
A combination of red cabbage and turmeric will make the eggs green. Use the same method as for the blue eggs, just add turmeric to the water too. This method takes some time, just be patient.
Those colors are fail proof – I have managed to achieve the desired shades with them several times. You can see some of the results on the picture.
There are lots of tips on other colors on Internet, but I have never been able to get a pink color with beetroot and green with spinach. I will be testing new colors this year, so this post will be updated on Good Friday.